Saturday, November 7, 2015

Considering H.P. Lovecraft, Part 3

For today's post, I'm going to do several things.  First, I'd like to make a bunch of lists.  We all love making lists, right?  Right!  Well, why wouldn't we?  Specifically, the lists I'd like to make are these:
  
  • a chronological-by-composition list of all of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, which would be the contents of a hypothetical edition of The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft from Truth Inside The Lie Press (minus the nonextant stories, of course)
  • a hypothetical table-of-contents for another Truth Inside The Lie press bestseller, the hypothetical The Essential Works of H.P. Lovecraft (which, you will note, contains some poetry and nonfiction)
  • a list of Stephen King stories that are directly Lovecraftian
Did I just make a list of lists?  Yes I did.
  
The second part of the agenda will be to simply have a look at a small library of Lovecraft-centric books, most of which I purchased during the course of the last few months, while I was in the thick of exploring Lovecraft's work.  In writing my first two Considering Lovecraft posts, I found it necessary to do a bit of research on the stories, and that process inevitably brought books to my attention; in many cases, I simply couldn't resist the lure to buy them.  I've read none of them yet, but I thought they were all worth showing you; that way, in case you get bitten by the Lovecraft bug, you'll at least have some info at your hands about what's out there.
  
My plan is to read all of these books eventually.  That ought to go without saying, but around these parts it's by no means uncommon to buy a book purely out of the desire to have it.  In a perfect world, I'd read every book; but this is an imperfect world in which there's only so much reading time to go around.  And the urge to get back to reading (and blogging about) Stephen King's books and stories is mounting daily; it won't be put off, nor should it.  Still, I'd like to intersperse my King explorations with delvings into these various Lovecraft books.  I think what I'll do each time I tackle one is come back to this post and edit it with whatever reviews and reactions seem appropriate.  I'll add a comment in the comments section each time, so if you are interested enough in all this to actually want to keep up with it, check the box that will allow you to be informed when new comments are published.
  
  
  
  
Alright, so let's get started on the list-making.  First up, I'd like to present a list of Lovecraft's fiction in chronological order by composition.  A few notes about that: (1) I'm doing it because it might be useful to somebody (me, for example); (2) it isn't as straightforward a task as it might seem, and in places where I'm straying into controversy I will explain myself as needed; and (3) due to how non-straightforward a task it is, it's entirely possible I will get something wrong, in which case I would appreciate you correcting me in the comments.
  
Much of the specific information will have been obtained from The H.P. Lovecraft Archive, an indispensable website that you are heartily encouraged to visit.  
  
In the cases where I have attributed multiple authors, I am listing them as I believe they ought to be listed.  I am following my gut and listing the authors in the order of what I perceive to be the order of contribution.  If I feel the story is primarily Lovecraft, his name comes first; if I feel he had a lesser hand, his name comes second.  In some cases, I may have listed works without his name at all; those stories will have explanatory notes.  

I suspect that Lovecraft scholars would frown on this method of authorial attribution.  After all, who do I think I am?  It's a fair point, but my aim here is to merely set down my own personal definitions, to please my own interests.  I'm not doing so willy-nilly -- I'll be basing these decisions on aesthetic criteria (not rigorously, perhaps, but in what I hope will be at minimum a consistent manner) -- and I'm doing so authoritatively.

But do I feel that my method would be of use to the average reader?  Yes, I do.

One other note: my first pass at this listed the known Lovecraft stories that are nonextant.  In revision, I decided to remove them; it muddies the waters a bit too much to my liking.  The H.P. Lovecraft Archive lists them on its various chronologies, so if you wish to incorporate them into a list, you can use them as a tool to easily do so.

Here goes:
  
  
Apologies to Antonio Comparo for appropriating his kick-ass artwork.

