on June 29, 2003
I've been a Lovecraft fan for decades, ever since I was a kid, and I loved this book. Joshi has taken some of Lovecraft's best works and illuminated each with the bright light of his scholarship.
There is a problem, however: Lovecraft appeals to a certain type of reader (IMO), and I think that the footnotes might detract greatly from the enjoyment of the stories for just such a reader; I know they did for me. Because of this, I feel that this is a great book for the already established Lovecraft fan, but might not be so appealing to someone who has just picked up Lovecraft for the first time. I could certainly be wrong about this, but I personally prefer to read Lovecraft's stuff in a different format, sans footnotes.
However, despite my misgivings, I ended up giving this book a five star rating based on Joshi's immaculate and voluminous scholarship. After all, the footnotes ARE the point here, illuminating, as they do, Lovecraft's eerie and unique prose.
I wouldn't have missed this one for the world.
Annotated Lovecraft--it sounds like a great idea, and it is. However, many of the annotations in this book seem unnecessary and irrelevant. Make no mistake, the stories themselves are some of HPL's best--"The Rats in the Walls," "The Colour Out of Space," "The Dunwich Horror," and the short novel "At the Mountains of Madness." A pretty good introduction by S. T. Joshi starts things off, and the final pages include some noteworthy comments on the art of writing horror (taken from some of Lovecraft's letters) and a short essay on the translation of Lovecraft's work into radio, TV, and film. This complementary material is very useful to someone just delving into the Lovecraftian universe, but the annotations are somewhat of a mixed bag.
While some of Joshi's annotations are quite interesting and useful, many seem to me to be totally unnecessary; some, such as biographical material, is interesting but immaterial to the stories themselves. For every chemical Lovecraft mentions, Joshi gives us the chemical formula and scientific name, which is okay if somewhat excessive. When some of the trademark Lovecraft terms pop up (e.g., eldritch), Joshi defines them; however, he also explains to us how aeon is an alternate spelling of eon, immensurable is synonomous with immeasurable, etc.--there are several unneccessary footnotes in each story explaining what seems to me to be patently obvious. Joshi also is fond of taking a notion from the text and explaining how Lovecraft "may have" been thinking of this or that, often ending the note with a quote of several sentences from authors such as Poe, Bierce, etc.--sometimes valid, sometimes not, usually over-the-top. He is also fond of referring back to his own footnotes from earlier in the book each and every time a certain subject is mentioned, which I find annoying.
Certainly, many of the annotations are useful, especially in the short novel At the Mountains of Madness. A good bit of the scientific nomenclature and theories, as well as geographic names, have changed since Lovecraft's time, and Joshi does the reader a great service in explaining what Lovecraft meant, what he was referring to, etc.; such important data contribute much to an understanding of the material and proper placement of the settings of the tales. While I would certainly recommend this book to Lovecraft readers, I would strongly suggest that anyone reading these stories for the first time ignore the footnotes completely. Besides sometimes giving away plot points to the current story and others, the footnotes totally interrupt the flow of your reading. To truly enjoy Lovecraft, you must immerse your mind in his language, structure, and flow. I don't think I can read any of these stories too many times, so rereading is more of a pleasure than a pain. Read these stories, move on to other things, then at some point come back and re-read the stories in conjunction with the annotations. You may well have to grin and bear it through many of the unneccessary, repetitive, and not entirely relevant footnotes, but you will gain some rewarding insights and make some new discoveries in these rich otherworldly tales by horror's greatest writer.
on May 22, 2001
In a way, this book is good for both beginners and intermediate Lovecraft readers. If you're a beginner, you'll be pleased to know that--in my opinion--some of Lovecraft's best works are in this book. Namely, THE RATS IN THE WALLS, THE DUNWICH HORROR, and THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. The novella AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is dreadfully long--read it only if you're bored to death and want to read about nightmare penguins and long architectural descriptions. No matter what story, beginners should skip the footnotes as it will only detract from your reading pleasure. If you're an intermediate Lovecraft reader, you might find SOME of the footnotes interesting, but certainly not all of them. There are some good photos in this book ranging from places that might have inspired Lovecraft, portraits of historical figures, and ESPECIALLY the four black and white pictures of eerie mountains done by Nicholas Roerich. In addition, one will find an essay by Lovecraft and also a very good Bibliography if you're looking for some other Lovecraft-related titles. If you've never read Lovecraft, here's what he is in a nutshell: Blend Edgar Allan Poe with a dash of Stephen King.
on January 3, 2001
This is definitely not a "beginner's" Lovecraft. For those who are taking their first glance, I recommend "The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)." or "Best of H.P. Lovecraft : Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre ." It is also not an "expert's" Lovecraft, who have already tackled the fine Arkham House "Selected Letters" volumes, or such arcane tomes as "The Philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft : The Route to Horror (New Studies in Aesthetics, Vol. 29)."
