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1-2: I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2 VOLUMES) Hardcover – August 20, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Those who regarded Lovecraft scholar Joshi's monumental 1996 biography, H.P. Lovecraft: A Life, as too short will embrace its expanded and updated two-volume successor. In even greater detail, with close attention to Lovecraft's philosophical thought, Joshi charts the life of America's 20th-century master of supernatural horror, from his birth in Providence, R.I., to a genteel Yankee family in 1890, through his activity in the amateur press movement and less than remunerative career as a contributor to the pulp magazines, chiefly Weird Tales, to his premature death in obscurity and near poverty in 1937. A final chapter chronicles the rise in Lovecraft's reputation through 2010. Joshi fans may enjoy his frequent personal asides ("For my part, I think it is an entirely charming but relatively insubstantial work," Joshi says of the long fantasy The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath), but others might wish a firm editorial hand had kept the biographer more in the background. Still, this exhaustive double tome should stand as the definitive Lovecraft biography for a long time. Photos. (Dec.)
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About the Author
S. T. Joshi is the author of The Weird Tale (1990), The Modern Weird Tale (2001), and other critical and biographical studies of supernatural fiction. He has prepared textually corrected and annotated editions of H. P. Lovecraft s work for Arkham House, Penguin Classics, and other publishers, as well as editions of the work of Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, and other weird writers. With David E. Schultz, he has begun a long-range project to edit Lovecraft s collected letters, in a projected 25 volumes.
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This biography is not for the casual fan and is the unexpurgated version of the original text from the Necronomicon Press release. There have been statements made to the effect that the volume would have benefited from the removal of certain areas of the text (or otherwise edited and/or watered down), which kind of flies in the face of the fact that it is intended to be the full text as it was originally written, but I digress from actually reviewing the book.
The arguments over Joshi's style are a bit tired, in my opinion. That he 'inserts himself into' his work is something that anyone reading Joshi's work should know by now is just his way. I don't think he needs to apologize for his writing voice and I'm certainly not going to do it for him. I almost see it as getting to sit down at a table and listen to the man talk about HPL to his contemporaries rather than read a staid and boring narrative. Personally, I enjoy how it reads. The volume touches on virtually all known areas of Lovecraft's life including his personal relationships, his writings, and everything between birth and death and beyond. Lovecraft is posthumously lucky to have someone so intensely interested in his life to so vigorously research his life and times for all of us to enjoy so many years later. As far as biographies in general go, I'm not sure you'll find anything much more comprehensive on the the given subject than this one (and there certainly won't be anything that tops it as far as HPL goes).
If you're a fierce Lovecraftian and haven't picked this up yet, you'll be kicking yourself later when it goes out of print. If you're just a casual fan, it's probably a bit much.
Although Sunand gave me a set of this remarkable biography on the day he came to drive me to the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, I also purchas'd a set from Hippocampus Press; I want one in my work area, for constant reference, and one at my bedside, to infuse my dreams with wonder. My personal life is often altered by the existences of writers whom I adore--yet no writer has affected me as keenly as has this man, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. He has given that which, now at age 60, is the core meaning of my life: the writing of book after book of Lovecraftian weird fiction. Ever since I discovered the initial three SELECTED LETTERS volumes from Arkham House in the 1970s, I have wanted "to be like H. P. Lovecraft." His biography has cast its spell on me absolutely. His fiction has attached itself to my psyche to the point where I will have had four books of Lovecraftian horror publish'd when this year hath expired, and I will have another four books of Lovecraftian horror publish'd next year. I dream of R'lyeh, and kiss the unholy palm of Nyarlathotep. And I am not the only youth whose life has been molded by his Lovecraftian passion: Sunand Tryambak Joshi, too, has been keenly influenced by HPL, the writer who has so influenced S. T.'s life choices.
Especially delightful is the way that the biographer brings himself, brilliantly and significantly, into the story; yet he does so in so professional and vital a way that it adds to his overall portrait of the artist and the artist's effect on those whom he has touched, aesthetically, emotionally, philosophically. This adds tremendously to the book and is of exceptional interest and value. This aspect of the book has been stupidly criticized and overstated by certain reviewers. In fact, page after page of this magnificent biography tells the story of H. P. Lovecraft, superbly and entrancingly.
I have read and reread H. P. LOVECRAFT: A LIFE so many times, I find this artist and his days so beguiling and inspirational. And thus it was with great joy that I began my adventures with this excellent expanded version, I AM PROVIDENCE--THE LIFE AND TIMES OF H. P. LOVECRAFT. No one on earth knows that life better than S. T. Joshi, or understands it so well from every aspect. The book is a minor miracle. Every page, up to Lovecraft's death, every singe page, has information or viewpoints about the life, the mind, the art of H. P. Lovecraft. The story is fascinating, and it is beautifully told: for S. T. Joshi is himself a brilliant writer, an intelligent writer.
I can do no better than to quote Anthony Pearsall, author of the brilliant THE LOVECRAFT LEXICON, where he sums up his admiration for the single volume version:
"The serious study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft now and forever must necessarily begin with H. P. LOVECRAFT: A LIFE (West Warwick, R. I. 1996) by Mr. S. T. Joshi, A.B., A.M. of Brown University. This brilliant book of some 650 tightly-written, densely-footnoted pages deserves some sort of monument for comprehensiveness in a one-volume literary biography, and might qualify as the greatest work of its kind that any minor literary figure has ever been posthumously blessed with. I am indebted to it for many, many facts and critical insights, presented in an incisive and masterly style. Mr. Joshi is without a doubt the world's foremost expert on Lovecraft's life and works, and his total command of the subject stands revealed on every page."
This is equally true of this new two-volume edition. It is spectacular, and I deeply appreciate the intense labor and love that brought it into existence. The 1,000 copy print run of this hardcover edition is now nearly sold out. In a video interview I conducted with S. T. last night on YouTube, he has revealed that a trade pb edition is forthcoming, perhaps as early as this summer, assuring that this superb biography will then be read by hundreds of new readers. And now Sunand has sold, or is in the prospect of selling, the film rights to this biography! A major motion picture of Lovecraft's life will prolong the life of this magnificent biography--hopefully it will also lead to a newly-condensed one volume edition published by a major house as film tie-in. But who to play E'ch-Pi-El??? My vote goes to Christopher Heyerdahl, that amazing actor who portrayed H. P. Lovecraft in the superb Canadian film, OUT OF MIND: THE STORIES OF H. P. LOVECRAFT (1998).
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