  
  • The Little Glass Bottle  (juvenilia, 1897)
  • The Secret Cave or John Lees Adventure  (juvenilia, 1898)
  • The Mystery of the Grave-Yard  (juvenilia, 1898)
  • The Mysterious Ship  (juvenilia, 1902)
  • The Beast in the Cave (juvenilia, 1905)
  • The Alchemist  (juvenilia, 1908)
  • The Tomb  (1917)
  • Dagon  (1917)
  • A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson  (1917)
  • Sweet Ermengarde; Or, The Heart of a Country Girl  (1917)
  • Polaris  (1918)
  • The Green Meadow  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Winifred V. Jackson)  (1918-19)
  • Beyond the Wall of Sleep  (1919)
  • Memory  (1919)
  • Old Bugs  (1919)
  • The Transition of Juan Romero  (1919)
  • The White Ship (1919)
  • The Doom That Came to Sarnath  (1919)
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter  (1919)
  • The Terrible Old Man  (1920)
  • The Tree  (1920)
  • The Cats of Ulthar  (1920)
  • The Temple  (1920)
  • Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family  (aka "Arthur Jermyn")  (1920)
  • The Street  (circa 1920)
  • Poetry and the Gods  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Anna Helen Crofts)  (1920)
  • Celephaïs  (1920)
  • From Beyond  (1920)
  • Nyarlathotep  (1920)
  • The Picture in the House  (1920)
  • The Crawling Chaos  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Winifred V. Jackson)  (1920-21)
  • Ex Oblivione  (1920-21)
  • The Nameless City  (1921)
  • The Quest of Iranon  (1921)
  • The Moon-Bog  (1921)
  • The Outsider  (1921)
  • The Other Gods  (1921)
  • The Music of Erich Zann  (1921)
  • Herbert West -- Reanimator  (1921-22)
  • Hypnos  (1922)
  • What the Moon Brings  (1922)
  • Azathoth  (1922)
  • The Horror at Martin's Beach  (aka "The Invisible Monster")  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene)  (1922)
  • Four O'Clock  (by Sonia H. Greene and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1922)  (Note that this story was at one point thought to have been revised by Lovecraft in much the same way as "The Horror at Martin's Beach" was, but that current scholarship thinks this not to be the case; at most, it is believed Lovecraft may have suggested the story.  However, after reading it myself, I pronounce it -- for whatever this is worth -- to be shoddy Lovecraft . . . but to be Lovecraft, at least partially.)
  • The Hound  (1922)
  • The Lurking Fear  (1922)
  • The Rats in the Walls  (1923)
  • The Unnamable  (1923)
  • Ashes  (by C.M. Eddy, Jr. and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1923)
  • The Ghost-Eater  (by C.M. Eddy, Jr. and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1923)
  • The Loved Dead  (by H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy, Jr.)  (1923)
  • The Festival  (1923)
  • Deaf, Dumb, and Blind  (by H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy, Jr.)  (circa 1924)
  • Under the Pyramids  (aka "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs")  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini)  (1924)
  • The Shunned House  (1924)
  • The Horror at Red Hook  (1925)
  • He  (1925)
  • In the Vault  (1925)
  • The Descendant  (fragment, circa 1926)
  • Cool Air  (1926)
  • The Call of Cthulhu  (1926)
  • Two Black Bottles (by H.P. Lovecraft and Wilfred Blanch Talman)  (1926)
  • Pickman's Model  (1926)
  • The Silver Key  (1926)
  • The Strange High House in the Mist  (1926)
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath  (1926-27)
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward  (1927)
  • The Colour Out of Space  (1927)
  • The Very Old Folk  (1927)
  • The Thing in the Moonlight  (by H.P. Lovecraft and J. Chapman Miske)  (1927, revised posthumously 1941 by Miske)
  • The Last Test  (by Adolphe de Castro and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1927)
  • History of the Necronomicon  (1927)
  • The Curse of Yig  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)  (1928)
  • Ibid  (circa 1928)
  • The Dunwich Horror  (1928)
  • The Electric Executioner  (by Adolphe de Castro and H.P. Lovecraft)  (circa 1929)
  • The Mound  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)  (1929-30)
  • Medusa's Coil  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)  (1930)
  • The Whisperer in Darkness  (1930)
  • At the Mountains of Madness  (1931)
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth  (1931)  (note that a discarded draft also exists and can be found in various places)
  • The Trap  (by Henry S. Whitehead and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1931)  (note that S.T. Joshi feels that the last three-fourths of the story are Lovecraft's; to me, though, it feels more like somebody else's work)
  • The Dreams in the Witch House  (1932)
  • The Man of Stone  (by Hazel Heald and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1932)
  • The Horror in the Museum  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)  (1932)
  • Through the Gates of the Silver Key  (by H.P. Lovecraft with E. Hoffman Price)  (1932-33)
  • Winged Death  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)  (1933)
  • Out of the Aeons  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)  (1933)
  • The Thing on the Doorstep  (1933)
  • The Evil Clergyman  (1933)
  • The Horror in the Burying-Ground  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)  (1933-35)
  • The Slaying of the Monster  (by R.H. Barlow)  (1933)  (I find there to be nothing whatsoever of Lovecraft in this story, which he supposedly revised for Barlow)
  • The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast  (by R.H. Barlow)  (1933)  (I find even less Lovecraft here than for the above story)
  • The Book  (fragment, circa 1933)
  • The Survivor  (by August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft)  (plotted by Lovecraft in 1934, written by Derleth in 1954)  (I suspect that many Lovecraft fans would be horrified by my inclusion of a Derleth story on this list.  It reads to me as though it had been plotted by Lovecraft, and it feels sufficiently a product of his mind that I hold it as distinct from the other Derleth "posthumous collaborations." But it's just this one; the others feel like pastiches at best.)
  • The Tree on the Hill (by Duane W. Rimel and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1934)
  • The Sorcery of Aphlar  (by Duane W. Rimel)  (1934)  (Joshi notes that Lovecraft made reference in one letter to having revised three Rimel stories; Joshi also believes this was a mere error on Lovecraft's part.  Some have speculated that the third story might be "The Sorcery of Aphlar," but having read it, I don't see Lovecraft in it at all.)
  • The Battle That Ended the Century  (by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1934)
  • The Shadow Out of Time  (1935)
  • "Till A' the Seas"  (by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow)  (1935)
  • Collapsing Cosmoses  (fragment, by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1935)
  • The Challenge from Beyond  (by C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long)  (round-robin story, 1935)
  • The Disinterment  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel)  (1935)
  • The Diary of Alonzo Typer  (by H.P. Lovecraft and William Lumley)  (1935)
  • The Haunter of the Dark  (1935)
  • In the Walls of Eryx  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth J. Sterling)  (1936)
  • The Night Ocean  (by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft)  (1936)

I think it would be nice to include Lovecraft's 1927 essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" as an introduction; and an appendix that included some of Lovecraft's better poetry might be nice, too, though I'm not prepared to suggest any specifics (other than "The Ancient Track," "Nathicana," and the cycle "Fungi from Yuggoth") at this time owing to lack of familiarity.
  
