H.P. Lovecraft and Upton Sinclair both wrote about horrors – one played in the world of the imaginary and the other waded through the muck of reality. I wanted to read Lovecraft because he is an icon of classic horror and I recently read Richard Matheson, whose stories inspired Stephen King and have been made into television, movies, etc, and so I went even further back with Lovecraft, who created Cthulu and Arkham, which now lives on in the Batman universe. I remember reading a section of “The Jungle” early in high school and it was free on my Kindle, soooooo. I’m also super into social justice and such.
Lovecraft published all his stories in this pulpy fiction magazines and they are just packed with delicious cliches, like creepy crumbly castles, horrifying monsters, space creatures, cults, bad dreams, and reasonable-minded narrators who gradually go insane. It’s all very campy and fun. My favorite stories in the Lovecraft book are: “The Colour out of Space,” “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and “Dreams in the Witch-House.” “The Colour out of Space” is the story of a family whose land is strangely morphed by a mysterious meteorite-type rock that falls from space. The vegetation glows, grows bigger than normal, and moves without wind. The family also begins to exhibit strange behavior and a friend of theirs grows increasingly worried about their well-being. The fate of the family is horrifically mysterious. “The Thing on the Doorstep” involves possession; a man is convinced that his wife’s soul is switching bodies with him, and also that his wife isn’t quite human. When the “thing on the doorstep” is revealed in the story’s last paragraph, it is pretty deliciously creepy. “Dreams in the Witch-House” features a brilliant student who purposely rents a room where a witch lived many years before. He is a math genius, and believes that it is possible to open portals to other dimensions through knowledge of numbers. At first, he isn’t bothered by the room, but he then begins to see the ghost of the old woman and her little devil-creature. Night after night, they grow clearer and clearer, and the young man has strange dreams involving a cult that demands he sign a mysterious book in his own blood. What will happen to him?? Probably nothing good.
“The Jungle” is almost absurdly depressing, but it also rings so true, that it’s impossible to not feel moved. Unless you’re in denial about the evils of capitalism. The story is engrossing and even though it feels kind of unsatisfying at the end (the last part of the book is essentially Sinclair’s defense of socialism), I really felt connected to poor Jurgis and his family.
Very different books, but both good reads.