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Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country

by Matt Ruff

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4962230,668 (4.01)27

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I've read all of Ruff's books since his first, written when he was a Cornell undergrad in the late 1980's. I've always been enchanted by his wide-ranging imagination - his books are all so different, although they share the same humane voice, and partake of the speculative in some way, large or small.

Up to now, there's only one Ruff book I DNF'd - his second, [b:Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy|71846|Sewer, Gas and Electric The Public Works Trilogy|Matt Ruff|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1386923711s/71846.jpg|69565], which didn't feel like his voice at all, instead trying to channel Pynchon. After that, he returned to and perfected his voice, especially in my favorite Ruff book, [b:Set This House in Order|71847|Set This House in Order|Matt Ruff|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1436462577s/71847.jpg|2204766] (Read it!)

I read half of this book before putting it down, so I gave it a good shot. There's a lot I appreciated, like the charm of the Turner family and friends, and most of all, the fact that a book that's an homage to the writing of Lovecraft (a notorious racist and anti-semite) is a story of an African American family struggling under and triumphing over jim crow in 1950's America. But I think my problem is that the story also comes across to me as an old fashioned comic book, with heros who solve problems too easily, and villains who all but twirl mustaches. I've never read any Lovecraft, so maybe this is part of the book's references to his work, but that's no help for me. I'm especially disappointed because Ruff did such a fantastic job with [b:Set This House in Order|71847|Set This House in Order|Matt Ruff|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1436462577s/71847.jpg|2204766], whose story about two people with multiple personality disorders falling in love, could so easily be a set-up for cheap cartoony-ness. Instead he made it a warm and complex story.

I've heard that this book is going to be turned into a mini-series. I hope that will be a chance to mine what is best about this book and cut out the cartoon. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
wanted to read this before the HBO series started; Jordan Peele's company is doing it. liked it a lot, but then i have liked all the Matt Ruff books i've read. the book introduces a black family that makes a journey into Lovecraft Country in the Jim Crow era of the Fifties and encounters a conspiracy of cultists incidentally bent on their destruction. this sets the book up to play off Lovecraft's own racist ideas, black perception of the sf fantasy, horror, and comics literature of the day, the essential black guides published to make it possible to navigate Jim Crow America when needs must, and institutions like the Klan. so basically the result is that for the family, encountering the Lovecraftian cultists as a horror pales next to the horrors of everyday life, which makes for an irony that's hard to miss. a very fast read, this is a carefully researched and measured representation of what it was like in that day to navigate America while black (though some may not like to acknowledge that this world was real, not the slightest bit picturesque for many, and not so long ago either). these concerns reminded me most of the great mystery writer Walter Mosley (try his book Little Scarlet to start, and then just keep reading through his Easy Rawlins series). ( )
  macha | Feb 20, 2019 |
A very interesting re-interpretation of classical horror stories, made to show the real life horrors of segregation in the USA in the 50s. The book follows several African Americans in a series of interlinked stories.

A former solder from Korean war, Atticus returns home to find that his father vanished. He, together with father’s half-brother and God-following neighbor Letitia, follow father’s trail into the strange country, seemingly from a Lovecraft novel.

Letitia suddenly gets a lot of money and buys a haunted house in the white neighborhood. What is harder – to fight with a ghost or with neighbors, who want to stress that you are not welcome.

A family ledger book, which contains all that a former master owes in wages to his slave, with an interest, is stolen by a secret society to be used as a bargain to get a version of Necronomicon from the museum.

An astronomy-loving women gets to a ‘magic’ observatory, which allows walking across the universe.

A re-play of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a black woman, who can temporary become white.

A ghost story with a family killed by lynching mob

An animated doll stalks a black boy, who knows a secret

The prose is strong, the storyline is gripping and perfectly shows the horrors of segregation. Maybe a sole problem for me was that through the whole book we meet a lot of white people, most of whom are actively harassing blacks. While this is a problem that definitely exists, here almost every white person is a bad person, or only such persons get into a contact with blacks. The first white person, who is okay, readers meet only in the second half of the book. So, while the point and the message of the novel are relevant, they are a bit overstressed in my view.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
I really wish I could've like this book more than I did. The concept was really interesting and the characters were very interesting as well. But I feel like this story wasn't the author's to tell; it made me incredibly uncomfortable to read a white man speaking through black characters about being black in the 1950s. I respect books that feature diverse characters but there's a difference between telling a story with black characters and telling a story about being black; white authors can and should do the former but the latter? I don't feel right about it.

As for the story itself, there were many fascinating aspects but I felt overall it read as far too disjointed; I also felt too much was accomplished far too quickly and with very little effort or cost. I feel like it read as rough and unfinished. Also the title seemed less about the content of the book than an overarching concept that the author didn't really succeed in imparting. This was my first book by this author and I'm not certain I'd read another. ( )
  ElleGato | Sep 24, 2018 |
Sometimes books just catch me and won't let me go. This was one of those books. Easily my favorite book of the year. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
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For Harold and Rita
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Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.
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Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George-- publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide-- and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite, heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus's ancestors, they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours. At the manor Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus.… (more)

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