Beyond Realism: Horror Narrative as
The paintings were appalling—hideous monsters of every shape and size, and parodies on human outlines which cannot be described.
— H. P. LOVECRAFT , “The Horror at Red Hook”
One of the functions of culture is to provide symbolic systems
which displace awareness of what is terrible . . . [but] the prob-
lem now is that symbolic manipulations of consciousness no
longer work. Death and terror are too much with us.
— TERRENCE DES PRES, The Survivor
H. P. Lovecraft was a sophisticated student and practitioner of horror narrative, and it might be useful for us to linger a moment on one of his better stories, “The Horror at Red Hook” (1925). The setting is a seedy dockside area in New York City:
Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squalor near the ancient waterfront opposite Governor's Island, with dirty highways climbing the hill from the wharves to that higher ground where the decayed lengths of Clinton