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An Excellent Edition of E'ch-Pi-El
on 5 January 2014
This is one in a series of hardcovers that Guillermo del Toro has selected for publication by Penguin. Despite the very poor and uncouth cover illustration, the book is a wonderful tribute to the genius of H. P. Lovecraft, and contains many of his very finest tales.
Series Introduction by Guillermo del Toro
Introduction by S. T. Joshi
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Texts
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
The White Ship
The Quest of Iranon
The Music of Erich Zann
Under the Pyramids
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Dunwich Horror
At the Mountains of Madness
The Thing on the Doorstep
Despite the lapse of decades since these tales were written, and the horde of followers who, influenced by these stories, write riffs on them (guilty), the fictions here presented retain their magnificence and originality. The writing is not at all "cumbersome," as another reviewer has claimed, but smooth, poetic and near-perfect. Lovecraft alter'd his style to suit the mood and needs of particular tales; and the narrative voice of "Pickman's Model," perfect for that peculiar tale, is not the voice of "The White Ship" or "The Music of Erich Zann." It is wonderful and proper to see Lovecraft's fiction dignified by being publish'd by Penguin, Modern Library, and The Library of America; for he was a Literary Artist as assuredly as was Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Henry James and Oscar Wilde--and Poe. Although Lovecraft's writing is at times flawed, and his imagination perhaps a bit unrestrained to the point of absurdity of expression, he was an author usually in complete control of his style, knowing what he wanted to achieve as an artist, and succeeding. It is foolish to call his style "Victorian," and Lovecraft is in many ways a very modern writer--but this is a critique that modern readers sometimes, ignorantly, hurl at writing that strives for a tone of High Literary Art. Good writing is never dated, and H. P. Lovecraft was an excellent writer. His stories are timeless, and will be read by many future generations.
Lovecraft wrote in all of the Fantastic genres of science-fiction, fantasy & horror; and it is part of the unique nature of his Works that he at times combines genre elements so as to produce stories that are uniquely Lovecraftian. Some of his tales are so uncanny, so outre, that one cannot be certain that the tale is the recording of an actual event in reality, or the misty recollection of dream or vision. "The Music of Erich Zann" is such a story; and of it Lovecraft wrote, in a 1922 letter to Rheinhart Kleiner, "It is not, as the whole, a dream, though I have dreamt of steep streets like the Rue d'Auseil.
French critic Jacques Bergier wrote of "Erich Zann" that it captures convincingly the atmosphere of Paris. This statement expresses an important point about Lovecraft's genius: his ability to evoke, convincingly yet dreamily, a sense of place. This talent brings to majestic life the mythical town of Dunwich, in a story that is remarkable on many levels. S. T. Joshi is mistaken to consider "The Dunwich Horror" an artistic failure--it is a success in every way. The story shews that they who claim that Lovecraft was poor in his creation of characters don't know what they're talking about. Lavinia Whateley, although given no dialogue, is fully brought to life, suggestively, in the story, and an entire novel could be written based on the snatches of story Lovecraft whispers of her. In THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, Lovecraft writes what some have considered a kind of aesthetic love letter to his birth city. Both times I have prowled ye North End of Boston, I have used ye paperback edition of this Penguin book as guide; and it is strange how a Lovecraftian aura can colour that section of ye North End to this date.
Powerful, with prose that is more often near-perfect than merely functional, this is the collection of a poet's dreams and fancies, his visions and passions and nightmares. These stories work on a multitude of levels, and they contain such depth of ingenious imagination that one may return to them again and again, forever.