For a couple of years now I’ve been wanting to re-read Lovecraft. I traditionally pull out a couple of stories around Halloween and read them, or grab a volume off the shelf when someone on a blog or podcast makes a reference to a particular story. What I’ve wanted, though, was to read the whole canon, immerse myself in it. When Ken Hite started his Tour de Lovecraft column, I got the idea to read each story and then read Ken’s commentary. Then the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast started up, and I wanted to listen but wanted to read each story first before hearing the discussion. Alas, I never had the time for any of that.
Well, at the moment I do. It’s really not such a huge undertaking as most of Lovecraft’s tales are short (and as Ken points out, in some cases mercifully so). Tour de Lovecraft has been collected into a book, and his comments are also short (sometimes too short, in my opinion; Hite’s notes are frequently more entertaining than the stories themselves). The podcasts are only about 30 minutes each, good for a commute or workout time. On top of this, I also have Chaosium’s Encyclopedia Cthulhiana handy. It’s out of print and a bit spendy for a used copy, but was reprinted by Elder Sign Press as The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia with the same content.
I’m using the podcast as a guide for reading order. They’re more-or-less dealing with the stories on chronological order, with some skipping around. It’s easier for me to track episode numbers, then find the stories and flip pages in Ken’s book, than to read in Ken’s order and search for the correct podcast. Ken’s order makes sense, though; he’s using S.T. Joshi’s order, and reading from the Penguin editions of Lovecraft edited by Joshi and presented in that order. I have the Del Rey editions, which skip hither and yon all over the place and I have to switch between three volumes to find the next story, but again, that’s not such a big deal.
So: Read the Lovecraft story, read Ken’s commentary, listen to the podcast. When something catches my fancy anywhere along the process, or if I need a pronunciation of a name, I pull out Cthulhiana. The latter is interesting because it pulls in other authors’ works. It cites where characters, places, creatures and books appear in other stories, so if I dig a particular idea I know where to seek out more.
After about six stories, this sort of self-study course seems a great way to get more familiar with Lovecraft and his works. Between Tour de Lovecraft and the podcast, you get insight into the man and where he was in his life at the time he wrote the story, how certain early stories relate to later stories and recurring themes, and a ton of other esoterica. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or reading Lovecraft for the first time, give this immersive process a try.