Short stories are a diverse way of storytelling that can appear in numerous different forms. When taking a look at the story ‘Wife to Mr. Lovecraft’ the reader is immediately introduced to a unique way of storytelling and a form that is not only one-of-a-kind but also very significant when looking at the relationship of Sonia Greene and H.P. Lovecraft.
‘Wife to Mr. Lovecraft’ deals with Sonia writing postcards to her then ex-husband whom she calls How. Quite obviously, these characters in the story are based on writer H.P. Lovecraft and his ex-wife Sonia.
In these postcards Sonia writes to her ex-husband about the things she experiences with her new husband Ned, especially in Australia, and how certain events remind her of their time together. She especially focuses on the time they spent together writing stories and how different events remind her of specific stories. When on a ship, Sonia encounters a weird creature that she describes as monstrous and dark. This seems to scare her not only because the creature is unknown but more because it reminds her so much of a story her and Howard have written in the past, connecting her with a period in her life that she wants to leave behind, yet seemingly can’t. She openly mentions how she never wants to see a creature like that ever again, the creature representing their relationship or alternatively Howard himself.
In the end she seems to get some kind of closure with their relationship after the encounter. She asks Lovecraft to let her go just like she is letting the creature go; permanently putting an end to their relationship.
With its epistolary form, the story pays tribute to writer H.P. Lovecraft and his wife Sonia Greene/ Lovecraft, who according to Sussex’s Twitter profile was ‘quite a personality’. There have been multiple postcards found by H.P. Lovecraft in which he corresponds with different people.
Based on that the story is divided into 11 postcards, all of them addressed to H.P. Lovecraft, although seemingly never sent. The postcards appear to be in chronological order but seem to jump in settings as the narrator/writer of the postcards (Sonia) seems to be changing location a lot with her new husband, leaving the United States for Australia.
All of the postcards have a heading that seems to describe either what Sonia writes about or what can be seen on the postcard (or both). Only the last postcard mentions the writer and has a proper ending.
After looking more into the relationship between Lovecraft and Greene, what makes this story so interesting to me is how the form reflects on their relationship. Of course, the narrator openly mentions the relationship and the struggles Sonia and Lovecraft went through, talking about how they were ‘alien to each other’ (p.55).
In the story Sonia writes that words, and especially the ones they wrote to each other, were the only thing her and Lovecraft had in common. It seems like their letters and postcards were the connection they had (cf. p.51). Now on the one hand, that refers to the stories that they wrote for and with each other, not only in the short story but also in real life. On the other hand, this is alluding to the beginning, growth and change of their relationship.
Their relationship started after they met at a convention in Boston. From then on letters and postcards played an important part both leading up to and during their short-lived marriage.
Based on that the form of the short story ‘Wife of Mr. Lovecraft’ mirrors one of the most significant aspects of Sonia and Lovecraft’s relationship. Writing letters was what seemingly sparked the romance between these two and connected them. And now in ‘Wife to Mr. Lovecraft’ we get to read about a correspondence that seemingly marks the permanent end to their relationship and breaks their connection.
- Sussex, Lucy (2017). Wife to Mr. Lovecraft
- Her Letters To Lovecraft: Sonia H. Greene (2021) (https://deepcuts.blog/2021/09/25/her-letters-to-lovecraft-sonia-h-greene/)
- Sussex’s Twitter
Hi Mia! A short story made up of postcards is indeed quite unique. As you rightfully point out, this form is a great choice to reexamine the relationship between Sonia Greene and H.P. Lovecraft. For that, you mostly interpret the sea monster that Sonia encounters as a metaphor for their relationship. You allude to the fact that it could also function as a direct denouncement of Lovecraft himself, which definitely makes sense. Sussex inhabits Sonia’s voice with a modern perspective that is reckoning with the figure of Lovecraft and his overt racism (cp. https://lithub.com/we-cant-ignore-h-p-lovecrafts-white-supremacy/). Thus, she asks: “How did we ever get married?” and “If they wrote stories, would we be the monsters?” Best, Daniel