A beginner's guide to Lovecraft?

Discussion in 'H P Lovecraft' started by Ranguvar, Jan 17, 2011.

  1.  
    Ranguvar

    Ranguvar New Member

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    Hello! I am new to this forum, and joined because this is seems to be the biggest collection of Lovecraft fans I've yet found :)

    I have read very little of Lovecraft so far, just some of what's been published online. But already, I'm hooked.

    His complete legacy is quite expansive I see, if en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft_bibliography is anything to go by. I would like to start in on his writings -- mostly the stories, but poetry and letters appeal as well -- but I'm not quite sure where to begin.

    I've also done some research and come across:
    sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/33454-complete-collection.html
    sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/529535-building-a-lovecraft-library.html

    However, I'm still a little unsure where to start, especially since it looks like quite a few collections are notorious for errors :)

    At least for now, I don't mind missing some of his rarer works if they can only be found for a great deal of money, I would just like to purchase a few collections that are of decent price and quality as high as possible.

    Could anyone please be so kind as to give me a bit of a guide, what would you advise I get first, what errors should I be aware of, and how should I proceed as I dive into the great man's writings?

    Thank you kindly. I apologize for asking this instead of re-reading the previously mentioned two threads multiple times, but I fear the information there is a little too dense for someone who has barely experienced HPL at all yet.
     
  2.  
    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    I would personally suggest the Gollanz edition that collected Lovecraft's fiction: Necronomicon - The Wierd Tales of H.P. Lovecraft. It's a beautiful book, hardback and amazingly affordable.

    If you are keen on his life then there is this: H.P. Lovecraft - A Life by S.T. Joshi

    I also like the essay he wrote on supernatural horror in literature. It offers an insight into the mind of The Old Gent and also opens many more doors into this genre: Supernatural Horror in Literature by H.P. Lovecraft.

    These are only my suggestions and in my case at least, I've come to know the Old Gent in a fairly unstructured fashion. I started with whatever I could find (the fiction) and then moved along to the rest.

    There are several people in Chrons who are amazingly knowledgeable in this matter and I am sure they will be along shortly to help you.

    I wish you joy and many, many hours, days, years even of pleasure is getting to know Lovecraft.
     
  3.  
    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    As mentioned in the "Complete Collection?" thread (listed in the OP), I would recommend collecting the three Penguin editions that collect most of his stories, contain the definitive texts and also authoritative introductions and annotations by the reknowned Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi:

    "The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories"
    "The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories"
    "The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories"
     
  4.  
    Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    I'll second this. The Gollancz Necronomicon may look nice, but the texts are only partially corrected.
     
  5.  
    Nesacat

    Nesacat The Cat

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    Methinks it's time I re-invested in the Penguin editions too. I used to have them but gave them away to friends who were starting to read Lovecraft.
     
  6.  
    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    Yes. Aside from the missing essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, I think these three books are all and more than all than most Lovecraft readers need.

    The essay is easily available online or in the Modern Library edition of At the Mountains of Madness, I believe.

    I'm leaving out the matter of Lovecraft's letters. It would be nice to have a good one-volume "best letters" collection -- say 300 pages' worth. This would be something comparable to one of my indispensables, the H. J. Jackson one-volume Oxford paperback of S. T. Coleridge's letters.

    Dale

     
  7.  
    Sargeant_Fox

    Sargeant_Fox New Member

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    Does anyone know which stories Penguin's three-volume collection leaves out? I'm thinking of getting them, but as a perfectionist I can't stand missing one story :D
     
  8.  
    Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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  9.  
    Watango

    Watango New Member

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    OK, I will use this topic, because the forum rules are too restrictive to allow me to create new one. I think that it counts as beginner question.

    Was Lovecraft serious about occult and that dreams are portals to parallel universes and stuff?

    I found the following quote from a letter he had wrote:

    "As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes — in all truth they don’t amount to much. That is why it’s more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon."

    Sounds more like a gimmick guy. Personally I don't believe in anything that is not written in physics books.

    And one more question. I read somewhere that he had parasomniac disorder, but the information on the nature of this disorder is conflicting. Was he suffering from night terrors (this is when someone suddenly wakes up screaming) or sleep paralysis (this is when someone wakes up, but his brain is still sleeping and in effect he can't move and sees creepy hallucinations)?
     
  10.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    On your second question: he was certainly never diagnosed with such a disorder, that I've ever heard; but he did have spectacular nightmares during much of his life; especially the early ones wherein the "night-gaunt" made its first appearance when he was a child. It is, of course, possible that he suffered from some such disorder, but I would imagine this will always remain an open question.

