The biography of Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi is not a book for the meek or semi-committed. It is a hefty tome whose density of text is truly astounding; don’t be fooled by it’s length of 700+ pages, it feels much much longer.
It is not often that I find a book that is both incredibly interesting and a challenge to work through. There is just so much information compiled by Joshi on Lovecraft’s life, combined with astute analysis of his works, philosophy and even a brief examination of the field of analysis of his work and events in publication following his death; evens that led to his being misrepresented and misunderstood for more than thirty years.
It is not a happy read. Lovecraft’s philosophy is sobering and his lifestyle is, quite frankly, heart-breaking. From his disastrous marriage and residence in New York to his impoverished last years in Providence, where he subsisted on 30c for food a day – worrying even during the great depression.
Joshi provides a sympathetic view of this complex and misunderstood giant of 20th century literature whilst pulling no punches whatsoever. In particular his racism, which has been well documented in the past, is examined many times throughout the biography without apology, but also without the overblown hysteria common to much of the earlier commentary.
This biography supersedes and perhaps makes irrelevant the earlier work by L. Sprague de Camp, but it is difficult to conceive of any biography replacing this one, at least without some major new evidence being unearthed. Any fan of Lovecraft who wishes to understand the work and life of the man can do no better; the analysis of his work alone with change the way you forever read the stories of Lovecraft.