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Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 12:57PM
Quote:
As I understand it, Joshi has difficulty holding an objective perspective, adding his own very personal opinions, and moralizing over Lovecraft.

If you feel or suspect that Joshi is bad in this regard, then you ought to read L. Sprague de Camp's earlier travesty of Lovecraftian biography. Joshi's book had to be written, if for no other reason than to correct de Camp's dreck. The Joshi biography has its flaws, to be sure, but it remains indispensable for those who wish better to understand Lovecraft, his work, and his times.

I would add parenthetically that CAS loathed biographies and biographers, calling the latter, I believe, "hyenas" and "ghouls". Also, Lovecraft, in particular, seems to loom as a threatening figure to certain individuals, who then feel compelled, Oedipus-like, to "cut him down to size". This phenomenon occurs on many levels, from the macro (de Camp) to the micro (this forum's own Gavin C.).

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 02:02PM
My negative impression of Joshi as self-centered opinionated grew when I first bought the corrected Arkham House books of Lovecraft in the 1980's. While I appreciate Joshi correcting the texts, I did not like the way he put himself in the forefront on the first pages of those books, shoving his own efforts up in the face of every reader. Such editorial details should have been left for a separate publication, or possibly as an appendix at far back of the books. I think this was the start of a tendency in "serious fantasy" book publishing, where the magical aura and atmosphere (which is what Lovecraft aimed for) of a book is dispelled and the aim is instead turned into highbrow scholary academics, and eventually, the final slaying of fantasy, that of "mature" psychoanalysis of what the author "really" tries to say. I regret that I got rid of my 1960's editions of those Arkham House Books, because they had that magic aura.


Kyberean Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Joshi
> biography has its flaws, to be sure, but it
> remains indispensable for those who wish better to
> understand Lovecraft, his work, and his times.


But I have not read Joshi's biography, and am open to suggestion. Is it your judgment that the book gives a objective and sympathetic, and untainted portrait of Lovecraft and his times?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 4 Sep 09 | 02:11PM by Knygatin.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 02:48PM
Quote:
Is it your judgment that the book gives a objective and sympathetic, and untainted portrait of Lovecraft and his times?

In part--although objectivity and sympathy might also be mutually exclusive, at times. Joshi's book is better than nothing, and it is better by far than the work that preceded it.

I well understand your feelings about Joshi's work. He is a self-promoting independent scholar who does not have the force or the security of an academic institution or tenure behind him, and who therefore has to trumpet his own importance and correctness very loudly. I find his occasional arrogance amusing when I contrast it with the very basic mistakes he often makes in his rush to publish as much as possible. That said, however, I think that Joshi's work and legacy for the field of the weird tale are more positive than negative. Those who dislike critical analysis or scholarly apparatus can always skip them.

Both in general and in the Lovecraft biography, Joshi's opinions are indeed intrusive, at times. Most often, however, he at least gives reasons for his opinions. Also, I think that his opinions are clearly signaled as such, and therefore stand separately from the majority of the book. My view is that Joshi's biography of Lovecraft is as objective and accurate a portrait as we can expect of a man, such as Lovecraft, who excites such wildly varying reactions, and even provokes insecurities, among so many of those who read him.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Eldritch Frog (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 02:49PM
Hilarious! All that needs to be said right there...
-----------------------------
Knygatin Wrote:
> But I have not read Joshi's biography, and am open
> to suggestion. Is it your judgment that the book
> gives a objective and sympathetic, and untainted
> portrait of Lovecraft and his times?

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 02:52PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> highbrow scholary academics

Yet Joshi is not an academic, he is an amateur scholar, which makes it all the more alarming that he seems now to be considered the general go-to guy for anything "weird," as witness the Penguin M R James volumes, etc.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Eldritch Frog (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 03:31PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > highbrow scholary academics
>
> Yet Joshi is not an academic, he is an amateur
> scholar, which makes it all the more alarming that
> he seems now to be considered the general go-to
> guy for anything "weird," as witness the Penguin M
> R James volumes, etc.


And you are a scholar? Widely published?

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 04:20PM
Eldritch Frog Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And you are a scholar? Widely published?

Not in this field, certainly! But, to use an analogy, this does not stop me from wanting somebody with a medical degree when I go see a doctor.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 05:52PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> What recommends Joshi's biography "H.P. Lovecraft:
> A Life" in the first place? Besides being full of
> details from Lovecraft's life?
>
> The book has received some hard criticism.

From Amazon reviewers? Joyce Carol Oates certainly seemed to like it.

> As I
> understand it, Joshi has difficulty holding an
> objective perspective, adding his own very
> personal opinions, and moralizing over Lovecraft.

He explains very clearly in the introduction why he uses the word "I" and puts his own opinions into the book.