And now:
  
  
This time, apologies are due to Sean Phillips.
  
The idea here is that while some people -- mildly-to-completely obsessive types like myself -- would certainly want a weighty tome such as the hypothetical Complete Fiction outlined above would be, the average reader doesn't need some of the ephemera that such a collection would contain.  For those who want a moderately-complete but not obsessively-complete collection, I offer this:
  
  • The Tomb
  • Dagon
  • The White Ship
  • The Doom That Came to Sarnath
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter
  • The Terrible Old Man
  • The Cats of Ulthar
  • The Temple
  • Celephaïs
  • From Beyond
  • Nyarlathotep
  • The Picture in the House
  • The Crawling Chaos  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Winifred V. Jackson)
  • Ex Oblivione
  • The Nameless City
  • The Quest of Iranon
  • The Outsider
  • The Music of Erich Zann
  • Herbert West -- Reanimator
  • The Horror at Martin's Beach  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene)
  • The Hound
  • The Lurking Fear
  • The Rats in the Walls
  • The Unnamable
  • The Loved Dead  (by H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy, Jr.)
  • The Festival
  • Under the Pyramids  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini)
  • The Shunned House
  • The Horror at Red Hook
  • In the Vault
  • Cool Air
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • Pickman's Model
  • The Silver Key
  • The Strange High House in the Mist
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
  • Supernatural Horror in Literature  (essay, 1925-27)
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • The Colour Out of Space
  • History of the Necronomicon
  • The Curse of Yig  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)
  • The Dunwich Horror
  • The Ancient Track  (poem, 1929)
  • Nathicana  (poem, date unknown)
  • Fungi from Yuggoth  (poetry cycle, 1929-30)
  • The Mound  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)
  • Medusa's Coil  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop)
  • The Whisperer in Darkness
  • At the Mountains of Madness
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  • The Dreams in the Witch House
  • The Horror in the Museum  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)
  • Through the Gates of the Silver Key  (by H.P. Lovecraft with E. Hoffman Price)
  • Winged Death  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)
  • Out of the Aeons  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)
  • The Thing on the Doorstep
  • The Horror in the Burying-Ground  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald)
  • The Shadow Out of Time
  • "Till A' the Seas"  (by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow)
  • The Challenge from Beyond  (by C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long)
  • The Disinterment  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel)
  • The Diary of Alonzo Typer  (by H.P. Lovecraft and William Lumley)
  • The Haunter of the Dark
  • In the Walls of Eryx  (by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth J. Sterling)
  • The Night Ocean  (by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft)
  
It would probably be preferable to break that up into a three-volume series; even condensed from the Complete Fiction list, that's a lot of stories!  You may have noticed that I snuck in a few things that were not present on the Complete Fiction list: a lengthy (and essential) essay, plus a couple of offerings from Lovecraft's poetry.
  
It occurs to me that I might need to justify my inclusion of "The Night Ocean,"  Joshi has read the original draft by Barlow, and has said that the final draft contains about 90% Barlow and 10% Lovecraft.  Therefore, this is certainly -- and demonstrably -- much more a Barlow than a Lovecraft story.  However, that's not to say that there is no Lovecraft in it whatsoever; there is, and therefore it has to count.  The reason I'm including it in this list is simply that it's a very good story.  It's also very melancholy, and would serve as a fitting conclusion to a Lovecraft read-through.
  
Now, because why not, here's a hypothetical Best-of-the-Best compilation, one which you Lovecraft noninitiates could use as a basis for doing some H.P.L. reading without having to worry about what to start with.  No mock cover for this one; got lazy.
  
  • Dagon
  • The Doom That Came to Sarnath
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter
  • The Cats of Ulthar
  • The Temple
  • Celephaïs
  • From Beyond
  • The Picture in the House
  • The Outsider
  • The Music of Erich Zann
  • The Rats in the Walls
  • The Festival
  • Cool Air
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • Pickman's Model
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • The Colour Out of Space
  • The Dunwich Horror
  • The Whisperer in Darkness
  • At the Mountains of Madness
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  • The Dreams in the Witch House
  • The Thing on the Doorstep
  • The Shadow Out of Time  

Even that is probably too lengthy for the average joe; but I can't bring myself to condense it any further.
  
And now, for our final hypothetical compilation, we have:
  
  
The illustration is by Alex Maleev, and it comes from issue #1 of the Marvel Comics adaptation of N.
  
I made an alternate for this one, from issue #2 of N.:
  
  

  
I suspect have no future in graphic layout...
  
Anyways, here is what such a collection would contain:
  
  • Graveyard Shift
  • Weeds
  • I Know What You Need
  • Children of the Corn
  • Jerusalem's Lot
  • The Crate
  • The Mist
  • Crouch End
  • The Raft
  • Gramma
  • The Plant: Zenith Rising
  • N.
  • 1922
King might balk at some of these being considered Lovecraftian; for example, he's on the record as saying "N." derives less from Lovecraft than from Machen.  So be it; but it seems rather Lovecraftian to me, even including the word "Cthun" repeatedly.
  
