Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Casual Shorts & the ISFdb Top Short Fiction # 41: The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft, H. P. "The Dunwich Horror." Weird Tales, April 1929.

This article is part of my attempt to read all the 155 stories currently (as of 1 November 2022) on the ISFdb's Top Short Fiction list. Please see the introduction and list of stories hereI am encouraging readers to rate the stories and books they have read on the ISFdb.

ISFdb Rating:   8.75/10
My Rating:        7/10

"When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country."

And so begins the tale of the town of Dunwich and a horror it recently experienced. Like many a Lovecraft story, the setting is lonely and isolated, but compared to the more urban centres of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and the ports and seas of "The Call of Cthulhu," Dunwich is mostly detached from the known world. The story keeps us mostly at an isolated house in the hills and its environs (with side visits to the library), and of course such tales must be in isolated regions otherwise their secrets wouldn't be so secretive and the curious general public would be milling about.

In our isolated house lives Lavinia Whateley, her aged father and her unusually quick-developing Wilbur, who is toddler-sized and skilled when he is less than a year old. Who is the father of this devilish child, and what strange creature is he and grandpa hiding in the newly reconstructed portion of their house? This is not among my favourite of Lovecraft's stories, but I award points for mood and atmosphere, which are highly effective throughout. Lovecraft's melodrama is sometimes too much for me, with the learned townsmen studying and desperately translating documents, and later swooning at indescribable horrors, and the story, as many of his stories, is somewhat overlong since we get the point and don't need have it stretched out. This is why as a teen I believe I read only one of his collections, and I believe I read it intermittently, goaded on by Lovecraft-reading classmates.

For more of this week's Wednesday Short Stories, please visit Patti Abbott's blog.

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