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HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Raven10 (IP Logged)
Date: 25 February, 2006 01:37PM
Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and use of english, was actually better than in Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking forward to your replies.

Julian L Hawksworth

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Glyptodont (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 01:06PM
I can only say this -- Lovecraft's style takes some getting used to.

It is very dense, very ridden with Latin-root words, and uses lengthy sentences with complex structure.

Lovecraft was something of an antiquarian in many ways, and that extended to his style. In fact, his style may owe something to that of Poe, who was his favorite author.

Lovecraft also used many archaic words, such as "anent" meaning "concerning." Plus archaic spellings, or British usages. For those who love Lovecraft's writing, it's all part of the charm.

Once a person gets used to Lovecraft's style, it sails along pretty well. Unfortunately, many a reader has doubtless gotten a few pages into his writing and put the book aside.

I have read some Smith and I would say he uses the language with great skill, but in a more modern way.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: garymorris (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2006 09:21PM
I've read most of both over the years and feel CAS is a far better writer by any measure you want to apply. Smith's short stories have the dazzling rhythm and color of poetry (no surprise), and his imagination just never stops. There's also the wonderful sardonic tone in some of them (Arthur Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories seem essentially humorless to me). Lovecraft was a smooth enough writer but for me CAS is in another league.

The letters are the only exception: CAS's, judging from the Arkham collection, lack the breadth and power of HPL's quite amazing ones. No criticism of Smith intended; he apparently wasn't driven in this direction the way Lovecraft was. The latter's letters are an astounding achievement, and his shining glory to my mind; I can read and re-read these forever, it seems, for his rich sensibility, vivid style, wit, and deep knowledge of so many fields. As the years go by, I find his stories and novellas (and the mediocre poetry), with a few exceptions, less intriguing. Ultimately CAS "delivers" in a way that HPL, who too often seems to be avoiding the horrors he creates, does not.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: walrus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 11:55AM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

HPL's opinion was that humour has no place in horror.

Juha-Matti Rajala

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Gavin Callaghan (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2006 07:11PM
garymorris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> (Arthur
> Jean Cox has argued that HPL's use of italics
> shows he's actually putting us on, but the stories
> seem essentially humorless to me).

According (I think) to Robert H. Barlow, HPL's voice would often become very theatrical and melodramatic when he read aloud the conclusions of his stories. The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....), as well as some of the parodies HPL wrote in collaboration with Barlow.

I think that CAS is the better writer as compared with HPL, though ---more range, better style, a more sexual edge--- but in the end I like HPL more ---simply because I myself am very morbid and so appreciate HPL's morbid depravity.........



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Oct 06 | 07:12PM by Gavin Callaghan.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Stan (IP Logged)
Date: 16 October, 2006 08:35PM
Quote:
Gavin Callaghan
The stories in themselves are fairly humorless, of course ---save for unintended humor, like his description of the "penguins" in Mountains of Madness as being "grotesque"; (only HPL could find penguins grotesque....)

In this connotation, "grotesque" means "ludicrous from incongruity; comically absurd," which, if you've ever seen a penguin, is fairly apt. This meaning would have been more predominant in Lovecraft's time; it is only relatively recently that grotesque has come to mean "gross" or "ugly." I say this not to be pedantic, but to defend HPL's word usage. He may have often used archaic or obscure words, and indulged in a kind of "it's eldritch because I say it is" adjective-itis, but I don't think he ever improperly used a word.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: rutledge_442 (IP Logged)
Date: 18 October, 2006 04:52PM
I have not read enough of Smith's works to form an opinion, but i will admit that i have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: calonlan (IP Logged)
Date: 19 October, 2006 10:54AM
Dear Rutledge and others, particularly the younger readers -

