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H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (Library of America)
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272 of 281 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Library of America is to be commended for publishing this splendid collection of H. P. Lovecraft's fiction. I have been a major fan of Grandpa Theobald's "junk" (as he liked to call it) for something like 35 years now, and this is easily the best one-volume Lovecraft collection I have ever seen. It beats the socks off the "bloodcurdling" Del Rey volume - not only because it's in hard cover, but also because it contains Lovecraft's two longest fictional works: "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" (never published in HPL's lifetime) and what is probably his masterpiece, "At the Mountains of Madness". In fact, ALL of the Old Gentleman's truly great fiction is here in one volume, for the first time in my lifetime. A desert island book, for sure.

I know, I know - there have been some complaints because the editor (Peter Straub) also selected some of HPL's not-so-great fiction for this collection. I refer to some of the stories Grandpa penned specifically for a pulp magazine audience, such as "Herbert West: Reanimator", "The Lurking Fear", and "The Horror at Red Hook". Why, some readers wonder, sully such a classic collection with stuff that would cause HPL's ghost to die of embarrassment (if ghosts can die)? Well, the eldritch and hideous truth (as Lovecraft might put it) is simply this: Peter Straub was given an 800-page maximum limit for the collection by the Library of America, and there just ain't 800 pages worth of truly classic Lovecraft fiction in existence. I assume Straub was determined to put in as much stuff as possible - right up to the limit imposed on him - and after including all of the great stories, he still had 100 pages or so left over. He chose to fill the space with some of HPL's more "pulpish" efforts. I might have chosen a bit differently, myself, but the point is: including these inferior pieces doesn't crowd out any of the good stuff. ALL the classics are here. And if you don't like the lesser works, don't read them - but buy the damned book anyway!

Actually, I find something like "Herbert West" rather rip-roaring, grisly fun, since Grandpa Theobald obviously had his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek when he wrote it. It tends towards self-parody, and refutes all those readers who believe that Lovecraft had no sense of humor (they must never have read any of his letters!).

Perhaps the only surprising omissions (to me, anyway) are "The Picture in the House" and "In the Vault" (both of which are included in the Del Rey collection). I would probably have traded "The Horror at Red Hook" to have these two (admittedly minor) stories included - but this is such an insignificant quibble that I'm almost ashamed to bring it up. GET THIS BOOK!!!
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100 of 112 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 7, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Although I consider myself well read in the horror genre, I have to confess that, until recently, I had never read an H. P. Lovecraft story all the way through. Yes, despite numerous attempts beginning in my teens, I had never finished a single story by one of the most influential horror writers of the early twentieth century. Oh, I owned many of the myriad Lovecraft collections that had been issued over the years, including those beautiful Arkham House editions, but all they did was accumulate dust. And yes, I knew what the word "Lovecraftian" meant, having read many of the pastiches, takeoffs, satires, homages, etc. that have been published over the years. Thus, I knew to shudder at the mention of Cthulhu (even if I didn't know how to spell it), or to laugh knowingly when someone mentioned old Howard Philip's excesses as a writer. Sadly, it was all a sham. To paraphrase Woody Allen, it was a mockery of a travesty of a sham of two mockeries of a sham.

Thinking, like Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer, that I had "missed my chance" (I held the opinion that Lovecraft was one of those writers one had to embrace in his teens or not at all), I had reconciled myself to the fact that I probably would never read the old master.

Enter Peter Straub and S.T. Joshi.

I list Straub first because he served as the editor for the Library of America volume on Lovecraft, the one that intrigued me enough to start thinking about sampling Lovecraft again. But it was S.T., a Lovecraft scholar's Lovecraft scholar who actually coaxed me to read it.

I contacted S. T. (whose corrected HPL texts were used in the book) seeking a nudge, and a nudge I got. Still subconsciously looking for a way out of it, however, I asked whether Lovecraft was somebody best sampled in one's teens, kind of like the way you have to read Thomas Wolfe's LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL at eighteen to enjoy it properly (look it up, it's a law). S. T. reacted with righteous disdain, replying:

"I would dispute the belief that one has to read Lovecraft at an early age to get a "kick" out of him. As I progress in years and reread his work, I find new things to appreciate in it. Perhaps the overwhelming emotional effect is not there at my advanced age of 46, but then I'm not sure that I get an overwhelming emotional effect from *anything* I read these days.... My admiration of Lovecraft as an artist continues to grow the more I learn about him."

