17 February 200919 February 2009 Main Posts Houllebecq on Realism and Lovecraft Rjurik Davidson I’m currently reading novelist Michel Houllebecq’s (author of Atomised amongst other things) book on great American horror writer Howard Philips Lovecraft, subtitled ‘Against the World, Against Life’. It is by far the best piece I’ve read on Lovecraft, who has claim to being the 20th century’s most original horror writer. The great thing about Houllebecq’s book is that it analyses Lovecraft’s style and technique with a hitherto unparalleled sophistication. What are often seen as Lovecraft’s flaws – the paper-thin nature of his characters; his lack of interest in their backstories – are presented as fundamentally linked to Lovecraft’s world view. In other words, they are not flaws, but a necessary consequence of Lovecraft’s content. Lovecraft knows what he is doing, argues Houllebecq. In any case, it’s a great read for writers or readers interested in the surreal, horrific, macabre, non-realist, and genre fiction in general. Houllebecq also opens the book with the interesting claims: Life is painful and disappointing. It is useless, therefore, to write new realistic novels. We generally know where we stand in relation to reality and don’t care to know any more. Humanity, sch as it is, inspires only an attenuated curiosity in us. All those prodigiously refined “notations,” “situations”, anecdotes … All they do, once a book has been set aside, is reinforce the slight revulsion that is already adequately nourished by any one of our “real life” days. Rjurik Davidson Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson. More by Rjurik Davidson Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 11 November 202211 November 2022 Main Posts On the last day of Subscriberthon, our amazing online editor gives you one last (very good) reason to subscribe Editorial team What's in store for the last day of Subscriberthon? First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202210 November 2022 Main Posts On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, our favourite editor-duo give you reason #1002 to subscribe to Overland Editorial team What's in store for the second-last day of Subscriberthon?