plowing through CAS' work, even if you need the Hernia Edition of Webster's is a rewarding experience -- your vocabulary will increase markedly -- in general observation however, since Latin and Greek vanished from the school curriculum, wide vocabularies require much more work to acquire. After all, we see the word "impact" used as a verb constantly (the failure of the bond issue impacted the city council - indicating they all need an enema -- probably true since such groups are often full of it); and the word Homophobia is completely misused since it can only mean "fear of boredom" -
I recommend a shortcut for those who might avail themselves of it on a site that is very entertaining and useful: lexfiles.com.
When there check the "basics" link and go to "the fourteen words".
Mastery of this list of words' prefixes and roots will allow you to decode over 140,000 words in English.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 24 April, 2015 04:42PM
I like Lovecraft but I do think his style is far from perfect, first he does so much useless adjective excess, that I was often bored reading his work even for the first time. His Dunsany's imitations show his limitations as a "poet". On the other hand, I could learn CAS's best stuff by heart, as the best of a Poe or Shakespeare, it's amazing, it has it all, music, images, etc. Not many people can appreciate good poetry, or such kind of prose these days, so no surprise he is underrated, but he's definitely a better writer, one of the best of his century.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 23 May, 2015 11:37AM
In other words, if this cheap essay writing service had been available in the '30s, Lovecraft and Smith would be on the best-seller list today? I have to question the utility of an essay writing service advocated by someone who "will admit that I have to read the same passage a few times in Lovecraft's stories before i understand it".

I would hate to see any writer's work interpreted under those circumstances:

"John Keats wrote 'The Eve of St. Agnes', that tragic tale of 'silver, snarling trumpets' and a Beadsman's death, nearly 200 years ago in 1819 . . ."

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 25 May, 2015 12:32AM
It seems to me that most of what we have above (though not all) comes down more to personal preference or (in some cases) personal limitations of a particular reader rather than a seasoned judgment on the relative merits of either writer. There is certainly nothing wrong with such preference, but I question it as a critical assessment in the wider sense. Each writer, though certainly influenced by poetry to a great degree, was attempting something different from the other, and I think each succeeded extremely well. Lovecraft more and more saw himself as a prose realist in the main when it came to his approach, whilst Smith was much more interested in stretching the possibilities of language and its ability to convey imagery and sensual experience. Lovecraft wasn't simply an antiquarian (and Poe was only one of many of his older influences, albeit a particularly important one; another, almost equally important, was Samuel Johnson, and yet another was Richard Steele, whose work, despite his preference for Addison's style, actually seems to have had a greater affinity to Lovecraft's own writing -- compare the papers of each for The Spectator, for example), he was a man whose outlook was deeply imbrued by the Georgian writers, particularly the essayists and poets; and this, naturally, has its reflection in his prose style as well; which, as has been pointed out, is an odd blending of the classical essay form and prose-poetic techniques (his various uses of certain cadences in the writing, as well as a sonorous word-choice to provide what has been called by many a sort of "incantatory effect"; his reliance on such things as chiasmus, assonance, etc. to provide a certain mood or emotive cue to the reader, as well the modulation from one such technique to another to aid in building a complex synthesis of several moods. Try reading Lovecraft aloud (sans the sort of scenery-chewing perfervid tone I find in far too many audio renditions of his work), and you may find a refreshing view of how powerful his prose can be.

Smith, on the other hand, was indeed in many ways more modern in his use of language; at least as far as utilizing poetic technique in his prose; but he, too, tended to use a great number of archaic, arcane, and even recondite words or phrases which few modern readers are likely to have encountered -- even rather widely-read ones. This is by no means an adverse criticism; at his best, Smith's prose works (his poetry is damn near in a class by itself) are scintillating examples of language pushed almost to its limits, an assault on the citadels of sense which can overwhelm and (as with William Blake) even make the reader almost intoxicated on the experience... a sort of Dionysian rather than Apollonian (HPL's favored dichotomy) approach.