    On your first point... the simplest answer is that Lovecraft, aside from a very brief period during his early youth, was a thoroughgoing skeptic about anything supernatural. He found certain ideas attractive, and some of them sparked his imagination quite powerfully; but he was very much a secularist in his approach to the life and the universe. It wasn't, in any usual sense, "gimmick" for him, but rather using things which had a complex of traditional associations and resonances to evoke an atmosphere, and even with these he often took them in new directions, as with "The Shunned House" or The Case of Charles Dexter Ward....

    When it comes to dreams: like Poe, he found the dream-state endlessly fascinating psychologically and emotionally, and felt it was one of the most powerful symbols for those elusive aspects of human experience or emotion we nearly all have from time to time; but no, he did not see them as anything actually "supernatural" in any way.
     
  11.  
    antiloquax

    antiloquax Trans-MUTE!

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    I haven't read very much Lovecraft, but I have been listening to some of the Public Domain recordings on Librivox. I very much enjoyed "The Cats of Ulthar", "Beyond the Walls of Sleep", "Herbert West: Reanimator" (despite the strange repeated re-caps in that story) and "Nyarlathotep". Co-incidentally, a young man who I used to teach at high-school (now at university) has asked me about HPL and so I have been scanning the threads on here for recommended tales. I will certainly be reading more. I have the kindle edition (4 volumes) which contains all HPL's fiction and the Modern Library edition of "At the Mountains of Madness". I enjoyed Mieville's introduction, which I found interesting since I knew very little about Lovecraft the man.
     
  12.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Lovecraft the man is a fascinating and complex study (even Colin Wilson, who is often prone to make snide remarks about HPL's fiction, has commented that he "was one of the most interesting minds of his generation"); but that study isn't necessary to an enjoyment of his fiction and other creative work (he also wrote a goodly amount of poetry, and his weird and satirical verse are often rather good)... though there are times it can certainly enhance one's enjoyment.

    The recaps for "Herbert West", if you haven't already come across something explaining them, are because HPL provided such for each segment of the tale as it was serialized in its original publication in Home Brew, which was chiefly a humor magazine put out by his amateur journalism colleague, George Julian Houtain (who was something of a character himself). They were, obviously, intended to fill in new readers who had not seen the earlier pieces with all the pertinent information; but when the entire story is presented as a single unit, they can become rather tedious. (Albeit HPL does vary them in some interesting ways, if one looks closely at them, even altering emphasis to go with the current installment.)

    I think, too, there is a great deal of truth to what people such as S. T. Joshi and Ramsey Campbell say about this particular piece: that, whatever the original intent, it quickly became self-parodic, as the escalating hyperbole of the language and absurdity of the situations tend to show. As Campbell puts it, it became a series of jokes, with the continuing punchline being "Dammit, it still wasn't fresh enough -- again!"....
     
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    antiloquax

    antiloquax Trans-MUTE!

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    Yes, I'd guessed it must have been published in serial form, and I did find myself laughing when West made the comment you quoted above!
    a
     
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    w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Member

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    I just want to emphasize how amazing, wonderful and complete Donovan's Lovecraft site is. I go there constantly and can spend an entire day there. I love how, for example, he published "The Thing in the Moonlight" side by side with the actual letter from which the wee "tale" was formed, that was quite an eye-opener. THE H. P. LOVECRAFT ARCHIVE is the best introduction to Lovecraft on the Internet. Superb.
     
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    antiloquax

    antiloquax Trans-MUTE!

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    @ w h pugmire - thanks for that - I'll check out that website!

    I have been listening to a couple of stories by Lovecraft - "Ex Oblivione", "The Music of Eric Zann" and especially "Celaphais" - which really reminded me of H. G. Wells' "The Door in the Wall" (1911). I love these stories in which a character is searching for some beautiful place (or in the Eric Zann story, a frightful one) which somehow they cannot find again. The suggestion that there may be other worlds that are only accessible at certain times, or during dreams, is conjured up with a delicious sense of longing and nostalgia by Lovecraft.
    a
     
  16.  
    drush9999

    drush9999 New Member

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    There's a fair amount of stuff missing from the Penguins which have the best stories. You could buy the latest corrected edition of the Barnes & Noble H.P. Lovecraft: The Fiction instead which has 24 or so more stories/essays. Then there's the revisions The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions published by Del Rey. Then you'd just be missing four R.H. Barlow revisions, a couple of collaborations Poetry and the Gods & In the Walls of Eryx and the round robin The Challenge from Beyond.
     

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