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H.P. Lovecraft: A Life Paperback – 1 Jan 1996

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Necronomicon Press (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940884887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940884885
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,750,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Ignore the naff cover art and design. This is the definitive Lovecraft biography, and the result of a lifetime of scholarship. But be aware that the 'definitive edition' of this book is coming out as a limited-edition two-volume hardback in August 2010. The new edition is retitled, to avoid confusion, as: 'I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft'. It restores 150,000 words originally cut from "A Life" because the publisher of couldn't afford to run the extra pages. It also updates the biography in the light of the Lovecraft scholarship and discoveries in the 15 years, since the appearance of "A Life".
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Format: Paperback
Magnificently researched and highly readable - the definitive guide to HPL's life and works.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Critics of lovecrafts previous biography(sprague de camp) has said the authour leaves gaps in the life of lovecraft
and is not very sympathetic to the man himself.There are whole paragraphs of character assasination
detailing the mistakes lovecraft made in his life with 20/20 hindsight.
It does however have the virtue of telling the story of his life coherently and in an entertaining and informative manner.
Joshi doesnt do this at all.This isnt even a book, its a bunch of all his research notes slapped together with little snippets of lovecrafts life in chronological order.The events of his life are detailed but endlessly broken up by supporting letters and statements attributed to lovecraft or friends and family.The book is almost unreadable,and any publisher should have edtied out most of joshi's waffle and made the book more reader friendly(or accessable at all) .More of a secondary school text book on the subject of lovecraft than a biography.
If decamp's book lacks respect/sympathy for the subject then this book (and its authour) lack a soul.
as a reference book it suceeds as a biography it fails on every level
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive biography of HPL 3 Feb. 2008
By Craig Shoemake - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joshi is the foremost student of Lovecraft, and in this volume he has written the unsurpassable biography of the man whom Stephen King himself called "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."

For myself, I can only say it's been a long wait. I first discovered Lovecraft at my local library in eleventh grade. I picked a book decorated with some macabre illustration off a twirling bookstand, checked it out, and rode my bike home with the volume tucked under my arm. That evening I sat with it in the big white reading chair in our home's living room. The first story I read was "The Picture In the House."

I was hooked.

Within the year I'd read every story Lovecraft wrote excepting one--"Herbert West: Reanimator". (I finally got to that earlier this year.) I became, in a way, obsessed with Lovecraft. I wanted to know who he was, so I read Frank Belknap Long's Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside. The stories and poetry I was writing at the time became increasingly colored by (or downright imitative of) my hero. Somehow, the man infected my consciousness in a way no other writer--before or since--ever has. I guess it's because in so many ways my inner life has been--with some important exceptions--a parallel to Lovecraft's. I see him as a kindred spirit.

That being the case, it's hardly surprising I relished--nay, wallowed in--this biography. It is detailed beyond imagining. Here we follow Lovecraft on his walking tours, street by street. We see his grocery lists and menu items. We read his letters and amateur publications. By the end of this text you will feel you have lived and breathed right alongside the old fellow and slung arm-in-arm with him through his nightmare worlds. No one could have done it better than Joshi, and it is doubtful anyone ever will. If you are a fan, this is a must read. If just curious, the lengthy detail might be off-putting, but you may find yourself a convert by the end.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most likely the definitive Lovecraft biography 25 Jan. 2008
By John - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike De Camp in his earlier biography, Joshi doesn't consider HPL to be a failed version of what he might have been had he at various key points in his life been just that little bit more commerce-minded: instead he accepts Lovecraft as he was and goes on from there. I think Joshi brings out what it is about Lovecraft & his work that continues to fascinate today: the curious fact that an erudite, scholarly autodidact should, from an early age, have been so caught up in a melodramatic 'pulp' aesthetic that for the rest of his life he focussed the entirety of his self-expression - emotional, intellectual and philosophical - through that aesthetic. Hence Lovecraft's stories have, even at their most garish & mechanical, an (admittedly sometimes near-subliminal) intellectually rich underpinning, and it is this bleed-through of a higher aesthetic that lifts them above the acres of hackwork that surrounded them when first published in Weird Tales, (try reading even a 'best of' by those other writers today!), gives them a psychological curiosity, and has given them their unexpected longevity.

Joshi's analysis of the 'Cthulhu Mythos' is, I think, exactly right: he defines the Mythos (not HPL's coinage, of course), as 'a fictional technique' for presenting Lovecraft's philosophy - which Joshi defines astutely as 'an anti-theology' which makes manifest (as we see with the cultists in Call of Cthulhu) the delusive nature of all religious belief, and asserts the meaningless of human existence in a vast, uncaring, mechanistic universe.