In a way, it has always struck me as odd that Lovecraft had such a low opinion of Le Fanu given that there are (at least, so it seems to me) certain similarities in approach with their prose styles. While each in many ways is very direct about what would appear to be the horrors or wonders they are attempting to evoke, the actual strengths in their writing often lie in a rather more oblique approach to these matters, an approach which allows for a more cloudy, associative effect upon the reader's perceptions and apprehensions, one which, indeed, grows with each rereading and even by later pondering on certain phrases or words and the spreading ripples of their implications. Smith, it seems to me, does this as well, though from a different angle, thus achieving an effect which, while closely related, is nonetheless different, with different strengths.

In the end, though, I would say that both Smith and Lovecraft were, by dint of honing their particular use of language, almost perfectly suited for what each was attempting (and not infrequently succeeding) to do.

On the idea of Lovecraft's use of humor in his tales -- I would say it is definitely there, though seldom overt. He didn't care for overt use of humor, feeling it diluted the emotional response he was seeking to evoke; but carefully ironic use of language was certainly a part of his style -- again, in part the result of his early absorption of the Augustan writers (though, again, Poe was by no means averse to such usage himself). Hence, he didn't at all mind a bit of dry wit or a sly pun, so long as it did not break the mood. (The example of the penguins may -- I stress the may, though it would be perfectly in accord with his practice elsewhere -- be such a case, as it not only carries the connotation given above, but comes, as Lovecraft well knew, from a term meaning literally "of a cave". It may also be a link to the Gothic influence, as the grotesque, in both these senses, was a very prominent part of that movement -- see, particularly, the early works of Ann Radcliffe, such as The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne. Such a multilayered pun was the sort of thing he relished; and, if it could be used in such a way as to enhance the weirdness, by way of incongruity, he was aiming for, all the better.)

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 1 June, 2015 02:19PM
For me it is a matter of preference, I guess. I think HPL is a far better writer in every way: prose style, ideas, imaginative range, atmosphere, characters. I am compell'd to return to Lovecraft again and again, and his weird fiction never fails to captivate me. CAS is now an author I adore, but it wasn't an easy or instant admiration, because so much of what I read at first simply didn't interest me. That admiration came with maturity, after my first stage of writing my own stuff.

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: SeventhSon (IP Logged)
Date: 20 June, 2015 05:49PM
If it is a matter of preference, then HPL is not a "far better writer".

Well, I already said what I think about it.

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 20 August, 2016 10:50AM
Raven10 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Hi! I was wondering whether or not you share my
> view that Clark Ashton Smith's writing style and
> use of english, was actually better than in
> Lovecraft's writing? Even so, I still have a high
> opinion of Lovecraft's stories too. Looking
> forward to your replies.

Yes, I would say Smith's prose style is more strikingly original and more versatile than Lovecraft's, but not to a great degree. Smith's style invokes his themes in a smoother and occasionally more compelling manner, and his best tales--"The Dark Eidolon", "The Double Shadow", "Xeethra", "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis", "The City of the Singing Flame", are a bit more diverse in their settings. Aside from the consideration of length, they stand on equal ground with HPL's best-- the 2 "Shadow" novellas, "The Colour out of Space", "Cthulhu" and the Antarctic novel. Criticism of either author's style is of negligible value; one can pick at an over-use of simile in some passages just as one can fault Lovecraft's excesses with adjectives. What is primarily interesting to me is that Smith was the better all-around creative artist, a claim that can hardly be denied after reading his prose poems and verse.
"There is nothing more unpoetic than the life of the average American"
-- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

jkh

Re: HP Lovecraft Vs Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2016 10:07AM
Excellent points!

By circumstance, when mentioning specific Smith titles, you named two of my favorites--they are absolutely powerful and inspired, in my opinion--The Double Shadow, and The Dark Eidolon--while for Lovecraft's work, the "Antarctic novel", which is probably At the Mountains of Madness, is also at or near the peak of Lovecraft's work.

My opinions, only...

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