Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Lust ... Rising

It's not for nothing that S.T. Joshi's H.P. Lovecraft: A Life is lauded as a great biography of the Old Gent. I've read the thing from cover to cover several times (this summer being the most recent time) and I always find something new and insightful in its pages. I really can't say enough good things about it. So, when I discovered that Joshi had written a second biography of HPL -- and a two-volume one at that -- I was dumbstruck.

I Am Providence was apparently published last year and I had no idea. That's probably a good thing, since I would have been awfully tempted to buy it. Still, at $100, it's a bit pricey for me, especially when I already have his earlier biography. On the other hand, biblio- and Lovecraft-ophile that I am, it's so very enticing. And my birthday is coming up too ... Damn.

16 comments:

  1. Seems like a no-brainer, to me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. James, "I Am Providence" is not a 2nd Lovecraft biography by Joshi. Instead, it is the unabridged version of Joshi's "H. P. Lovecraft: A Life".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Geoffrey,

    Aha! Thanks for that clarification. I didn't realize that the original biography had been abridged in any way, since it's still over 700 pages long.

    Still tempting nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's a lot of moola for a fairly new book. Then again, I was for a few minutes after looking through it seriously thinking about picking up the Stanley Kubrick Napoleon book with retails for $700 bucks and is nothing less then incredible.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is what libraries, and inter-library loan, is for - reading $100 books!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Seems to me that outside his writings, HP lived a fairly unremarkable life and died fairly young. At least from what I can recall from my early 90's Lovecraft-love period. Unless there is a large amount of analysis about his stories, I'm scratching my head at how they could milk 700 pages out of it. 700 seems more appropriate for somebody like Richard Branson.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If you get that much pleasure from re-reading your abridged edition, I'd go for the unabridged one.

    You'll just have to write and publish some more gaming stuff for us to buy! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. @BrunoMac - HPL led a very remarkable life. That's why you can write a 1,000+ page biography on him and why he was able to associate with the likes of Houdini.

    @James Perhaps a pity you don't pick up YSDC's news feed as you'd have found out about the new edition a year ago (and been able to pick up a signed copy)! Oh well. ;-)

    http://www.yog-sothoth.com/content/951-I-Am-Providence-The-Life-and-Times-of-H.P.-Lovecraft

    ReplyDelete
  9. James-

    I'm on page 860-something of [i]I Am Providence[/i], and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I hadn't read the earlier Joshi HPL bio before purchasing this one ("only" $63 from Amazon.com, if that makes a difference in your decision), so I can't make any comparisons and have no idea which parts were abridged.

    A great deal of the volumes are devoted to litcrit analysis of HPL's tales, and there is quite a bit of discussion of his philosophy and travels. Joshi takes it fairly easy on de Camp, going so far as to agree with him on most points (I have read de Camp's HPL bio). Joshi is clearly sympathetic to his subject, and is perhaps just a bit sanguine about some of HPL's more controversial views, but does (rightly) take him to task for his racism, though in a measured and thoughtful manner.

    I'm not sure how much space was devoted in the earlier bio to the merits of CAS's and REH's work, but I can tell you that diehard Howard fans will not be pleased with Joshi's estimation of Two-Gun Bob's stories, and though Joshi love CAS's poetry he dismisses most of his fictional output as mediocre.

    ReplyDelete
  10. That sounds to me like I Am Providence is broadly similar to Joshi's abridged version, though with more depth of coverage rather than more breadth. That's still intriguing to me, since I like reading about all the nitpicky details of HPL's life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I do too, and though not all of it is equally fascinating (the amateur journalism stuff takes up a good bit of volume 1, and I found some of it deadly dull), as a whole the writing style is very engaging. I'm a slow-ish reader, and I only started last week, if that tells you anything. I plan on finishing the thing up today or tomorrow, as my interest is starting to flag a bit--the lure of the Leiber connection (in the last few months of HPL's life) is what's keeping me going at this point.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's frustrating to me, as a very very casual HPL/criticism reader, that the big cheese in Lovecraft scholarship tends to fill his criticism with so much goddamn going-on about 'cosmicism' and so little insight into the mechanics of storytelling. Maybe I've been looking at the wrong stuff of his, but whatever Joshi's contributed to understanding of HPL's philosophy, he tends to fall down when describing the actual human experience of reading works of literature.

    So is Philip K Dick to the 21st century what Lovecraft was to the 20th?

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Wally,

    I don't think I've read anything else by Joshi on HPL (I'm more of a biography reader when it comes to SF writers, rather than criticism), but it seems to me in this case that Joshi pays sufficient attention to HPL's creative process and development as a fictioneer (he also spends a lot of time on cosmicism, as you say).

    So is Philip K Dick to the 21st century what Lovecraft was to the 20th?

    I'm not entirely clear what you mean by this.. unless you mean that each somehow captured the Zeitgeist of his era a little in advance of anyone else. What was Lovecraft to the 20th, in your view?

    I love both authors immensely (HPL for his later work and PKD for his novels, primarily, but both are fascinating characters), but I don't think there's a whole lot to compare.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That's too much for me. Don't get me wrong, I like Lovecraft, but I prefer Howard.

    Both Lovecraft and Howard did lead relatively unremarkable lives, as has been stated already. And this is what has always struck me as "odd," given the reverence and awe we have for them now.

    Both lived pretty much in poverty, Lovecraft suffered from malnourishment . . .

    Their lives were simply incredible. And when you consider the people today who are getting rich off of their work -- while they, themselves, starved -- it's even more incredible.

    And sad.

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Mystic Scholar - Unfortunately, you've repeated a few misconceptions about HPL and REH which you could clear up by reading their biographies (even de Camp's).

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.