This analysis justifies what would otherwise be an excessively lengthy exploration of Lovecraft's political and philosophical beliefs, given that he published no significant writing on those subjects, and was only considered a great thinker by his friends and epistolary correspondents. It also highlights the unalloyed perversity of August Derleth in imposing a Catholic-inflected cosmology onto Lovecraft's atheistic vision. How strange that he was so fascinated by HPL & his work, but couldn't accept what Joshi rightly points out is its absolute core!

Joshi manages to address various differing opinions in the world of Lovecraft Studies without becoming pedantic or petty, and takes trouble to credit other researchers and academics for their insights.

As a biography this book is full of interest, and Joshi's pursuit of detail is relentless - occasionally to the point of obsessiveness, it has to be said, but some of the details he uncovers are highly revealing. His account of Lovecraft's death I found surprisingly moving, but I did not, as I did on finishing the De Camp biography, regret his life - except in the single matter of his clinging on to racist beliefs and self-diminishing prejudices.

I have very few criticisms. There are no photographs, and I think the cover is horrid - & certainly is not a good likeness of HPL. Occasionally Joshi is so aesthetically aligned with his subject he indulges him (as he does with certain of his amateur endeavors); occasionally Joshi is over-definitive in his judgment of the merits of various yarns. I think he slightly misses the mark at various points when he comments of (eg the denoument of Herbert West) that HPL must have been sending up his own style to *intentionally* comic effect. This, I think, is not quite right: rather, it seems to me, he allowed his discipline to slip, and reverted to the garish style of the Argosy yarns that he had read as a child, the style of which had so fundamentally informed his entire notion of the form of aesthetic and psychological self-expression that he could never quite discard it. Lovecraft knew it was a failing on his part, but sometimes let it off the leash regardless. I'm sure he never thought of his verbal pyrotechnics as anything other than, on sober reflection, accidentally funny.

Aside from those very modest quibbles, I found Joshi's judgments & assessments at all times perceptive and thought-provoking, and his 'Life' a highly-readable achievement in biography.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly researched by the eminent Lovecraftian scholar 23 Sept. 1999
By PJ - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first discovered Lovecraft quite by accident in a small NJ library over 15 years ago. I saw a book on the rack called The Lurking Fear and Other Stories and was impressed by the cover. Needless to say I've read everything by Lovecraft and am an ardent fan. This book is packed w/ information on everything from Lovecraft's political views to his belief of man's meaningless place in the universe. The biography is chock full of HP's letters and offers great insight into his approach to weird fiction and the necessary ingredients of a well-crafted horror tale. Riddled throughout the account of HP's life is Joshi's own criticisms of Lovecraft's stories. Most of the time I agree although he seems to enjoy Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (which I never really liked) and down-plays The Lurking Fear (one of my favorites). Nevertheless this is a creditable work and certainly one of the best, albeit few, biographies I've ever read.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, Fascinating and Critical 5 Oct. 2002
By J. Holt - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joshi's book is an awesome thing to behold. If Lovecraft will go on in the 21st century to be one of America's great writers, much credit will go to Joshi for his incredible research, storytelling and critical view of a very curious man.
At times I felt like skipping around and reading chapters which tell of Lovecraft's life during the creation of a specific story (my favorites like "Call of Cthulhu" and "At the Mountains of Madness") -- easy to due thanks for the great Index compiled for this work. The whole book is very thought provoking -- even if you thought you knew enough about Lovecraft's life. The disassembling of the (Derelith's) mythos too is good to have made official with the keen research Joshi has done.
Have recommended this to friends both Lovecraft-lovers and ones-not-necessarily-so. An example of what a good literary biography should be.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 26 Aug. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
There is little I can add to the kudos already present on this page in reference to "H.P. Lovecraft: A Life." It is every bit as good as the previous readers have said it is: magnificently detailed, critical yet sympathethic, and, yes, "compulsively readable." The point I wish to add is this. The folks who have already reviewed this book here all seem to be inveterate Lovecraftians; in contrast, I am not. While I am slowly warming to Lovecraft as I read more of his fiction, I really ordered this book simply to obtain some background on the writer for a class I teach which will touch briefly on his work. I never had any intention of actually reading all 600 pages---there was some specific information I was looking for, and really only planned to skim the volume. Well! Five days later I staggered away from this magnificent book, dizzy from reading, exhilarated, moved, overwhelmed. The point is: if you have any interest in literary biography, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It is one of the finest examples of the genre published in the past 30 years, and even if you do not much care about Lovecraft the writer, S.T. Joshi will make you care about Lovecraft the man. It should be required reading for anyone planning to write a biography.
"H.P. Lovecraft: A Life" is a great achievement.
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