The Picture in the House
Call of Cthulhu
There's the cruddy dinner party conversation starter question: If you could go back in time and converse with one person from history who would it be? My answer is Lovecraft every time.
The above stories blew me away the first time I read them in a beat-up anthology collection. At the time I thought I was the only one in the world who had ever discovered and fell head over heels for Mr. H.P. Lovecraft (A completely platonic literary love, of course). I was dead wrong as there are actual Lovecraftian scholars as I found out later, but it was still an awesome feeling of discovery to have stumbled on such crazy freaky weird stories at our small town library. Lovecraft changed my whole way of looking at the world. I actively sought out the cracks in reality, I looked for shadowy cults operating in the dark woods at night, and signs that the great old ones were walking among us again. I'm still convinced that theres a whole world out there beyond what we're able to receive through our senses. I haven't found any proof yet, but I have never stopped looking.
While I adore his writing, the man himself was quite interesting too. He's often portrayed as the ultimate loner but he was married for awhile and was an obsessive letter writer. As you can tell by reading the above stories, he was also quite a racist and you could say he was a product of his times, but I think it goes deeper than that and the more I read and re-read his work the more his world view starts to come out. I'm probably wrong but its my gut feeling that he was deathly afraid of the unknowable, possibly a consequence of being very sickly as a child. While his writing is a bit purplish at times, it is certainly all his own. He has a lot of imitators but no one ever comes close.
Pointless story time: When I worked at my depressing fencing company job I would pull out my borrowed copy of Lovecraft stories with a freaky Pickman's Model inspired illustration on the front to read on my lunch break. Oh, the weird looks I got, I savored all of them. I don't know if it was because I was reading a book or the cover, but probably a combination of both. I was so so glad the day I got fired from that job...