Well, when a reknowned expert like Joshi says something like this, it just has to make you curious. So, I read, and...well, it wasn't like Saul on the road to Damascus or anything, but hell, I had a pretty good time. Working through Lovecraft's dense, outdated prose was tough, but ultimately rewarding (although if I read one more time that some narrator can't describe something because it's so mind boggling, so foul or so corrupt that it defies description, I might puke, more in a fit of pique rather than out of disgust ). As Lloyd Rose, writing about this volume in the May 15, 2005 issue of the Washington Post said, "No doubt about it, Lovecraft had a vision."

The book itself is a thing of beauty, a thick, distinguished, perfect bound volume that anyone would be proud to have on his or her book shelf. Straub did an excellent job in selecting the twenty two stories featured, including such recognized classics as "The Outsider", "The Rats in the Walls", "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Lurking Fear", and the wonderfully campy (but somewhat racist) "Herbert West: Reanimator", while also including less "canonical" works such as "Cool Air." I think that even aficionados like Mr. Joshi would agree that the tales that made the final cut arguably represent the best of Lovecraft.

If you're at all like me (and, for your sake, I hope that's not the case) The Library of America edition of Lovecraft's tales will probably whet your appetite for more of the old master. It's weird, but...the Arkham Lovecraft books on my bedroom shelf seem to be...calling out...to me...I feel compelled to...to...it's just too horrific to describe...tentacles, and eyes...goodbye...
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a long-time admirer of HPL, I find it deeply gratifing to see a collection of his best fiction from the prestigious Library of America. Though a bit pricy, this impressive volume stands as the best "core collection" of Lovecraft's work to date, superseding Joyce Carol Oates' thoughtfully-edited "Tales of H.P. Lovecraft."

Still, there are a few flies in the ointment. By all that's right and just, this volume should have been edited by the pre-eminent Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi, rather than by the poor man's Dean Koontz. Lord knows Joshi has earned the honor of editing the Library of America Lovecraft edition many times over. Even so, Joshi's indespensible work in establishing the pure Lovecraft texts --the texts that make up this collection-- is fully acknowledged in the end papers. Also, I would have preferred that "The Hound" and "The Silver Key" had been included in addition to/instead of "The Lurking Fear" and "He." Then this one-volume core collection of Lovecraft's "Tales" would be perfect to my mind.

Still, you won't go wrong in getting this book. I can only hope --in vain, I suppose-- that a companion to "Tales" will one day be issued --"Poetry, Essays, Letters." This volume would include, among others, The Fungi from Yuggoth, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and a carefully chosen selection of Lovecraft's most fascinating and insightful correspondence. Editing this volume would be a task well beyond the means of even an avid and appreciative fan like Peter Straub, and could only fall to S. T. Joshi. Publishers of the Library of America series, please take note.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book _H. P. Lovecraft: Tales_ made available through The Library of America is an excellent collection of 22 of Lovecraft's short stories. H. P. Lovecraft was a writer of weird tales who defies description. His stories incorporate elements of occult lore, science fiction, and cosmic terror with a writing style that is unique, though some have suggested overdone. Lovecraft's tales show man faced up against the stark reality of a cosmos bereft of meaning (he was an atheist and materialist though he wrote on superstition), in which elder beings from other dimensions haunted the world of men. Philosophically, Lovecraft was influenced by Nietzsche and Spengler whose philosophy of nihilistic decline he incorporated into his stories. Lovecraft was also a racialist and arch-conservative (though he married a Jew and later came to advocate socialism) and expressed abhorrence for other races and immigrants within his stories. Lovecraft was influenced by other writers such as Dunsany, Machen, and Poe, but also came to influence a new generation of weird tales writers including Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, and Robert Bloch. Throughout his stories several common elements occur, the presence of witchcraft in old New England towns, secret cults left over from bygone days, and occult writings which enable wizards to summon transdimensional beings. Perhaps the best known of these occult writings is _The Necronomicon_, a tome invented by Lovecraft himself, said to be written by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. Lovecraft had always been fascinated by Oriental lore since he was a child and entertained fantasies involving the _Arabian Nights_. He took to calling himself this name after reading these tales. Lovecraft developed a mythos in which various entities played the role of elder gods.

