What I’m Reading: H.P. Lovecraft’s The Alchemist

At the beginning of this month, I decided that as an aspiring author, it was my duty to read or reread all those books and short stories considered classics by my genre.  I avoided Literary Classics, since generally I find them dull or pretentious .  Since I’m strapped for cash, I decided to start with things that I could find in intellectual commons.

Good day to you, Mr. Lovecraft!  I started today with The Alchemist. (Warning, plot spoilers ahead)

The story’s narrator is a young man who grows progressively older throughout the narrative.  He comes from a family cursed hundreds of years past by an Alchemist, and he knows that he will die before 32.  Near the ending, he meets the Alchemist, who had discovered the secret to immortality, and more through luck than anything, ends the man’s immortal life.

A sense of gloom and doom hangs over this whole narrative, which is insanely difficult to read not because of the horror, but because of the lengthy sentences and the particular words chosen by the author.  Much of the impact of the piece is blunted when I have to stop and reread a critical sentence through again in order to appreciate its meaning.  That said, this style does work for the author.  When I’m not reaching for the dictionary to look up what ‘wainscot’ means, or a particularly florid sentence, I am absolutely riveted by his sentences.  I only wish that I could manage to maintain tension while delivering a detailed description of an old house.

The Alchemist is a good read for anyone who likes horror and doesn’t mind reading with a dictionary close at hand, but despite its short length, it is not a good story for anyone with a limited attention span.

You can read it as part of the collection below if you like the smell of paper, or google it since it’s public domain:
The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (Knickerbocker Classics)

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