Samuel Walters wrote:
To my mind, Lovecraft is not an author one typically reads because he's a good word-smith or even a particularly compelling storyteller, to me it's the sheer depth of imagination . I mean nobody ever wrote stuff like this before he did and he's inspired several generations of artists of all disciplines.
I can understand the sentiment toward Lovecraft's style -- it is
an acquired taste and not everyone is going to bother with it. But the whole notion of "he's not a good word-smith or compelling storyteller anyway, so let's just focus on his imagination and lasting influence" doesn't make any sense. Lovecraft is an author, therefore his craft -- both storytelling and word-smith ability -- is inseparable from the innovative ideas he had.
I'm not taking anything away from his stories as creative endeavors, either. nor am I taking away from his literary influence. Heck, I am not even criticizing Lovecraft in general (aside from his obvious racism, which doesn't particularly factor into At The Mountains of Madness
) -- My criticism is focused solely on this one story. The problem is, even by his own standards of style
, At The Mountains of Madness
is a very poorly written story. Yes, the revelations are fascinating, but it's buried under what even the Narrator of the story would call, "cumbrous details."
Perhaps I didn't phrase it very well. I didn't mean that HPL was a bad
wordsmith or storyteller (more on that distinction later) on the contrary he wouldn't be such a recognised author if he was some talentless hack, I just meant that those are not his best or most distinguishing qualities; his imagination is.
As for the other matter, "wordsmith" (to me at least) literally means the skill in specific word choice and sentence structure. "Storytelling" on the other hand is a more general skill that isn't the exclusive purview of writers and relates to the ability to weave together plot, narrative and characterisation to tell a compelling story. IMO characterisation was often HPL's weakest link, but that's another discussion.
As for At the "Mountains of Madness" specifically, I think it has more substance than most of his tales and I think becomes an easier read once you recognise the framing device for what it is; a thin pretext to tell "A Brief History of the Elder Things."