Lovecraft in the Funhouse Mirror: Joyce Carol Oates’s “Night-Gaunts”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Joyce Carol Oates’s “Night-Gaunts,” first published in the October 2017 issue of Yale Review. Spoilers ahead.

“On his father’s right cheek, a small coin-sized birthmark of the hue of dried blood, with a suggestion of miniature fingers, or tendrils. An opened hand? But very small.”

Summary

Horace Phineas Love, Jr., sees a face in the window of the (vacant) Cornish House atop Charity Hill in Providence, where (once) he lived. It’s gaunt, pale and impassive, eyes sunken yet alive and alert. Gleeful. But there can be no face in the empty house. Perhaps it’s the reflection of the quarter-moon, “paper-thin and elusive behind a bank of gauzy stratus clouds.” ...