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I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft, Volume 1 Paperback – Abridged, 31 Jan 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Hippocampus Press; abridged edition edition (31 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1614980519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1614980513
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, Esq. on 28 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
The two volumes of I AM PROVIDENCE bring us Lovecraft's life and times in an almost intimate way. S. T. Joshi, through his study and editorial work on Lovecraft's fiction, through his editing of all of Lovecraft's extant letters and essays, has a keen understanding of the author and his soul. Joshi does not hesitate to deal with the intellectual ugliness of Lovecraft's grotesque racism, and he is critical of many of the stories, while at the same time shewing conclusively the power and originality of Lovecraft's genius. The book is free of agenda, focusing on the reality of Lovecraft's life, art and philosophy. The book is superbly written and organized. I have now read the book three times, and dipped into portions continuously. This marvelous book helps to shatter the ignorant myths concerning Lovecraft's assumed eccentricities, revealing HPL to be an ordinary fellow with an extraordinary imagination. Deeply flawed, profoundly fascinating, H. P. Lovecraft lives in the pages of this magnificent and flawless biography.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N. Dutton on 29 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is quite hard to know where to start with a review of this lengthy, tedious and at times amateurish biography of a writer who should be a fascinating subject. In its attempts to record everything the author knows about Lovecraft (with some good old speculation thrown in too) it resembles a bad fanzine. Joshi's frequent first person references to himself are tiresome in the extreme and, unless you are particularly fascinated by the minutia of pulp letters page controversies and amateur journalism, much of the book is profoundly dull.The best parts are the discussions of the stories themselves and even here there is little added to Joshi's notes to the Penguin editions of Lovecraft's work. Volume one ends in 1924 with Lovecraft's marriage in the process of unravelling and leaving this reader with a dilemma: do I buy volume 2 to learn more about the final years of Lovecraft's life when most of his outstanding work was written- and if so can I cope with another 500 pages of very indifferent biographical writing?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Deejayway on 20 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Needlessly academic and exhaustive.
I read that this version restored 150-thousand words.
I think they could've been well missed. As it was, I skipped over huge swaths of text once the author started describing Lovecraft's involvement in the amateur press ad nauseum.
I was more interested in his youth and the events that informed and shaped his writing, not every scintilla of amateur journalsim he wrote.
Lovecraft simply doesn't warrant this kind of microscopic scrutiny.
I'm very dubious about getting part two.
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By Waasley on 30 July 2014
Format: Paperback
Superb
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
THE Definitive Biography of Howard Phillips Lovecraft 19 April 2013
By Derek C. Pegritz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of the review says it all. This two-volume set is a massive expansion of S. T. Joshi's already-monumental H.P. Lovecraft: A Life, originally printed by Necronomicon Press in 1996. I Am Providence restores more than 150,000 words cut from that previous edition and, at over 1,000 pages (both volumes combined), is THE most detailed, most thorough, and--above all else--most *accurate* biography of H. P. Lovecraft ever published.

S. T. Joshi is the world's leading expert on Lovecraft, and immediately upon publication H.P. Lovecraft: A Life became the definitive bio of the Gentleman from Providence--easily superseding L. Sprague De Camp's loathsome, criminally-inaccurate Lovecraft; A Biography,. I Am Providence in turn supersedes A Life, and is an absolute must for any scholar of HPL's life and works, and a valuable addition to even the casual Lovecraft fan's library. I Am Providence dispels many myths about Lovecraft, especially those perpetuated by De Camp's vile text. Drawing on literally thousands of primary sources, including Lovecraft's own manuscripts and notes housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University, as well as the *thousands* of surviving letters Lovecraft wrote to his many, many friends and correspondents, I Am Providence is as much an AUTObiography as it is a critical supplement to HPL's own personal revelations.

