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Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 09:57AM
I can get Joshi's book anytime I'd like. But for the reasons I have stated I am reluctant about this one, and it is a thick book, and I am very careful in choosing what I read. Partly because the limited span of a lifetime only allows for a certain amount of reading. And also because all that you read will shape your mind and perspective, and at worst taint it. For the same reason, I am selective with the sounds I allow to pass in through my ears, and what visuals to pass through my eyes. Because this is the building material one will have to work from when creating. I prefer staying away from environments with negative or ugly or false energies.

Joshi has also written a book called "In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice Against Women". I think it's just fine defending equal civilian rights for women. But it is also curious that Joshi chooses this subject for a book. Is Joshi left-wing? Is he a feminist (in the sense of denying biological behavioral differences between men and women)? Is he generally a liberal, supporting the decadent times we live in with its disintegration of all traditional values rooted in Nature? Because if he is, it explains why I have found his voice dry and dreary, stuck in materialistic behaviour, lacking imagination, humour, sensitivity, and integrity when undressing people who are dead now.


The design of a book is important (unless one reads only for scholary reasons), for setting the right mood, and carefully leading the reader by degrees into that other World. To use an analogy, the several pages of editorials at the beginning of the Arkham House volumes, can be compared to having composed, prepared, and cooked an exquisite romantic dinner... everything is set, the candles are lit, the wine has been poured, plates on the table, the dish is served... but then the host decides to do the dishes first... "I just want to get this out of the way before we eat." *SLAM.. CRASH... BAM..* "Oh, this is a new very good washing-detergent you see, leaves no spots. And it really gets all the mess off. Next time I cook, I will be all set and go with the pan.. *HARSH GRATING... CRASH, BOM* "Just a few minutes more, and we'll have a wonderful dinner, you'll see.." "I bought this whisk. Very good for the sauce... damit, get clean now! Off with the grease..." *SPLASH, SPLASH... SLAM* "There now!...... I am sorry, dinner is a bit cold, but the taste is still the same, and I used all the right tools to make it perfect.. Enjoy.... Please relax, please."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Sep 09 | 10:08AM by Knygatin.

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 10:14AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> the several pages of editorials at the beginning
> of the Arkham House volumes

I am all in favor of Joshi-bashing, have even indulged in it myself on occasion, but those forewords were not written by Joshi, of course.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 11:02AM
JoJo Lapin X:

Quote:
Say what you will about de Camp's book, but at least it is entertaining

If you find reading half-truths, moronic judgments, and tabloid-style prose entertaining, then more power to you. I think that Lovecraft deserves better, myself, and, for all Joshi's faults, he at least succeeds in offering something better.

Quote:
I got carried away by my own analogy!

An even better way of making the point, I think, is along the lines of, "One does not need to be a carpenter to recognize a three-legged chair".


Martinus:


Quote:
Still, being affiliated with a university does not necessarily mean that your research is better than anybody else's.

No, it doesn't, but it does means that one has better resources at one's disposal to help in avoiding stupid mistakes. People such as Punter have fewer excuses than does someone such as Joshi. If, however, Joshi wants to "play in the big leagues"--and it seems that he does--then his work should be held to the same standards as those governing university-supported academics.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 11:08AM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> those forewords were not written by Joshi, of course.

I meant the first pages by Joshi. I don't mind an introduction as long as it's not written in a dull way. I have mixed emotions about the new introductions in Arkham volumes. Remember T. E. D. Klein's as impressive, although perhaps too long. Derleth's introductions in the old editions set the right mood, even if he may have been naive in the eyes of scholars.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 11:12AM
Quote:
Is Joshi left-wing? Is he a feminist

Joshi is a mechanistic materialist and a dogmatic atheist, which is one reason why he likes Lovecraft so much. He's the sort who gets all excited when he reads poems such as Sterling's "To Science". What Joshi finds most admirable in Lovecraft's world-view, I find least admirable. For Joshi and Lovecraft, philosophy effectively ended by the 18th Century. "Isaac Newton said it, I believe it, and that settles it!"

By contrast, CAS's open-mindedness on the subject of the "nature of reality" is far more mature and philosophically sophisticated than Lovecraft's (and Joshi's). I only wish that, when the subject occasionally raised its head in the correspondence with Lovecraft, CAS had been more willing to debate.

On the other hand, I do not blame anyone who preferred to decline to debate with Lovecraft! In fact, I wish Lovecraft were around to debate and defend himself against the likes of old Gavin C., here. It would be amusing to see Lovecraft rip such types to shreds!

As for Joshi's political perspective, I imagine that Joshi is mildly liberal, like so many science-worshippers, and he likely sees liberal social causes as being consonant with a modern and "progressive" perspective.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 5 Sep 09 | 12:13PM by Kyberean.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 11:53AM
Thanks.

Kyberean Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> By contrast, CAS's open-mindedness on the subject
> of the "nature of reality" is far more mature and
> philosophically sophisticated than Lovecraft's
> (and Joshi's).

I only wish that, when the subject
> occasionally raised its head in the correspondence
> with Lovecraft, CAS had been more willing to
> debate.

I don't think CAS was made up in that way. He focused all his thoughts into creativity instead of debate. I find his occasional debates and essays easy-going and detached. It is in art that he burned.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 12:11PM
Quote:
I don't think CAS was made up in that way. He focused all his thoughts into creativity instead of debate.