This book contains 22 stories written by Lovecraft. These include:

"The Statement of Randolph Carter" (1919)

"The Outsider" (1921)

"The Music of Erich Zahn" (1922)

"Herbert West - Reanimator" (1921-1922)

"The Lurking Fear" (1922)

"The Rats in the Walls" (1923)

"The Shunned House" (1924)

"The Horror at Red Hook" (1925)

"He" (1925)

"Cool Air" (1926)

"The Call of Cthulhu" (1926)

"Pickman's Model" (1926)

"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" (1927)

"The Colour Out of Space" (1927)

"The Dunwich Horror" (1928)

"The Whisperer in Darkness" (1930)

"At the Mountains of Madness" (1931)

"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1931)

"The Dreams in the Witch House" (1932)

"The Thing on the Doorstep" (1933)

"The Shadow Out of Time" (1934-1935)

"The Haunter of the Dark" (1935).

This book also includes a Chronology of Lovecraft's life as well as Notes accompanying the text. It provides an outstanding compilation of Lovecraft's stories for a general readership.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First, English is not my native language, sorry for any mistake.

It's very hard to have the complete works of Lovecraft - I have about nine books and even so one or two tales are missing. This book from loa doesn't want neither try to do this, but just to, between 850 pages, give us the best and/or more important tales of Lovecraft. Does it work?

I think we could divide the works of Lovecraft in three categories: the master-pieces, the good stories, and the bad ones. All of the master-pieces are here: "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Dunwich Horror", "The Shadow Out of Time", etc. I don't think this collection has any of the bad stories (like "the evyl clergyman", "the tomb", etc). So, the problem with this book is the good stories. As they depend most on personal taste, it's hard to choose which ones deserves a definite edition like this. For me tales like "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", "The Quest of Iranon" and "The White Ship" should be here, but they are part of the so-called Lovecraft's "Dream Cycle", and it seems the editors choose to left this kind of stories off. Now, tales like "The Picture in the House" and "The Terrible Old Man" are good but not necessarily better than the options of the editors - "He", "The Horror at Red Hook", "The Statement of Randolph Carter" and "The Rats in the Walls" are not my favorite but I can't say they are misplaced. In the end, the only story I can't understand why it's not here (altough is very short), is "From Beyond". Three, four tales missing... with 50 pages more this book would be perfect.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This volume is one of my treasures. I paid full retail for this book as soon as I saw it at the bookstore. I could not walk away from it, I had an unreasonable fear that I wouldn't be able to find it again! Worth every penny. Having a large chunk of Lovecrafts' work in hardcover? Priceless!

The only thing I wish is that Library of America had gone the whole way, and made the volume the COMPLETE works of Lovecraft. It IS already 800 pages after all, why not just go for it and have it a bit longer? I suppose owning and rifling through lots of ratty old paperbacks to find stories not found elsewhere is a legitimate part of the Lovecraft fan experience, though.

Oh, and I would like to metaphorically kick sand in the face of the author of the first featured review, who asserts that it is "best to read Lovecraft when young". Why do so many of the featured reviews on this site read like SNL's "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey? Are the voters THAT impressed by snobby windbags? Next review, I'll make sure to wax pseudo-philosophic, consult my thesaurus, and insult lots of people. Then, maybe MY review will be featured.
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105 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
It is best to first read Lovecraft when young; after all, he mainly wrote for the horror pulps which had a large (predominantly?) immature readership. At that time in one's life, vocabulary and phrases such as "eldrich", "ichor", "the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation" seem perfectly appropriate. It is only when one is an adult that his endless litanies of attempts to describe the indescribable starts to seem more than a little over-the-top. His most powerful stories remain those wherein he merely makes a few choice suggestive phrases, such as Arch Obler did in his radio show "Lights Out"-trusting that the imagination is better at supplying the grisly details than any catalogue of gorey descriptors.

What remains for the adult reader who chooses not to prematurely dismiss Lovecraft's purple passages is an imagination that remains unsurpassed in tapping into the nightmare realm of the subconcious. The darkside of the dreamlife, reminiscent of the "Black" paintings of Goya, are conjured on the page with an obsessive richness that one would have to go back to Poe to find the equal. And Lovecraft is willing to go beyond Poe's gothic to a mythic cosmology that opens up from the claustrophobic dimensions of a tomb to a supradimensional realm of monstrous gods.

My favorite Lovecraft stories are all included here in this beautifully bound compilation: "Pickman's Model", "The Thing on the Doorstep" and my initial introduction to his work, "The Haunter of the Dark" (which resulted in an excessive expenditure of wattage for the subsequently imperative nightlight).

