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Rick: Nice point about Kirk and HPL. Kirk, of course, believed in God; Lovecraft was an atheist. This explains why their supernatural fiction was so different, even as it employed similar conventions. Also, Lovecraft may not have been a lovely prose stylist, but the opening sentence of “The Call of Cthulhu” is listed in my Bartlett’s: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Not a bad start to a tale of terror. It is, however, his only entry in that famous quote book. They should probably add another one, from Lovecraft’s very useful (and short) book Supernatural Horror in Literature. Again, the first sentence: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind if fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” This line, incidentally, tells us much about Lovecraft: The unknown, to him, was something frightful. For Kirk, the unknown–or the Unknown, as he might have called it–offered comfort.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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