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Lovecraft Country

By Andrew Lovett-Barron
Published in Reading
August 01, 2021
1 min read

I started reading this book a few episodes into the HBO show, and am soooo glad I picked it up. First, Lovecraft Country the book and the show are two different experiences, with the later being responsive to (instead of wholly derivative of) the former.

Lovecraft Country is a series of related short stories that explore segregation and racism in America through the lens of Lovecraftian horror (think Cthulhu — ancient unnamed evils, monsters, magic and rituals, secret societies lurking beneath the surface of the quotidian). It’s an incredibly apt pairing — combining the foundational true American horror stories with a narrative aesthetic that emerged at a high point in America’s Jim Crow era.

The book follows Atticus, his friends, and family, as he leaves the military and discovers his family’s history — and that of the Braithwhites. Each of the stories is its own snapshot of one of the character’s experiences with living under segregation and racism, filtered through some aspect of Lovecraft’s expansive horror universe (and his own racist views). One example of this is the secret societies and lodges, which are used in Lovecraft to denote some evil cabal looking to bring an ancient evil god back into the world, but in Lovecraft Country, those same secret societies serve to reinforce white supremacist ideology and segregationist practices during the Jim Crow era. Interestingly, while the HBO show is based on the main stories in the book, the show uses the book as a foil to respond to, and develops many of the characters more deeply than they are in the book.

Anyway, I’m mostly writing about books I recommend, and I can’t recommend this one enough. I’d also say that the show feels weirdly incomplete without having read the book, and both are very much worth your time.

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Andrew Lovett-Barron

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