If approached with an open mind, these tales will haunt your dreams,too.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As soon as I read the reviews of this book in the NYT Book Review I rushed to order it. I do own the multi-volume Del Rey edition with the lurid covers and the yellowish paper, and two volumes of Lovecraft's works annotated by Joshi. But for convenience and style nothing beats this single volume "Tales" published by the Library of America. All the canonical works are here, plus more than a few for padding (Lovecraft just didn't live long enough to create a significant corpus of key works- which is actually good, because the casual reader may still be familiar with everything worthwhile he wrote). As many have said before me, the editor should have been S.T. Joshi, who knows old H.P. better than anyone else alive. I can't for the life of me guess why Peter Straub was chosen for this prestigious undertaking if a real expert like Joshi was available. But this is not a serious problem. Lovecraft should be enjoyed on his own, and sometimes Joshi's notes are too obvious and they drag the reader down. Any literate person can read Lovecraft without any notes. What we needed was a smallish hard-cover with onion paper that can pack 800 pages of legible print into a small, light frame.

I won't comment on the Tales themselves, other than to say that mocking H.P.'s style as overblown or overeager, and ridiculing his affair with adjetives is like demeaning poetry because it doesn't say clearly what it means, or making fun of Raymong Chandler because of his unrealistic dialogue and impossible plots. Lovecraft brought the Gothic horror genre to its peak. Within the conventions of this genre nobody (and I mean *nobody*) can touch Lovecraft.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2005
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
H.P. Lovecraft's stories have always resonated within me with a peculiar relevance. His writing, seemingly subconsciously, penetrates readers' minds and mines our deepest fears. Although he is certainly not above fun scares and thrills--indeed, his mordant wit is wonderful when he decides to make monsters jump at us--the true genius of his writing comes when he delves deep into the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Dread of the unknown, loneliness, primal human fears, all are captured with unsurpassed horror by Lovecraft. Stories such as The Rats in the Walls and The Music of Erich Zann are timeless in their portrayal of the darker aspects of nature, and the fearsome power that they hold over humans. Lovecraft walks the thin line between reality and nightmare, between sanity and madness. The hidden horror in the darkness, the strange sound in the attic, a lonely, moonless night--such is the realm of Lovecraft. Here are classic ghost stories tinged with a moving subtlety that plays off of the true nature of human fear, as well as haunting tales of psychological terror and doom.

The Library of America's collection of Lovecraft's tales is decidely the best anthology available. Not only are all his best stories included, but there are also many oft-overlooked or unpublished works that definitely deserve to be read. Granted, there are a few aberrations and flops (Herbert West--Reanimator), but they really are just bonuses. Everything that needed to be included has been.

If you're a Lovecraft fan, this is a great definitive anthology. And if you've never had the pleasure of journeying with Lovecraft into the far reaches of the unknown, this is a great book to start with.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I first met Lovecraft in my teens, in pulpy editions with hideous covers. Now I'm 52, teaching math in Farnmington ME, and they let me teach one section a year of English composition working from Lovecraft's Tales (and also the Dream Cycle).

Rereading Lovecraft and seeing him through the eyes of my students, I realize what it was that he did so well: it was not what he called "Yog-Sothothery," not showing the monster with the hideous fangs. It was the things he told you he wouldn't tell you: the things in the pits in "Charles Dexter Ward," whose "dismal moaning" mixed with a sort of "slippery thumping" but which are never quite seen; the farm wife in "Colour out of Space" who is locked, insane, in the attic and who seems to have been replaced by a thing that "slowly and perceptibly moved as it continued to crumble;" and the moment in "At the Mountains of Madness" where the two adventurers, having followed a doomed trail deep under the ice of Antarctica, realize that something's coming at them through the mist, and they wisely, if belatedly, turn and run and never quite see what it was.

You see, hear, feel, taste and smell Lovecraft's stories (e.g. the cellar in "The Shunned House", that horrible sub-basement in "Ward," the chemicals dumped down the sink in "Horror at Red Hook" to make room for blood). Yet he spends little time describing those sensations. He's exceptionally economical in his descriptions, which is something that modern horror writers (and film directors!) need to learn.

Lovecraft's work was far from perfect. He needed the money to buy food and pay rent, so he worked fast. His editors at the pulp magazines changed and cut and inserted without consultation. Only a select group of other writers had any respect for his work. (The excellent chronology in this volume shows just how peculiarly awful his life was.) Nonetheless, in his best work, he is far more disturbing that anyone writing today, and as for horror movies---there's no comparison. "The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown," he wrote, and you end his best stories not afraid of snakes or guys with axes, but afraid of what unguessed and unplumbed depths may lurk all around you at this moment, as you grope blind through this thing you think of as your life.

So smile! It could be worse, and probably is. Buy the book.
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