> And lacking respect towards Lovecraft's person, in
> telling of private and personal things in a
> detached and degrading way that a friend never
> would have done, and which certainly would have
> offended Lovecraft had he been alive (compare this
> to the way Dr. Farmer tells of Smith's life; even
> if he reveals some weakness of Smith's, it is
> still told from a perspective of genuine respect
> and integrity).

Based on Amazon reviews? He is certainly a hell of a lot more respectful than De Camp ever was.

> This certainly repels me.

Sour grapes?

> For the time being, for
> biographical details, I am content with reading
> Lovecraft's own letters and the book "Lovecraft
> Remembered".

Which have quite a few errors of their own, such as Lovecraft's paternal ancestry (Selected Letters) and the funny claim that Lovecraft knew Bantu (Lovecraft Remembered). And the latter is full of the sort of subjective opinion that you didn't like in A Life.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 06:06PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Eldritch Frog Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > And you are a scholar? Widely published?
>
> Not in this field, certainly! But, to use an
> analogy, this does not stop me from wanting
> somebody with a medical degree when I go see a
> doctor.

J. R. R. Tolkien held more than one professorship and was widely considered an authority in his chosen field of study. In spite of this, his highest academic degree was MA -- he never got a PhD, even though he received several honorary doctorates late in life. Obviously that didn't disqualify him from the professorships he held.

If a degree makes all the difference between a "real" and an "amateur" Lovecraft scholar, then I guess that the only "real" Lovecraft scholars out there are Donald Burleson and Dirk Mosig.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 06:15PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My negative impression of Joshi as self-centered
> opinionated grew when I first bought the corrected
> Arkham House books of Lovecraft in the 1980's.
> While I appreciate Joshi correcting the texts, I
> did not like the way he put himself in the
> forefront on the first pages of those books,
> shoving his own efforts up in the face of every
> reader.

Unlike the self-effacing August Derleth?

> Such editorial details should have been
> left for a separate publication, or possibly as an
> appendix at far back of the books.

I see no problem with it. It is useful to tell upp front in what way this umpteenth printing differs from what went before; besides, reading editorial matter in a book is the reader's own choice.

> I think this
> was the start of a tendency in "serious fantasy"
> book publishing, where the magical aura and
> atmosphere (which is what Lovecraft aimed for) of
> a book is dispelled and the aim is instead turned
> into highbrow scholary academics, and eventually,
> the final slaying of fantasy, that of "mature"
> psychoanalysis of what the author "really" tries
> to say. I regret that I got rid of my 1960's
> editions of those Arkham House Books, because they
> had that magic aura.

They also had "dholes", "Inquanok", "seven cryptical books of earth", and no subtitle for "The Call of Cthulhu".

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: priscian (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2009 06:23PM
Martinus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If a degree makes all the difference between a
> "real" and an "amateur" Lovecraft scholar, then I
> guess that the only "real" Lovecraft scholars out
> there are Donald Burleson and Dirk Mosig.

And Mosig's Ph.D. is in psychology, so I guess that just leaves Burleson, though he appears to be rather busy chasing UFOs these days.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 07:37AM
Martinus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If a degree makes all the difference between a
> "real" and an "amateur" Lovecraft scholar, then I
> guess that the only "real" Lovecraft scholars out
> there are Donald Burleson and Dirk Mosig.

I got carried away by my own analogy! It happens sometimes. What I meant to say was that an academic is somebody who is affiliated with a university. Whether that makes you "real" or not seems to me a metaphysical issue.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 08:13AM
Kyberean Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If you feel or suspect that Joshi is bad in this
> regard, then you ought to read L. Sprague de
> Camp's earlier travesty of Lovecraftian biography.

Say what you will about de Camp's book, but at least it is entertaining (or at least it was to me when I read it, which was when it had just been published). The man was a very slick writer of nonfiction. Joshi's writing is just dreary.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 09:31AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
>
> Say what you will about de Camp's book, but at
> least it is entertaining (or at least it was to me
> when I read it, which was when it had just been
> published). The man was a very slick writer of
> nonfiction. Joshi's writing is just dreary.

To me De Camp's writing was annoying and superficial.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Martinus (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 09:53AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> I got carried away by my own analogy! It happens
> sometimes. What I meant to say was that an
> academic is somebody who is affiliated with a
> university. Whether that makes you "real" or not
> seems to me a metaphysical issue.

Still, being affiliated with a university does not necessarily mean that your research is better than anybody else's. Professor David Punter is guilty of quoting a second-hand source when he discusses Lovecraft in The Literature of Terror (the spurious "Black Magic" quotation), hence I had to take what little he wrote on the subject with a huge grain of salt. Whether it was due to laziness or anything else is open to speculation, but I won't be using that book again.

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