Wednesday, March 06, 2013

I Am Providence: Volume One

   I'm almost done with the first volume of S.T. Joshi's biography of H.P. Lovecraft, I Am Providence, and I've really been enjoying it. Though I've been reading about Lovecraft for years, I've already learned a lot of stuff I didn't know, especially  about Lovecraft's days in the amateur press.
   I think what I really like about this biography is that Joshi focuses on Lovecraft the WRITER, so no matter what period of Lovecraft's life he's talking about, you get insights about how it affected Lovecrafts's development as a writer. For instance, when discussing Lovecraft's childhood, you find out about his early writing efforts and when he came up with the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred and what books he read, and who his favorite authors were. Some biographies just give you unfocused anecdotes about the subject's childhood. Lovecraft's writing seems never far from Joshi's mind.
   Last night I read the chapter about Lovecraft's discovery of Lord Dunsany, which was a major turning point, as Dunsany would be a huge influence on Lovecraft's writing. Many people think of stories like The White Ship and The Doom that came to Sarnath as simple Dunsany imitations, but Joshi points out that while the outward trappings may resemble Dunsany's stories, the philosophy behind them is pure Lovecraft. Dunsany himself, who read Lovecraft's work after Lovecraft's death, noted that while Lovecraft was working in Dunsany's style, his stories were complete originals. This impressed Dunsany considerably.
   The next few chapters, which will take me to the end of this book and into volume 2, will detail Lovecraft's early days as a professional writer, his sales to Weird Tales and such. Looking forward to that.


Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the review of this, and looking forward to Part 2. I've had this set on my "to buy" list for a while.

Keith said...

I need to get this. I've not read any biographies of Lovecraft.

I'm wondering how this bio stacks up against the one written by L. Sprague de Camp. Did de Camp do the sort of hatchet job on Lovecraft that he did on Howard?

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Brian, I highly recommend the biography. I think this one will be considered definitive for some time.

Keith, de Camp's Lovecraft bio isn't quite the train wreck that the REH one is, but he does indulge in some more amateur psychology and you can tell he thought Lovecraft an odd duck. Skip that one and get this one now that it's out in paperback.

SLS said...

I always had a doubt about "I Am Providence": the extra material really surpass the original version, "H. P. Lovecraft: A Life"? Ah, and congratulations for the blog!