Call him great, then

Just a short note. I rushed into and over that Boston Globe article here (Following the footsteps of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft) – it’s nothing to write your friends about. Just one sentence popped into my sight as a bee would into an allergic person’s arm:

“The author, now viewed as perhaps the greatest
horror writer of the 20th century, grew up near Brown University.”

Who does that? Who views him as “perhaps the greatest horror writer of the 20th century? Who? And I’m not talking about the crowds of teenage fans that will clog your regular Lovecraft convention – which established critic, in a position to name some writer great or small so that the namecalling will come to some effect, would do that? Is that happening, and I am not aware of it? Am I working in some kind of alternative reality where Lovecraft doesn’t get the rank due to him?

This was an early impulse even back in the 1930s and 1940s, when August Derleth started editing the Lovecraft stories – even then Lovecraft’s position was reputedly safe, and clear, and well established (I’m paraphrasing from memory here), when, in fact, practically noone outside the small, small, small Lovecraft circle even was aware of him.

And this goes on, this impulse is rolling on like a wave – nothing has changed, his position in academic criticism is virtually obsolete (and even the French, as loving and tolerant to Lovecraft as they had been to Poe, are not much of an exception), but Mosig, Burleson, Cannon, et al., will go ahead in their writings and boldly proclaim Lovecraft’s rank, as if this was some matter of course, and probably they feel it is, and rightly so, because he does belong, because he is important, because his writings are rich. Well, it’s not a matter of course. He doesn’t have a presence in academic criticism, and I bow to the few brave men and women that I tacitly ignore here.

Sure not. Criticism on gothic literature in particular is heavily, how do I say it? , syndicated? – canonized? structured? You can call any major author, from Faulkner to Morrison, a gothic author, but you can’t just call any major Gothic author an author at all. As an academic critic, I’d like to be able to have scholarly discussions with colleagues on, among other things, Lovecraft’s works – that accounts for a good deal of my work, really.

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