One way or the other, that'd be a solid collection.
  
Did I leave any out?  Put in some that are undeserving?  If so, let me know.
  
Our pretend-compilation time has reached end end.  Let's move on to having a gander at a bunch of Lovecraft-centric books that you might or might not be interested in, starting with:
  
  

images borrowed from http://cthulhuwho1.com/2014/10/06/the-new-annotated-h-p-lovecraft-edited-by-leslie-s-klinger/
  
  
Leslie S. Klinger's The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft came to my attention thanks to the alan Moore introduction.  It's a mere four pages, and I have not read it yet; and indeed, I have barely even cracked the book open.
  
It's a whopper, coming in at nearly 900 pages.  It's copiously annotated, and has oodles of photos and illustrations and who knows what all else.  Amazingly, the cover price is a mere $39.95, which means that you can typically find it on sale for about $25.  It's a steal!
  
The contents are as follows:
  
  • Dagon
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter
  • Beyond the Wall of Sleep
  • Nyarlathotep
  • The Picture in the House
  • Herbert West: Reanimator
  • The Nameless City
  • The Hound
  • The Festival
  • The Unnamable
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • The Silver Key
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • The Colour Out of Space
  • The Dunwich Horror
  • The Whisperer in Darkness
  • At the Mountains of Madness
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  • The Dreams in the Witch House
  • The Thing on the Doorstep
  • The Shadow Out of Time
  • The Haunter of the Dark
  • various appendices
  
There are a few things I wish were there that aren't, but it's already a remarkably large book; making it even larger would probably have been a bad idea.  Maybe there will be a second volume one of these days.
  
I suspect that whenever I next feel the urge to read some Lovecraft, this will be the means by which I do so.
  
Next up:
  
  
  
  
This has already come in handy a few times during the writing of part two in my Considering Lovecraft series, and I'm sure it will continue to come in handy down the road; but, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by the book.  Weighing in at less than 350 pages, it is simply not as comprehensive as I might have expected.  
  
Example: I looked up the Sonia H. Greene story "Four O'Clock" to see what Joshi and Schultz had to say on its provenance as a Lovecraft story.  There is no entry for it.  I assume this is because Joshi has concluded the story was not written by Lovecraft to even a small degree.  However, one still finds occasional references to it as a Lovecraft story by people who have not gotten the memo, and it is by no means the only such story in existence.  ("Bothon" is another that comes to mind.)  Wouldn't it have made sense to include these, if only so as to be able to explicitly refute them?
  
Similarly, I might have expected more information about the Derleth/Lovecraft "posthumous collaborations," and perhaps even info about movies based on Lovecraft's work.
  
Even more surprisingly, Sonia Greene, Lovecraft's wife of two years, receives no entry.  Huh...?!?
  
What's there seems good; what's missing, not so much.
  
  
The cover art -- which I love -- is by Zach McCain.
  
  
I'm fascinated by the "revisions and collaborations," which we discussed extensively last post in reviewing The Horror in the Museum, which collects most of them.
  
This two-volume set from publisher Arcane Wisdom also collects most of them, though not all: the C.M. Eddy stories are missing, apparently owing to some sort of dispute with Eddy's estate.  That's a shame, especially since I would rank Lovecraft/Eddy's "The Loved Dead" as an especial (and unsettling) highlight.
  
Ah, well.
  
These volumes make up for the lack in other ways, however, namely by including a number of stories not present in The Horror in the Museum.  Let's have a look at the contents of Vol. 1:
  
  • The Green Meadow
  • Poetry and the Gods
  • The Crawling Chaos
  • The Horror at Martin's Beach
  • Under the Pyramids
  • Two Black Bottles
  • The Last Test
  • The Curse of Yig
  • The Electric Executioner
  • The Mound
  
Also present, in the appendices: Sonia H. Greene's "Four O'Clock" (once thought to have been revised by Lovecraft, this tale was included in the original edition of The Horror in the Museum but removed from subsequent editions), plus "A Sacrifice to Science" and "The Automatic Executioner" (the original versions of "The Last Test" and "The Electric Executioner").  
  
Those last two are especially welcome because they give interested readers an opportunity to literally compare the two version to see what Lvecraft added and changed.  I have not yet done so; I did not care for the stories even after Lovecraft had gotten his hands on them, so I shudder to think how poor the originals must be.  Maybe someday.
  
I did, however, read Joshi's introduction.  It's very good, and helps to put Lovecraft's professional-revisionist career into context.  I'd assumed this was a fairly common practice of the era, but it appears that that is not the case, certainly not for someone who was himself a professional writer.  Joshi pronounces Lovecraft's career to perhaps be the only one of its kind, and he also laments the degree to which it consumed the author's attention during many of the prime years of his professional life.
  
