by H.P. Lovecraft
"It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not his murderer" (341). If it's also true, as I think I've read somewhere, that Lovecraft's conception of a successful supernatural tale hinged on the art of credibly relating something that couldn't have happened, then props to him for that doozy of an opening sentence and the preposterous but entertaining piece of writing that follows. A Poe-like tale of madness, serial demonic possession and/or both, "The Thing on the Doorstep" waylaid me, the Lovecraft neophyte, with both its odd antiquarian bent and its loving appeal to local flavor (for example, the reference to "Cyclopean ruins in the heart of the Maine woods beneath which vast staircases lead down to abysses of nighted secrets" , so laughable out of context, is perfectly convincing here in the fussy secondhand telling by the unreliable narrator). For non-New Englanders or at least those less enamored of a Weird New England setting on its lonesome, there's also an appreciably obsessive attention to metafictional detail evident in things like the allusion to one Justin Geoffrey--"the notorious Baudelairean poet" who "died screaming in a madhouse in 1926 after a visit to a sinister, ill-regarded village in Hungary" (342)--whom a footnote informs me is a character Lovecraft borrowed from Robert E. Howard's 1931 short story "The Black Stone." That touch struck me as almost Borgesian, in fact, in terms of its sheer bookish fun. Rating: PG for pulpy goodness, of course!
"The Thing on the Doorstep," the title tale from The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), appears on pp. 341-365 of said collection.