01/03/2011. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Hippocampus Press. 339 page paperback. Price $20.00 (US). ISBN: 0-97-487-891-X.
check out website: www.hippocampuspress.com
S.T. Joshi and David Schultz are two of the best known Lovecraft scholars. Both have edited volumes of Lovecraft's work and their knowledge of both the texts as well as the stories themselves is apparently on practically every page of this book. Needless to say, it's very difficult to critique 'An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopaedia' on technical grounds. As a guidebook to the life and work of H.P. Lovecraft it is formidably well-researched and incredibly thorough in terms of both scope and depth.
But with that said, the book won't satisfy every reader. Joshi in particular has an axe to grind so far as the Cthulhu Mythos goes. He doesn't like most of the Mythos stories written by authors following on from Lovecraft and sees little literary value in the Mythos as such, despite its enormous popularity. Scholars in future years will probably debate this viewpoint both ways. Some will likely agree with Joshi that the popularity of the Mythos has obscured the literary worth of the original Lovecraft stories. Others will surely find his antagonism towards the Mythos and those who've written Mythos stories unfathomable, particularly given how enthusiastically Lovecraft himself encouraged others to write Mythos stories, not least of all the likes of Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard and, of course August Derlerth.
In any case, 'An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopaedia' excludes virtually all discussion of the Cthulhu Mythos itself and any of the monsters, locations, and aliens that make up the Mythos. So don't come to 'An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopaedia' expecting to find discussions on the location of shadowy Leng or the precise nature of Cthulhu's sleep. Instead, the book is filled with entries covering the biography of Lovecraft, his family and his circle of correspondents, publishers and clients. There are also detailed entries on practically everything Lovecraft ever wrote or at least got published, from the well-known novellas and short stories through to far more obscure satires, newspaper columns and scientific articles.
One of the strengths of this book is the depth of the descriptions of the works and the characters featured within them. Often this will include things like background history, inspirations and changes to plots that were made as the stories were developed. It is always interesting to read how stories were received by publishers, readers and contemporary critics. Frequently, the stories for which Lovecraft is best known today were surprisingly poorly received at the time and, in some cases, weren't published until after his death.
The overall quality of 'An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopaedia' is extremely high, but while this is a very scholarly book, to their credit Joshi and Schultz have keep the book both readable and engaging. At $20, this paperback book isn't cheap, but it's dense and content-rich and, frankly, an essential purchase for every Lovecraft fan.
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