What it is, is an "intermediate's" Lovecraft, perfect for those who enjoy his stories, and want to peel back one small layer of the onion and look beneath the surface. The volume focuses on his major works, and the annotations range from the broad, such as definitions of words, to the minute, such as genealogy of local towns. There is a nice selection of photographs of Lovecraft's early homes and some locations of stories. The annotations also include some informative biographical notes that help explain his stories, such as Lovecraft's fear of seafood and the cold, or the fact that he was dressed as a little girl when he was a baby.
Definitely read other editions of his works first, so that you may enjoy his stories as stories. Then, when you want to take one small step further, give this annotated edition a try.
on December 28, 2000
With so many different Lovecraft collections out there, it may help prospective buyers to know what's actually in this one:
[By S. T. Joshi:] Acknowledgments; Introduction [an essay about H. P. Lovecraft and his fiction]; [By Lovecraft:] The Rats in the Walls [a short story]; The Colour Out of Space [another short story]; The Dunwich Horror [still another short story]; At the Mountains of Madness [a novella]; Lovecraft on Weird Fiction [excerpts from four letters to correspondents]; [By Joshi:] Lovecraft in the Media [an essay about dramatizations of Lovecraft's fiction in film, radio and television]; Select Bibliography
But there's more: A scattering of achival photos of persons and places in Lovecraft's life; another scattering, this time of brief tributes to Lovecraft excerpted from various writers; introductions by Joshi to each of the featured pieces by Lovecraft; and, above all, footnotes, lots of footnotes, by Joshi at the bottoms of the pages.
Most of the footnotes are pretty useful -- Lovecraft was a sophisticated, scholarly writer, and the typical contemporary (i.e. post-literary, electronic era) reader would miss or be stumped by many of his literary, historical, geographical and foreign language references. But too often Joshi goes beyond helping the reader better enjoy and appreciate Lovecraft's fiction, instead relating the fiction to picayune details of Lovecraft's personal life.
For example, on p. 28, the first person narrator of a story includes this sentence: "My father died in 1904 [footnote 10], but without any message to leave me, or to my only child, Alfred [footnote 11], a motherless boy of ten." Footnote 10 reads: "In fact, it was not Lovecraft's father but his grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips (1833-1904), who died on March 28, 1904. Lovecraft's father had been hospitalized in 1893 and died in 1898, and Whipple Phillips had in effect become his father." Footnote 11 reads: "Alfred: the name is possibly derived from Lovecraft's young friend Alfred Galpin (1901-1983). They had come into contact in 1918 and remained voluminous and close correspondents to the end of Lovecraft's life. When Lovecraft first met Galpin in Cleveland in August 1922, he addressed him as 'my son Alfredus' (Selected Letters, I, 191)."
Give me a break! That's important material for a detailed biography of Lovecraft -- and Joshi has written and had published just such a book elsewhere -- but of little significance to the reader simply trying to get at the meaning and intrinsic pleasure of a work of fiction. Who but a biographical researcher would want to be distracted by such stuff?
So on the one hand Joshi speaks to the stuffiest scholar, and yet often talks down to the reader who's reasonably well-educated. Do we really need to be told what Druids were (p. 30), or who the Marquis de Sade was (p. 32), or what silicon is (p. 66)? Nonetheless, read discriminately, the annotations are helpful for better fathoming Lovecraft.
As to the printing of the volume, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the typeface of the main texts is large and easy to read. (The annotations are quite small, though.) The bad news is that the text is rife with typos. Dell Publishing, get your act together!
In sum, this book (and its sequel, More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft) probably belongs on the bookshelf of every serious Lovecraft reader, right next to Arkham House' Lovecraft collections. The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (like its sequel, More Annotated H. P. Lovecraft) is a handy and inexpensive reference for some of Lovecraft's best stories. A warning, though: Don't read Joshi's footnotes on a first reading of a Lovecraft story -- allow yourself to follow Lovecraft's narrative uninterrupted so you can capture the mood and sense of surprise that lie within.
on November 22, 2000
This book is obviously a labor of love. However, it's not a book that will please all Lovecraft lovers. It will appeal mostly to Lovecraft fans who also enjoy minutiae for its own sake. Those who read Lovecraft for literary pleasure, on the other hand, will be better off buying a less cluttered text. If they want more information on HLP the man, there are several excellent biographies available that also throw light on HLP's literary antecedents and influences.