He also gives us some highly useful information about the aforementioned "Four O'Clock":
  
Quite frankly, it seems unlikely that Sonia would ever have become a practicing writer, for her memoir of Lovecraft at times verges on illiteracy; but Lovecraft, like Poe, was chivalrously charitable to his female colleagues, so he no doubt declined a collaborative byline [on "The Horror at Martin's Beach"] when the story was accepted for an early issue of Weird Tales.  Late in life Sonia sent to August Derleth another story, previously unpublished, on which she claimed that Lovecraft had worked, "Four O'Clock"; Derleth published it in the first edition of The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions (1970).  Much earlier, however, Sonia had told the early Lovecraft scholar Winfield Townley Scott that Lovecraft only suggested changes in the prose, so on that basis I excluded it from the revised edition of The Horror in the Museum (1989); but in fact, the prose seems quite Lovecraftian in spots, so I suspect Lovecraft had more of a hand in the story than Sonia suggested to Scott; I have therefore included it here in an appendix.
  
I was curious about this story, so I decided to read it, and my personal conclusion is that it is Lovecraft.  I suspect he spent relatively little time on it; the story itself is utterly incoherent, and points toward an amateur's hand.  However, the prose itself is unquestionably Lovecraftian; it seems to have been Lovecraft on an off day, but it's no more so in that regard than some of the shabbier early Lovecraft tales.
  
In other words, I feel it's a mistake for this story to have been removed from the "official" Lovecraft canon.  I understand Joshi's motivations in doing so; I read something from him somewhere else (can't remember where) in which he said that in scholarly matters like this, it is best to be conservative, and to rely on the evidence moreso than on intuition.  That's an admirable and scholarly approach.
  
I am under no such restrictions, and in my estimation, "Four O'Clock" should be counted.
  
As for the rest of the book, I did not read any of the notes to the various stories.  They are all corralled at the end of the book, as opposed to having a section for notes following each story.  That seems to be in service to Joshi providing explanatory and historical notes about each story as a leadin to the corresponding notes.  I read all of those, and greatly enjoyed them.  In some cases, he quotes letters from or to Lovecraft that have a bearing on the story at hand.  I found this stuff alone to be worth having bought the book.
  
  
More great art by Zach McCain!
  
  
In considering the first volume of this set, I lamented the exclusion of the four C.M. Eddy, Jr. stories.  (Interestingly, Joshi writes about all of them in his introduction; this suggests that they were a last-minute loss.  Well done, Estate of C.M. Eddy, Jr.; well done.)  I'll take the opportunity now to lament the exclusion of "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," a staggeringly important story in Lovecraft's canon.  He co-wrote it with (and at the suggestion of) E. Hoffman Price, and I'd love to know a bit more about how that came to be, and any specifics as to what was whose.
  
The upside is that this volume contains a whopping five stories that I did not have in any other book.  It also contains "In the Walls of Eryx," the Kenneth J. Sterling collaboration that I loved.
  
Let's have a look at the contents:
  
  • Medusa's Coil
  • The Trap
  • The Man of Stone
  • Winged Death
  • The Horror in the Museum
  • Out of the Aeons
  • The Horror in the Burying-Ground
  • The Slaying of the Monster
  • The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast
  • The Tree on the Hill
  • The Battle That Ended the Century
  • "Till A' the Seas"
  • Collapsing Cosmoses
  • The Challenge from Beyond
  • The Disinterment
  • The Diary of Alonzo Typer
  • In the Walls of Eryx
  • The Night Ocean
  • and, in the appendices, William Lumley's original take on "The Diary of Alonzo Typer," plus the Duane W. Rimel story "The Sorcery of Aphlar"
  
There's also an S.T. Joshi introduction, which is effectively the conclusion of the intro to Vol. 1; it's well worth reading.  Moving on from there, let's briefly discuss the stories that are new-to-me:
  
"The Slaying of the Monster" -- This very brief fantasy story by R.H. Barlow does not, so far as I can tell, have anything of Lovecraft in it.  It reads like juvenilia, and Barlow's juvenilia at that; which is almost certainly what it was.  I'm a bit mystified by this being included and "Four O'Clock" being excluded, to be honest.
  
"The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast" -- Ditto.  This is a somewhat more polished story by Barlow; you can see his style having advanced.  But I still see no Lovecraft at all.
  
"The Battle That Ended the Century" -- Another Barlow collaboration, but this one of a different nature.  Barlow and Lovecraft wrote it together while the latter was visiting the former.  It is a parody that is essentially just a series of inside-jokes about various weird-tale personalities.  It might amuse you if you are big-time into pulp writers of the era, but otherwise, this doesn't amount to much.
  
"Collapsing Cosmoses" -- Another Barlow collaboration, this one a fragment of a sci-fi tale that appeared to be a parody of space-opera tales.  It's tedious at best.

"The Challenge from Beyond" -- This round-robin story was commissioned by Julius Schwartz for Fantasy Magazine, and he enlisted C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long to write it.  They did, in that, and the text in this book notes where one writer leaves off and the other begins.  The story is about a man who, while out camping, finds a glowing crystal.  He touches it, and his mind is transported into the body of a centipede-like alien in a distant galaxy, while his body is invaded by that alien's mind.  Sound familiar?  If so, that's because much of that setup was written by Lovecraft, who reused a few ideas from the not-yet-published "The Shadow Out of Time."  His section of this story is fairly good, which is more than can be said for the rest of them; you sort of wish that he'd written the entire thing himself.  Still, his contribution runs about nine pages in length, which makes its inclusion here welcome; that's a large chunk of Lovecraft prose which isn't widely available in most other collections.

