In ‘Literary Appreciation of the Lovecraft Kind‘, Dan McCarthy defends H.P. from a recent claim that he is a “godawful writer”.
McCarthy nails it in the following assessment of Lovecraft’s writing, which I agree with wholeheartedly:
The “flaw” in Lovecraft’s work isn’t his sometimes dull, sometimes purple (but often royal purple) prose, it’s that his stories are devoid of character development and all but the rudiments of a plot. A Lovecraft story, almost without exception, is a first-person narration in which the protagonist is trapped in his own head and gradually—or not so gradually—loses his mind, always in the impeccably orderly fashion of a New England professional. “Stories” like “Under the Pyramids” or “The Shadow Out of Time” are actually just descriptions of mysterious settings that provide the narrator synopses of long-dead inhuman civilizations. But the flatness of Lovecraft’s storytelling is very much the point—the indifference of the cosmos to humanity and man’s realization that he is no more than an ant, an ant unlucky enough to perceive something of its insignificance. The ancient civilizations Lovecraft’s narrators encounter have all long collapsed, never to return; they outstrip human achievements in every respect but are themselves nothing. This existential terror and awe are what Lovecraft is all about, and nobody does it better.
Lovecraft is about mood, not plot. His is the genre of ‘existential horror’. While he was something of a one trick pony, his long elaborations on ancient races (usually never seen) were able to creatively depict (by inference, of course) the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos, both in terms of space and time.