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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten depths remembered
A fascinating account with an incredible and staggering amount of detail. I do not think I have ever read a biography so minutely researched. This does mean that I Am Providence is strictly for Lovecraft scholars and admirers but, as one myself, this is no real criticism because S.T. Joshi has set the standard so high for other biographies I read from this point on. I...
Published on 10 Jun 2011 by G.R. Yeates

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 300 great pages on Lovecraft buried in 1200 pages of author shoehorning himself into the story
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...
Published on 3 Oct 2011 by Tevis Fen-Kortiay


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten depths remembered, 10 Jun 2011
This review is from: I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2 (Hardcover)
A fascinating account with an incredible and staggering amount of detail. I do not think I have ever read a biography so minutely researched. This does mean that I Am Providence is strictly for Lovecraft scholars and admirers but, as one myself, this is no real criticism because S.T. Joshi has set the standard so high for other biographies I read from this point on. I seriously doubt they will be as informative and as entertaining as this account of the Old Gent from Providence, Rhode Island. You want a labour of love that is balanced by a perceptive critical eye, this is it.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 300 great pages on Lovecraft buried in 1200 pages of author shoehorning himself into the story, 3 Oct 2011
This review is from: I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2 (Hardcover)
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."

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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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback Edition May Be Published in 2012, 25 Mar 2012
This review is from: I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2 (Hardcover)
This is an excellent and definitive biography by a man whose life and mind has been shaped by his youthful fascination regarding H. P. Lovecraft. The critique that Joshi spends too much space in the book writing about himself is utterly absurd-- almost EVERY PAGE of this book reveals aspects of the life and mind of H. P. Lovecraft, in clear-minded prose. It is an extremely intelligent, informed and fascinating book. I return to it again and again, seeking answers to data concerning Lovecraft and his writing, or just for the sheer pleasure of reading this amazing biography. I find it a flawless work. In a video interview I conducted with Mr. Joshi last night for my channel on YouTube, Mr. Joshi mentioned that Hippocampus Press will be bringing the book out in trade paperback format, hopefully this summer. This is excellent news, as it will bring forth an affordable edition of the book that will then dramatically increase its readership. Bravo!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive "director's cut" of the biography, 8 Aug 2011
This review is from: I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2 (Hardcover)
This is a handsomely presented two-volume hardback set from Hippocampus Press, in a limited edition. It's very nicely produced and typeset in 1150 pages, with a bibliography and comprehensive index. It includes a great deal not found in Joshi's earlier versions of the book, and has been updated in the light of new discoveries and scholarship to 2009/10. I found no difficulty at all reading right through it, since it is clearly written in plain English and it has a straightforward organisation. This is not some obscurantist literary criticism, but straightforward biography based on the life's work of the leading Lovecraft scholar, and the work of the many other Lovecraft scholars and collectors who have toiled in the mines of obscurity for 70 years. If you're interested in Lovecraft, and especially in writing _about_ Lovecraft in any kind of scholarly or intellectual way, then this is an essential buy. There is also the autobiography, Lord Of A Visible World, which could usefully be read along side this work.
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I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2
I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft: 1-2 by S. T. Joshi (Hardcover - 30 Sep 2010)
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