The appendix also contains Duane W. Rimel's "The Sorcery of Aphlar," though you'll need to not rely on the Table of Contents to help you find it; it lists incorrect page numbers for the appendices.  Speaking of which, they also include extensive preparatory notes by Lovecraft on "Medusa's Coil" and "The Challenge from Beyond."

So all in all, this two-volume set is well worth having.  It's frustratingly incomplete, but that mostly seems to have been due to circumstances beyond the editor's control.  Joshi's notes and analyses are indispensable, at least for those among us who lean toward wanting to know some of the background of stories like these.


Vol. 1


Vol. 2



If I had more disposable income, I'd buy damn near every well-reviewed biography of anyone in whom I was even moderately interested; if I had more leisure time, I'd even read a few of them.  Reading them would be optional, though; my primary goal would be to monetarily support people who put in the time and energy required to write a truly essential biography.  That's an enormous service to culture, and it deserves to be championed.

I fully intend to read this two-volume Lovecraft biography at some point relatively soon.  Lovecraft was an interesting fellow, and I've read enough from Joshi now to know that he is a fan without being a sycophant (a good quality in a biographer).





I had no real notion that Lovecraft had been an extensive writer of poetry until I read issue #4 of Alan Moore's Providence.  That last couple of pages of the graphic section (there's also a prose section) contained some haunting language that seemed to me almost as if it had to be a quotation of some sort.  I got curious about it, and Googled one of the phrases, and discovered that it had come from "The Ancient Track," a poem by Lovecraft.

"Lovecraft was a poet, too?!?" I thought.  "I wonder if there's a book of his poetry..."

There was, of course, a 604-page one.

I've read none of it apart from the titular poem, and "Nathicana" (a poem that appeared in one of the Del Rey collections).  I'd long ago heard of "Fungi from Yuggoth," a poetry cycle he composed; I have not read it, but based on the mythos connections inherent in the title, it's got to be worth a look.

Speaking of things that are worth a look, I'd now like to show you the two pages of that issue of Providence I mentioned.  The excerpt from "The Ancient Track" begins in the last panel of the first page.





There is a lot that could be said about these pages within the context of a discussion of Providence, but that's a topic for another day.  For now, I'd like to just say that "The Ancient Track" leaves me with a very melancholy feeling.  It sounds to me as if the narrator is regretful -- mournful, even -- that no hand existed to hold him back.  Lovecraft was an atheist.  Much of his fiction implied that there was no God, in the conventional Christian sense (though he never, so far as I can recall, explicitly said anything of the sort); and that implication came via the explicit device of there being ancient "gods" that transcended the cosmos and were titanically indifferent to humankind.  Measured against them, we are specks of dust.

Those ancient gods, of course, are symbolic substitutions for a less anthropomorphized idea: that the universe is vast, unyielding, and unaware of us.  That is the atheist's lament, and it must have been Lovecraft's.  It is a very lonely road, and if you choose to do so, you can look at that page above as representing somebody setting out on the road of that philosophy, from which there is rarely a return.  Applied to that idea, Lovecraft's poem seems almost to be lamenting the fact that no God hand exists; he seems to be wishing it had, and that it had turned him back from that road.

I haven't read the poem closely enough yet to decide whether I feel that's what Lovecraft intended; nor have I given Providence a full enough consideration to decide if that's what Moore was going for.  But it's what I took away from it.

As for The Ancient Track the book, I do plan to read it eventually, probably piecemeal over time.  When I do, I think it would probably be useful to make a list of the poems within it that strike my fancy for one reason or another.  We may as well start it now, since there is a minimum of one:


  • The Ancient Track
  
I'll update it when updates are warranted, and include notes about the particulars.
  
I'll do something similar for these next few volumes:
  
  
440 pages


248 pages



357 pages


300 pages


382 pages

  
  
For those of you not keeping track, that's over 1200 pages' worth of essays.  And I can't get even one collection of Stephen King nonfiction?!?  (Secret Windows excepted.)  That's a shame.
  
It's not a shame, though, that the Lovecraft ones are in the world.  I assume.  I haven't actually read any of these, so I can't say for sure.  But I'm pleased to have them on my shelf, and will get to them when time permits.
  
  

  
  
The essay of Lovecraft's that I'm most interested in is "Supernatural Horror in Literature," which is where this quotation comes from: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."  I'm 99.9% positive that King used that as an epigraph in one of his books, or at the very least that he quoted it; but my Googling didn't yield any definitive results.
  
In any case, I felt like I needed a Joshi-annotated book version of it, and so I got me one.  Ostensibly, I'm currently saving for a vacation to Disney World; much more of this Lovecraft spree, and it might have to be delayed a year!
  
Speaking of which...
  
  



  
  
I mean, honestly; how can those not be worth reading?  I've so far managed to restrain myself from buying collections by the various weird-tale authors that were influences upon (Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, M.R. James) or contemporaries of (Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert bloch) Lovecraft's.  The line must be drawn here!  Disney World!
  
But don't think I haven't put made a list.  I have.
  
Someday...
  