In I Am Providence you shall find the man laid bare (most often in his own words): the spoiled, but brilliantly precocious, boy; the depressed, reclusive young man whose discovery of amateur journalism expanded his horizons and made him literally hundreds of friends; the stuffy New England blue-stocking racist whose utter hatred of "non-Teutonic" foreigners and untermenschen can be seen peeping out of much of his fiction; the horrible poet who wasted many years aping Georgian verse before finally realizing his boundless fictional prowess; the staunch atheist and materialist (practically the Richard Dawkins of his day!) who nonetheless created an entire mythology of "godlike" alien entities; the man intimately tied to his hometown of Providence whose mind, nonetheless, reached into the limitless cosmos and brought back ideas that would come to define not only 20th Century horror, but also science-fiction and fantasy.

Throughout the book you will find each and every one of Lovecraft's stories, their content and inspirations and history, discussed at length by Joshi, himself a prodigious literary critic. Though I disagree--sometimes vehemently--with Joshi's opinions regarding certain texts, his analyses of Lovecraft's texts are extensive and provide the reader with a complete view of the evolution of Lovecraft's style, philosophy of composition, and stunning originality.

Again, let me reiterate: this is THE definitive critical biography of H. P. Lovecraft, and as such is worth every penny.

NOTE: I have no idea why the item title of this volume appends "[Abridged]"--this is the first volume of the completely UNabridged, full biography of Lovecraft!
36 of 48 people found the following review helpful
300 great pages on Lovecraft buried in 1200 pages of author shoehorning himself into the story 27 April 2013
By Tevis Fen-Kortiay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This review was originally written for the single-volume edition, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life. Although I have not read the new 2-volume edition, several friends who have report that Joshi's tiresome and amateurish focus on himself as the hero of the story (at the expense of Lovecraft) is even worse in this edition. The Publisher's Weekly review summarizes perfectly: "Joshi fans may enjoy his frequent personal asides...but others might wish a firm editorial hand had kept the biographer more in the background."

********

The good: Until S.T. Joshi's book, the only serious, widely-available biographical information on HPL apart from his letters was 'H.P. Lovecraft; A Biography' (1975) by L. Sprague de Camp, which left many gaps and open questions. Joshi's book fills in the gaps and then some. It is the closest thing we have to a definitive Lovecraft bio, and if you're a Lovecraft scholar of any seriousness, you'll eventually need to read it.

The not-so-good: While Joshi's book reads like a rigorously well-researched first draft, I wish he'd consulted a manuscript editor before publication. This massive, expensive and ponderous 708-page book could perhaps be edited into a more readable and reasonably-priced 300-page book, with another 100 pages of small print endnotes, merely by removing Joshi and his scholarship from the foreground and replacing them with Lovecraft. For example:

- Joshi includes himself in the story, using the first person pronoun on nearly every page. "I..." this and "I..." that. While Joshi is likely the world's foremost Lovecraft scholar, and I appreciate his excellent and exhaustive efforts as a researcher, I did not plunk down such a hefty cover price to read about his adventures in scholarship. Easily 200 pages of this 708 page book are about the adventures of Joshi, Lovecraft scholar. That information belongs either in a short appendix or separate article. He'll print a quotation and then add, "To this analysis there is really very little to add...," or "I don't think I can add much to this," or "That last remark may be a little sanguine, but let it pass," seemingly for no other purpose than to firmly return the spotlight, which had momentarily alighted on Lovecraft, to himself. On nearly every page I felt that trapped "captive audience" feeling you get with professors who use class time to speak at length about their personal lives. Surely by now it has become standard practice for biographers to not include the personal "I" in their biographies, at least when they've never met the subject.

- While most biographies focus on the subject and relegate sources and disputes to footnotes and endnotes, Joshi foregrounds the sources and points of contention, which has the odd effect of almost burying the subject. You'll often read four paragraphs of sources and conjecture containing a single sentence of actual biographical information. If Lovecraft did X, but there's some dispute, I'd prefer the main body to say "Lovecraft probably did X," with a small-print footnote citing sources and contentions. I paid to read about Lovecraft, not Lovecraft scholarship. I often feel like I'm being punished, forced to read 708 pages to get 300 pages of information.

