H.P. Lovecraft: Nightmare Countries: The Master of Cosmic Horror - S.T. Joshi

Cool Lovecraft

Amateur journalism was exactly the right thing for Lovecraft a this critical juncture of his life.  For the next ten years he devoted himself with unflagging energy to the amateur cause; for him it was not merely a hobby, but a full-time occupation.  For someone so unworldly, so sequestered, and - because of his failure to graduate from high school - so diffident about his own abilities, the tiny world of amateur journalism was a place where he could shine.


This man could be considered to be the literary equivalent - or, at least, something quite similar to - Nikola Tesla.   Taken advantage of, at least, in his lifetime?  Check.  Misunderstood/too ahead of his time?  Check.  Suddenly chic in intellectual circles?  Double check.  A very passionate genius whose body of work and entire persona is essentially one of the brightest points of inspiration to a good deal of both contemporary as well as future geeks? Oh, triple check.


 I actually know very little about Lovecraft, in terms of his everyday life, so I truthfully can't tell how accurate or inaccurate this book is - I can only attest to how the book reads, and what it ended up teaching me about the man, the myth, the legend.


In some areas, the author lingers for a phenomenally long time on the sort of things that I would think of as being, well, unimportant and bordering on boring.  Much of Lovecraft's life, prior to his leaving high school, is not all that interesting to me.  I have to say, if most of the information in the book was not of interest to me, then the author's rather dry and, yes, uninspired narration of the major points of Lovecraft's life would have left me dropping the book even before I managed to get to Lovecraft as a young adult.   It reads almost eerily as though it was originally conceived as a short book-length report on the life of Lovecraft.


A saving grace would be the shortness of the content in the book itself (artificially inflated, I will say, with large text, admittedly interesting pictures and the not-so-occasional inclusion of enhanced quotes from the text of the book that fills up to a third of the page at a time.  My problem here is that, despite the very real shortness of the text itself, the version of the book that I have is this space-hogging, thick and hardcover rectangular block of a book.   It's a coffee table book, but an ugly one at that, with an ominous-looking, cheesy cover that looks more as though it would be a book of Lovecraft-inspired art than an oddly shaped and constructed book of the bare essentials of Lovecraft's life.  So I wouldn't exactly want it for my coffee table (if I *had* one to begin with) because it's quite ugly and gaudy.  And this is *me* talking, the woman who found a collection of little postcards inspired by exploitation films and used them as cheap wall art.


At times it does prove to be a good beginning introduction to Lovecraft as an actual person, despite the awkward size and shape of the book (I love to read in the bathtub, but I couldn't exactly balance this mess in any comfortable way while I soak, so that was irritating, to me), but if you already know a lot about Lovecraft (as I hope to, one day) then this one really has very little to offer, aside from some interesting photos that are cool to look at, once.  To be frank, I bet anything that there have been better biographies of the man made already, and there will definitely be better biographies made in the future, in the face of the awesome popularity of everything Lovecraft.


It's a good thing I got this at, oh, one dollar while in the clearance bin at my work, or else I would have felt pretty bummed about buying it, period.   While I was reading it, Monster Man (my S.O) mentioned to me that it's odd that I was reading this to being with, instead of just reading a story or two out of the collection that he had bought for me as a gift.  Touche.


What Will I Do With My Copy of this Book? : Eh, sell it to Half-Price, most likely.