I just finished reading Supernatural Horror in Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, annotated by S.T. Joshi.
I’ve read the essay before but wanted to read Joshi’s notations, since he’s the ‘Lovecraft expert’. I have to admit now that I’m not a huge Joshi fan after reading his biography of Lovecraft. But I’ll save that for when I review that.
I like the essay. It’s a light overview of horror from the beginnings, up to Lovecraft’s time period. He starts with the mention of a few classics and myths, then moves on to the Gothic Romances. It’s written clearly and concisely and covers most of the big authors and quite a few lesser known ones as well. The notations were ok. Most of them were different published editions of the stories talked about, when Lovecraft would have read them (citing letters as sources) and things like that. They’re not too bad but can be a little dry. Some of the notations also refer to stories that could have influenced Lovecraft’s own writing. Most of them are pretty interesting but some stretch a bit for the connection. Such as, there is a painting mentioned in the description for Melmoth the Wanderer that mentions a “painting with blazing eyes” that Joshi connects to a painting in Lovecraft’s story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. But paintings are a pretty common horror trope so I don’t think there’s much of a connection there. Some are a bit more specific. Such as the note that links Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth to an earlier story called Fishhead by Irvin S. Cobb. That one seems to be much more direct. Having read both I think Lovecraft’s is better but that’s just me.
It had some faults, of course. The Victorian Pettis is skimmed lightly over. There are some major names in weird fiction that are either not mentioned or just barely mentioned. Not surprising since it’s basically one man’s opinion on the subject. However, he does do a good job of being objective about the stories he mentions. Plus, it would be quite the task to catalogue all weird fiction printed between the Gothic Romances and (his) present time. He is very stringent on what counts as ‘weird’ fiction. Ghost stories generally get passed over.
The essay is interesting but whether or not it’s worth the extra money for the notations is up in the air for me. You can find the essay for cheaper and while the notations and bibliography do add a bit, it’s not really that much more.
In closing I can’t help but wonder what Lovecraft would make of today’s horror. He had definite opinions on ‘psychological’ and more realistic horror. I would love to see his opinions on the latest trend of paranormal romances and erotic horror. Somehow I can’t see him enjoying it.
My current book is Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress, Past and Present by Alison Matthews David. That review will be following as soon as I’m finished. I also recently bought Crimson Peak and As Above, So Below. Crimson Peak I’m very excited to see. I’ve been dodging anything about it on the net because I don’t want it spoiled. I’ve come across some criticisms of As Above, So Below but generally I like to see a movie for myself before trashing it.
So, I’ll talk to you all in a few days, as soon as one of those is completed. As always, feel free to comment or make a suggestion. I’m always looking for ways to improve the blog and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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