  

  
  
If you receive a collection of stories from The Library Of America, you've officially entered the canon of American story writers.  For that reason (and because this collection was edited by Peter Straub), I felt as if I owed it to Lovecraft to buy a copy of his entry in their series.
  
Would I like to own the entire series?  Yes, you're damn right I would.  Would I like to read the entire series?  Yes, you're damn right I would.  Will I do either of those things?  No.  World enough and time, y'all.
  
So, what are the contents of H.P. Lovecraft: Tales?  Let's see:
  
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter
  • The Outsider
  • The Music of Erich Zann
  • Herbert West -- Reanimator
  • The Lurking Fear
  • The Rats in the Walls
  • The Shunned House
  • The Horror at Red Hook
  • He
  • Cool Air
  • The Call of Cthulhu
  • Pickman's Model
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • The Colour Out of Space
  • The Dunwich Horror
  • The Whisperer in Darkness
  • At the Mountains of Madness
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  • The Dreams in the Witch House
  • The Thing on the Doorstep
  • The Shadow Out of Time
  • The Haunter of the Dark
  
I think that perhaps "The Horror at Red Hook" and "He" ought to have been omitted, and it breaks my heart that The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath is missing; but otherwise, that's a hell of a collection of stories.
  
It got me to thinking: what, when the inevitable Library Of America book Stephen King: Tales appears at some point in the next half-century, will the contents be?  There is zero chance that King won't be canonized in this fashion, so what stories might be chosen?
  
Let's use the 22-story tally of Lovecraft's book as a basis, and put forth a list of suggestions:
  
  • Strawberry Spring
  • Night Surf
  • The Mangler
  • The Boogeyman
  • Quitters, Inc.
  • The Woman in the Room
  • Nona
  • The Crate
  • The Monkey
  • The Mist
  • The Jaunt
  • The Reach
  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
  • Survivor Type
  • The Raft
  • Mrs. Todd's Shortcut
  • The Man in the Black Suit
  • 1408
  • 1922
  • The Dune
  • Batman and Robin Have an Altercation
  • Summer Thunder
There are a few King stories I omitted that I prefer to some of the ones I included ("Jerusalem's Lot," for example), but I stayed clear of anything that seemed like a pastiche or homage, and tried to select stories that strike me as being quintessentially Stephen King.
  
I feel good about selecting "The Crate," not only because it's a great story, but because it has yet to appear in a King book.  So I'd be especially pleased if it were to be chosen for a book like this one.
  
Maybe someday!




This 2008 collection is part of Barnes & Noble's Library of Essential Writers series.  It has the same 68 stories that are in the Knickerbocker Classics Complete Fiction, as well as the following:


  • an S.T. Joshi introduction
  • introductory notes by Joshi prior to each story
  • The Little Glass Bottle
  • The Secret Cave
  • The Mystery of the Grave-yard
  • The Mysterious Ship (two different versions, one short and one long)
  • a discarded draft of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (only seven pages, so not quite as exciting as it sounds)
  • Supernatural Horror in Literature
  
In other words, this is probably the edition to buy.  Two possible caveats to that: I've read (but cannot immediately confirm) that this edition contains lots of typos, all of which were corrected by Knickerbocker; and the pages are a bit thinner than Knickerbocker's (not a dealbreaker for me personally, especially since it results in an easier-to-hold book).
  
  
  
  
I'm sure this is great, and I don't regret buying it, but there's one serious flaw that became apparent to me almost immediately: there's no table of contents.  So if you want to consult a particular story, you have to go looking for it.  Not that difficult, considering that the book contains only the four stories listed on the cover...but still, an odd exclusion.
  
The book is nearly 400 pages, by the way, so lest the paucity of stories make it seem as though it's a slight book, I assure you it is not.
  
And there's a sequel:
  
  
  
  
It's about a hundred pages shorter, but contains more stories, and continues the strange trend of not having a table of contents.  In addition to the stories listed on the cover, it contains "The Picture in the House," "The Hound," "The Shunned House," "Cool Air," and "The Haunter of the Dark."
  
Some great stuff there, obviously.
  
  
  
  
Finally, we have S.T. Joshi's 600+-page collections of essays on Lovecraft.  This won't be for everyone, I suspect, but it looks fairly riveting to me.
  
A few sample essay title from the mercifully-present table of contents:
  
  • Lovecraft's Revisions: How Much of Them Did He Write?
  • Barbarism vs. Civilization: Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft in Their Correspondence
  • Lovecraft's Alien Civilisations: A Political Interpretation
  • Time, Space, and Natural Law: Science and Pseudo-Science in Lovecraft
  • Textual Problems in Lovecraft
  • Humour and Satire in Lovecraft
  • Excised Passages from "The Thing on the Doorstep"
  
That's only a smattering of the content.
  
*****
  
And with that, we conclude part three of the series.  I've either bored you to tears with this one or caused you to add a bunch of books to your wish-list.  Either way, apologies!

21 comments:

  1. Exactly how many parts is this series? You are showing a knack for longevity worthy of King himself.

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    1. Either four or five; haven't decided yet.

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  2. Definitely "add a bunch of books to your wish-list" material!

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  3. Quite frankly I'm in awe.

    I've NEVER managed to read as much in so short a span as you have (and this includes short stories) as read at pretty much a snail's pace (the upside is if I like whatever I read, it tends to stick pretty good in the memory).

