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The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (Annotated Books) Hardcover – October 13, 2014
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H(oward) P(hillips) Lovecraft (1890–1937) posthumously earned a reputation for outstanding short story writing in the horror genre. The irony is that, during his lifetime, he appeared in print only in the so-called pulp magazines and appreciation for his work was modest. But as expressed in Alan Moore’s on-target introduction here, in the years following Lovecraft’s death, the “mesmerizing power of his language and imagination” gained him a wider and more enthusiastic readership than he would have ever imagined for himself. The foreword by Leslie S. Klinger is a highly informative history of the horror genre and a trenchant summary of Lovecraft’s life, all of which preface the primary section of this giant book, a presentation of 22 of Lovecraft’s most significant stories, each fully annotated with identifications of people and places, definitions of unfamiliar vocabulary, and background explanations of mentioned literary works. This impressive book can be used two ways, either for checkout in circulating horror collections or for in-house-only reference. --Brad Hooper
“Annotator Les Klinger is the man you want to have by your side, as you explore the Lovecraftian Darkness.”
- Neil Gaiman
“The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, with its astonishingly informed and detailed notes and photographs, edited by Leslie S. Klinger, is a treasure trove for Lovecraft readers, for whom it will be an essential purchase. A pleasure to peruse, encyclopediac in its information, and deeply sympathetic with its subject.”
- Joyce Carol Oates
“I am utterly gobsmacked. The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft is a work of such readability, easy access, precision, and joy that its publication by Liveright is an Olympian landmark of modern gothic literature.”
- Harlan Ellison
“A book I have profoundly hoped to see for ages, which gave me many very happy hours―thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Klinger and Liveright!”
- Gahan Wilson, author of Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons
“Lovecraft is intriguing for not only the rich substrate of astonishing and sometimes prescient ideas that is the bedrock of his work, but for the sheer unlikelihood of his ascent into the ranks of the respected U.S. literary canon…He is today revered to a degree comparable with that of his formative idol Edgar Allan Poe, a posthumous trajectory from pulp to academia that is perhaps unique in modern letters.”
- Alan Moore, from the introduction
“[W]here does a reader longing to know more about Lovecraft’s fiction and philosophy begin when faced with the dozens of critical and interpretative studies and biographies? Thanks to the devoted work of Leslie S. Klinger, an excellent starting point is his The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft…Klinger has again created a serious work of research and scholarship that is shamelessly intended for fans―and is a joy to read… [A]n absolute essential addition to all horror fiction collections.”
- Alan Cranis, Bookgasm.com
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1. The book is oversized but it's gorgeous. The inclusion of numerous maps, photographs and reproductions of letters is one of the greatest attractions. For example, there are photos of Sonja Green that I had never seen before, including some of her years after HPL had died. I wish Donovon Loucks could get a similarly sized book for his collection of photos of Lovecraftian geography. In the meantime I was very happy to see a generous number of his pictures of sites in Providence here.
2. Another major attraction is that it is not by ST Joshi. While I very much respect Mr.Joshi, Lovecraft scholarship has advanced considerably since the 1990s and it is good to have a different voice. Everyone is a person of their times, and the historical context given in the author's lengthy introduction was quite valuable, often skipped over in collections of Lovecraft's stories. There is no apology for Lovecraft's racism here; in fact, it is painstakingly shown how HPL's personal views may have ruined any hope of his marriage succeeding, and how they informed a great deal of his fiction.
3. Having said that, I am glad that, for the most part, this volume uses Joshi's corrected text for the stories, so that some egregious errors are not perpetuated. On the other hand, Mr. Klinger is his own person so he sometimes uses a slightly different version, while providing justification for it.
4. The price of the book is a bit high, but with the current discounts it's not that high. In fact I think it was priced to be able to sell, perhaps cashing in on the current wave of attention Lovecraft is now receiving.
5. This brings me to my major criticism, which is the story selection. Mr. Klinger has his reasons of course, but for pity's sake, why include the entire text of "Herbert West, Reanimator?" This is just a pulp story. HPL himself did not think highly of it. Why not include "The Terrible Old Man" or "The Strange High House on the Mist" or "The Cats of Ulthar?" Surely "Pickman's Model," "The Music of Erich Zann" and "The Outsider" merited inclusion. This latter title perhaps represents how HPL thought of himself in modern America.
So in summary, this volume is a brilliant triumph. My regret is that it could have been the one definitive copy of Lovecraft's work, the only one anyone would ever need. Instead even if you get this book, you still need to get at least one more with the inevitable duplication that entails. If you want other options, you can get Joshi's annotations in issues from Dell. Kenneth Hite has given his thoughts on the stories in the altogether delightful Tour de Lovecraft. You don't get any of the stories, just some ruminations on them by a thoughtful reader. It's a different sort of work then biography/annotated text but it is also a bargain price and just plain fun. Finally Dan Clore's masterpiece Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon explores in depth the vocabulary of weird fiction, providing numerous examples of usage from the works of HPL.
I would have liked to see a few more words defined in the book. There are some obscure and older English terms used, which I would have to use a dictionary to discover the meaning. Simply including a note to provide such definitions would have provided the reader with an instant reference in the text, and eliminated multiple searches for uncommon words for today's reader.
The book is large, and one that is best left on your nightstand.
This is the first time I have ever read Lovecraft, and I am totally hooked. Thanks to Klinger's insights, I am having a wonderful and thorough introduction to Lovecraft's ability to conjure horrific experiences for his readers.
My advice is definitely to buy the book. Not only does the editor do a tremendous job of presenting 22 of Lovecraft's finest works in a sensible and meaningful author, but he does it in such a way that you see for yourself as you progress through the book how Lovecraft developed as a writer and mastered his craft. Sure, some of the stories are not the best - Dagon for example is little more than a simple precusor to what would later become The Call of Cthulhu - but they are featured because they represent important milestones in Lovecraft's life. The Rats in the Wall is one of Lovecraft's best horror stories and is not featured in this collection. That might seem like a strange choice when less polished works like Dagon are included over The Rats in the Walls, but to introduce the reader to Lovecraft it is important to see how Lovecraft introduced elements of his later mythos in some of his earlier works.
As well as the thoughtful choices and order the stories are presented in, the background information is thoroughly enlightening. Alan Moore provides a witty and educational introduction which is worth half the price of admission alone. The book is beautifully illustrated with photos of Lovecraft's life, hometown and the buildings he based his fictional town of Arkham upon. I especially enjoyed the notes and appendices at the end of the book which provide information on all of Lovecraft's other work so that once you have fallen in love with Lovecraft's universe after reading this collection you can see what else there is to read.
Most of all, just enjoy the stories. Their epic scope, their chilling cosmic horror, their beautiful usage of convulated purple prose. Like the brain-snatching Mi-Go in The Whisperer in the Darkness; these stories will transport your mind to dark corners of the universe where man was not meant to gaze.
Treat yourself. This book is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf and a must for horror enthusiasts.