Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lovecraft At Last, At Last

A couple of years ago Cliff loaned me an amazing book called Lovecraft at Last. I was so taken with it, that I've been looking for a good copy ever since. That copy arrived this week, perhaps not quite as perfect as the Amazon after seller would have had me believe, but still a very nice copy with no nicks or cuts in the dust jacket and the book itself appears to be unread. I'm not always that picky about condition. Many times a reading copy will do, but I wanted a good copy of this one because it is truly a special book.
Lovecraft at Last is a memoir and a collection of correspondence. In 1936, a fifteen year old fan of Lovecraft named Willis Conover sent the writer a letter. Lovecraft, a letter writer of astounding energy, answered and so began a correspondence that would last until the end of Lovecraft's life, which was barely a year away.
Speaking as someone who has read five volumes of Lovecraft's letters, I can tell you that he tailored them to the people who would receive them. There aren't many generic Lovecraft letters. He took just as much time carefully answering the questions of the youthful Willis Conover as he did those of Robert E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith.
It's hard to describe how moving this book is. Lovecraft's health and living situation was deteriorating quickly, and yet he is funny, wry, kind, and patient in his comments to his young correspondent. Conover responds in kind, becoming concerned about the welfare of the gentleman from Providence. It is an odd, but true friendship between two people who never met.
Conover saved all the letters, postcards, etc he received from Lovecraft and those missives are reproduced in the book. You can see the famous spidery handwriting of Lovecraft and look at the postmarks and feel a sense of history and time. The last letter Conover receives is from one of Lovecraft's aunts, informing the young man that Lovecraft has passed away.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, this is a much loved book and I'm glad to have a copy at last.


Brian Murphy said...

Sounds pretty good, I'll add it to my list. Thanks for the review.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

It's a very cool book, Brian. No other book about Lovecraft quite like it.

Tex said...

Amazon needs to put you on the payroll.

I was going to look at another post or two before heading out to get those new Mike Hammer books, when I read this piece and remembered I used to own this book (it was yet another book that vanished in the Great Cataclysm.)

They say I ordered it from them before, on 0311.27, so I didn't have it even two years before it got pulped.

So thank you again for pointing me in the direction of another book I need (again.)

(who is working his way backwards through the site, and will probably comment on other, older posts. It's all Al's fault, of course. Him and those talking robots of his)

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Al has certainly put me on to a lot of sites too. That's one of the things I really love about the internet, that you can meet folks who share your interests and find about cool stuff. And Lovecraft at Last is just a special book. Anyone who thinks they know Lovecraft needs to read it.