    Some thoughts on the lists here:

    Lovecraft's non-fiction essays, columns and memoirs:

    I'd definitely like to get my hands on those one of these days. I'd be interesting to see what, if any development Lovecraft displays as writes down his thoughts about both horror, and popular fiction in general.

    On Lovecraft biographies in general:

    Joshi's 2 volume 'life of" may well prove definitive. The greatest hurdle any biography will have when dealing with Lovecraft is going to have to be dealing with the "cult" of fans that have developed over the years, and who feel they have to "protect" their favorite author. A good contrast is Tolkien, of whom there are lots of bios and works of criticism out there to the point where there is a different author for each work. As such, avoiding bias in any direction is going to have to a bit of a tightrope walk for any future chronicler.

    On Lovecraft's Favorite Horror Stories:

    I've actually read some of these (not all). Bierce's "Damned Thing" is all about atmosphere and mystery, plus the idea of the horror being something you can't see. "Fish-head" is interesting in that it almost reads like the kind of story either Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper, or David Cronenberg or Stuart Gordon might make if they were given the right budget. I've not read "The Great God Pan", but I have read other works by Arthur Machen. "The Terror" is interesting as I'll swear it prefigures (may even be an inspiration for) Hitchcock's "The Birds". I'm also very disappointed that Robert Chambers never expanded on "The King in Yellow" mythos. The best I've read of the original is still "The Yellow Sign".

    Finally, I'm just hoping someone from King's website gets a hold of this article, as that Lovecraft edition of his work needs to happen eventually.

    ChrisC

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    1. Thank you, sir!

      I didn't include it in this post, for obvious reasons, but I did also recently get a copy of "The King in Yellow." I'd been wanting to read it since the first season of "True Detective" put it into the spotlight; and then it had a major presence in issue #1 of "Providence," too. I have no earthly idea when I'll read it.

      As for my reading pace, I can explain that easily: I recently had 13 days off in a row! I didn't do much the entire time except trek through Lovecraft. And sleep -- lots of naps, which was great.

      I'm very curious to read Joshi's biography of Lovecraft. I don't get the feeling that he's a sycophant; he strikes me as being too smart for that. Whether he will address the sycophancy that exists among Lovecraft fandom or not, I don't know. I'm sure there would be plenty of material to cover there.

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  4. Little to add here except "cap... tipped." Wow!

    I'd like to pick up those "Lovecraft's favorite horror stories" volumes.

    Well, all of these, really. Sheesh. I stand behind the Disney World line - NO FURTHER!

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    1. Thanks! I apologize for any and all purchases one has been tempted to make.

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    2. I meant to say, too, that's not a bad list for the inevitable Stephen King: Tales. Myself, I'd try to find room for "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe" and/or "Ur," but maybe they should just publish a two-volume set for King.

      Glad to see "The Jaunt" in there, though. And good call on "The Crate," and I agree that pastiche/ homage might best be left out. Even if "Jerusalem's Lot" is one of my faves. But: they could always put out a special edition of Salem's Lot with that one and "One for the Road" in it.

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    3. After reading it, "Bad Little Kid" would make my list, too.

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  5. you should check out the video for David Bowie's new single Blackstar...could be wrong but it seems quite Lovecraft inspired.

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  6. I was just recently thinking what an essential King short story collection would look like. Your set list is pretty close to perfect. Ones I'd also nominate for inclusion: Last Rung on the Ladder, Dedication, Home Delivery, Everything's Eventual, That Feeling You Can Only Say What It Is in French. "The Crate" is a cool choice.

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    1. All of those were on my shortlist, plus a few others, too. It was hard to narrow it down.

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  7. Not a single King story from Just After Sunset. Do you consider anything from there worthy of an Essential King list?

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    1. I considered putting several from that collection on the list: "N.," "A Very Tight Place," and "Graduation Afternoon," to be specific. I like all three of those more than I like "The Man in the Black Suit" (which I included mainly because it won the O. Henry, and as an award-winner seemed like it would need to be included).

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  8. Okay, brother. I've been in a patient, thanks-giving mood, but now it's Christmastime and I want only to get a new post. So get on the stick! ;)

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    1. I''m working on "The Bazaar of Bad Dreams," but reading time has been scarce lately.

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  9. This is really off topic, but I found what I think I found the official 11/22/63 miniseries site:

    http://www.hulu.com/112263?&cmp=6483&mkwid=6SVxhuHV&pcrid=86319194941&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Originals+-+11.22.63+-Search&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=11%2022%2063%20tv%20show&gclid=CjwKEAiA1o-zBRDomsWasvKh4S8SJADSlZkqLZ5LpYnyKIv6cohsEf8-Nhy2ugrCuWP-cNDDbhmuQRoCNTHw_wcB&dclid=COPJs5XIyMkCFVNrMAodeTUB0w

    I'll admit I wasn't expect such a long code here. Either way, just it was worth passing along.

    ChrisC

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    1. Off topic, but appreciated!

      I like the look of everything I've seen from this so far. I'll be subscribing to Hulu for the duration -- if it's even vaguely possible, I'm going to do weekly reviews of the episodes.

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    2. Good to hear! Here's keeping fingers crossed.

      ChrisC

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