- As another reviewer pointed out, Joshi frequently expresses his personal opinions in a tone suggesting that he believes them to be indisputable fact. Especially disconcerting is Joshi's careful habit of never missing an opportunity to denigrate Lovecraft himself. A tiny sampling of Joshi's descriptions of Lovecraft and his work includes: clownish error, clumsily, embarrassing, paranoia, pompous, pseudo-philosophical, trying to do too much, moping, overly given to histrionics, painfully inept, pitiable wish-fulfilment [sic], a pretty sorry excuse for a story, offensive, dubious and pathetic. It's almost as though, while Joshi must have some respect for Lovecraft, he is careful to constantly place himself "above" Lovecraft emotionally. I can sympathize with Joshi, who as a serious scholar must sometimes find himself exasperated by uninformed intellectuals who still underrate Lovecraft's genuine contribution. However, I feel that the body of a biography is not the best place for Joshi to distance himself from Lovecraft's sillier decisions. If Joshi dislikes something, surely he need not bolster his personal opinion by inflating it into a grandiose pretend-fact, pompously lecturing the reader as to what we ought to despise or where to place our "well-deserved contempt."

Why are Joshi's opinions in the book at all? Doesn't he trust his readers to form our own opinions? Almost once per page I felt some resentment at being forced to play captive audience to Joshi's unwelcome editorial opinions and emotional self-positioning in order to gain access to his excellent scholarship. Toward the end Joshi finally provides his editorial rationalization, introducing the topic by slamming previous Lovecraft biographer de Camp with: "[de Camp]'s schoolmasterly chiding of Lovecraft [is] ...galling." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Joshi goes on to claim that "passing value judgments... is the proper function of any biographer." Excuse me? As with all of Joshi's most dubious assumptions, he provides not a single citation or justification for this opinion, but merely states it as fact. Many (perhaps most) professional biographers would strongly disagree. I found myself bursting into incredulous laughter when Joshi finally declares, "...on occasion one feels as if Lovecraft is having some difficulty shutting up."

In closing, I hope this book is re-released soon with S.T. Joshi's presence as a character, editorial opinions, emotional self-positioning and research experiences either cut entirely or summarized in an appendix or endnotes. Then it wouldn't hurt to have a professional book doctor rewrite with an eye to smoother prose and readability. THAT edition will be the definitive Lovecraft biography.

ADDENDUM: One commentor to this post announced that a new 2-volume version will be published in 2010 by Hippocampus Press. If anyone from Hippocampus Press reads this, PLEASE do not compound the error already made by Necronomicon Press by republishing the hundreds of pages of material focused on Joshi at the expense of Lovecraft. Get this right and you might publish the definitive Lovecraft bio; repeat the error and your 2-volume edition will become an historical footnote the moment a serious biographer replaces it with a version that respects the reader.

ADDENDUM 2: Alas! The two-volume I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft is even more focused on Joshi at the expense of Lovecraft than the single-volume edition.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
One of the greatest biographies of all time! 14 Mar. 2013
By L. E Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How wonderful that both volumes of this great work are now available in paperback at an affordable price! I've read few biographies that are more interesting or complete. Some of the complaints written about the hardcover edition are pure nonsense. The only trouble with that version was its price; however, these new paperback volumes are even better since they are updated with new information. If you want to know everything about HPL and his times then read this book! It's magnificent.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The definitive, detailed examination of an eccentric literary genius! 23 Nov. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The most thoroughly researched biography on H.P. Lovecraft. A must-have for serious HPL scholars and fans! Provides a good balance of personal biography and literary criticism.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A must have for Lovecraft devotees 9 May 2013
By Richard Crosby - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best and most thorough work on the early Twentieth Century's greatest master of horror. The reclusive H.P. Lovecraft is revealed in great detail as a developing human being and as a writer developing his craft whose abilities grew to the point where he could create his masterpieces such as "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Colour Out of Space," "The Dunwich Horror," and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." The man who emerges in these pages is almost as interesting, and unusual, as his stories. A fine 2-volume, definitive biography of one of America's strangest, and greatest, men of letters.
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