Several reviews on this site have represented this book as an introduction to Lovecraft. However it's important to understand that it's meant more as a part of S. T. Joshi's ongoing project to make writers of "Weird Fiction" academically respectable. Certainly, such authors as Dunsany and Machen are excellent writers and this ought to be recognized by all who thrill to fine literature. Moreover, HLP and Clark Ashton Smith are badly under-recognized by both academia and the literary establishment. But the fact remains that most of the writers have more readers than ever before. So why does Joshi continue to strive against a hostile audience of philistine academics and half-read literati? I must confess I don't see any point in it; academic recognition won't bring add anything to HLP, except a body of tedious academic literature. In fact, the final nail in the coffin's HLP's reputation will come when academia grants its approval. HLP will then be known not merely as an obscure writer, but as a writer who is obscure, worthy, and boring. The subversive appeal that draws so many curious and intelligent readers to Lovecraft will evaporate.
Consequently, although this book is well done, I have to conclude that it was not worth doing. Lovecraft pleases as literature, he interests as a type, but as a thinker worthy of serious scholarly interest, he falls flat. His atheism and his positivism look old fashioned, and could only appeal to someone with equally unreflective views.
on June 18, 1999
Though not as packed full of stories as some of the other collections published in paperback, the included are excellent.
They annotations are nice and are a plus, but also the major upset. Some pages are half annotations. This can get very distracting because you will want to read all of them and this shifts the focus from the story to them. They can be annoying, but are not so bad that you should pass this book up. They contain lots of info that many would not have known about HPL and how the stories were written.
Overall, this is a great for an intro to HPL. (It actually was MY intro also.) But, if you've already read the tales included, you have little to buy this for. But, the annotations are cool and the facts and introduction by the editor are not just some common facts you'd pick up by researching for yourself.
To sum it all up: Buy it if you have had little exposure to HPL. You will regret it if you pass it up and it will haunt you for the rest of your life.
on July 8, 1998
Never having read Lovecraft before, I found this to be an excellent introduction. This book helps you over two essential hurdles when confronting Lovecraft: his sometimes arcane language and his ideas of bizarre literature. The notes and introductory text get you past each of these and into the heart of the stories, as well as linking these stories to events and places in Lovecraft's life and within his (and other's) fiction. I feel I can now get much more enjoyment from any of Lovecraft's stories than I could if I came to them cold. I get the feeling that the stories presented here are not the cream of the crop, but I think Joshi was trying to present a strong and varied selection of Lovecraft's work in order to whet people's appetites. He certainly succeeded with me. I'm deducting one star because of some minor quibbles, mainly that I wish there had been more and more relevant photographs (namely of some of the places the notes described which Lovecraft used as a basis for the settings in his stories) and that the photos had been captioned (you have to look at the list in the front of the book to find out what you are looking at). This book has made a Lovecraft fan out of me.
on June 18, 1998
I wish I had written The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, but I was happy someone did and was very interested in reading it. The stories included in the volume make a fine introduction to H. P.'s work for anyone unfamilar with his stories, but also offer real interest to those of us who have read these stories numerous times. Now we can find out what some of H. P.'s more obscure references meant, definitions to scientific terms he used, as well as insight into his inspirations for the stories. The book has a few pictures of some of the actual sites that Lovecraft used as scenes in his tales and how he got place and charactor names. Contents include "Rats in the Walls", "Colour Out of Space", "Dunwich Horror" and "At the Mountains of Madness". The only complaint I have with this book is there could have been even more annotation.
on August 2, 2002
I tried to read HP Lovecraft in the past. I bought some small paperbacks expecting tales that would chill me bone cold and images that insomnia to shame. I found that it was virtually impossible to comprehend the matters in the Text. That's why anyone who failed to love Lovecraft NEEDS this book. It's filled with all the footnotes and beyond that explain why Lovecraft used names, favorite words, about the man himself! All of this is mandatory to find the truth in all his work. Honestly, once I read this, I finally got the honor of those images and that unsettling feeling that won't allow me to sleep. Truely, he writes some of the best weird horror I have ever written, one of a kind. This book will help you unlock the hidden love of his works. You have to add this to your personal collection.