In general, that's very true, although CAS defends his views rather sharply at times in some of the letters to fanzines that are reprinted in Planets and Dimensions.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 02:43PM
My only problem about Joshi is the sheer amount of stuff he is writing/publishing/milking out of HPL and how often he repeats himself, but not necessarily the quality of Joshi's work per se, which I think is generally excellent. Perhaps his prose is a bit dry at times, but its scholarly qualities can't be denied in my opinion (especially if you've never read HPL: A Life but are instead relying upon shitty amazon reviews) and it feels in keeping with Lovecraft the man who I'm sure would appreciate the scholarly quality of A Life.

Is he objective or not? Well, yes and no. Yes, regarding saying things without backing it up with a logical chain of thought and other sources (indeed I'd say he debunks far more myths than he creates), but no, re: praise for HPL's writing and philosophy, but then why should he? He obviously loves Lovecraft's writing and agrees with this perspective. HPL: A Life is primarily a biography, rather than a critical study. Indeed I'd say that Joshi doesn't entirely shy away from criticising Lovecraft and his writing at times too, when appropriate. Let's face it the only people who are going to read a biography on HPL are going to be fans of him anyway and when it comes to assessing the quality of a writer, I'm quite capable of making up my own mind anyway.

My main scepticism regarding this new edition is: do I need it if I've already got A Life? My feeling is nope, especially as it's likely to be fairly expensive. My other problem is how often he repeats vast sections of work between books, which I feel is a rip off. And, while I'm here, my other issue is by publishing many tens of volumes of bio/critical material on HPL is he not just making a fast buck and a reputation by exploiting Lovecrafts name and the interest in him, much in the same way that he accuses Derleth of doing and in doing so is he damaging Lovecraft's name? Also isn't it about time he cease putting the boot into Derleth by now.... Hmmm... sounds like I hate him too... :)

As for this anti-liberalism/science guff... well, I'm with Joshi and Lovecraft on this one, I'm afraid. Reading Lovecraft I have no doubt that conceptually and intellectually he is vastly superior to the rest Lovecraft circle.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 03:26PM
Joshi's mistakes as a scholar are myriad and well documented. That said, I agree that, unlike, say, Derleth's, Joshi's legacy vis-a-vis Lovecraft is more positive than negative.

Quote:
As for this anti-liberalism/science guff

News flash: Critiquing aspects of science (or, more accurately, scientism, i.e. the substitution of science for religion), liberalism, etc., is not tantamount to being anti-liberal or anti-science, in general. If you want to portray yourself as the voice of reason, by contrast, then I would respectfully suggest that using sneer words, such as "guff", is not the best way to achieve your aim.

For the rest, you are entitled to consider Lovecraft intellectually superior to CAS, but I disagree, and I dare say I am not the only one--not that that matters, of course.

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 03:42PM
Neither Lovecraft nor Smith was much of a philosopher, to be honest. I think Lovecraft's fiction is entirely overshadowed in importance by his letters, but I read them not for any profound insights to be found in them, but simply because they paint such a charming picture of how a life can be spent almost entirely indoors, in semi-poverty, inside one's head, end at age 46, and nevertheless be rich and fulfilling---completely contrary to standard expectations. We can all learn something from the surprising fact that Lovecraft, overall, seems to have been such a happy person.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 07:02PM
The English Assassin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Perhaps his prose is a bit dry at times, but its scholarly
> qualities can't be denied in my opinion
> ... HPL: A Life... it feels in keeping with Lovecraft...

Thanks for your effort to describe the book. I don't rule out that I may eventually read HPL: A Life.


Jojo Lapin X, that's a great perspective on Lovecraft's letters. Personally I enjoy his profound thoughts. Though I am not sure "happy" is the right word. "Glad" or "content", from time to time, seems more right to me. What do you other posters say, was Lovecraft a happy man, or person?

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2009 09:24PM
Quote:
Neither Lovecraft nor Smith was much of a philosopher, to be honest.

That, of course, depends upon your standards and upon your definition of philosophy. I suspect that you make far more obeisance to specialists and specialization than I do. To state that neither CAS nor Lovecraft is "much of a philosopher" by the standards of what passes for philosophy today is to pay these men an unintentional compliment.

I would add that, as a philosophical statement, CAS's observation that all science, religion, and philosophy are the holding of a candle to the night of the universe is worth more than the pretentious prattling of every system-builder or analytical "language philosopher" that ever fouled the air. We've come a long way since the Ancient Greeks--in the wrong direction.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Sep 09 | 09:29PM by Kyberean.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: J. F. Uccello (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2009 04:00AM
The biggest problem I have with "H. P. Lovecraft: A Life" is the cover art. And I have to agree strongly with a previous poster who mentioned Joshi's nonsensical panning of CAS's story writing. Though Joshi does give extremely high praise for CAS's poetry. Not sure why Joshi has such contrasting opinions, he doesn't go into enough detail to really make sense on this issue. That said, I feel that this is one of the best literary biographies out there, and I have ready many. I read it straight through when first acquiring it, and often reread passages. Though I enjoyed Lovecraft's work immensely for years with minimal biographical input on the man himself, this biography brought me an elevated level of respect for Lovecraft and what he was able to accomplish in his short life. Joshi overwhelming deserves respect for accomplishing such a masterful and heartfelt study.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: The English Assassin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2009 07:01AM
Indeed the cover art to HPL: A Life is truly terrible. The other main problem with it is its lack of general availability making it something of a niche item. A fact that I don't see the new version curing, although saying that isn't their a real abridged version available somewhere as well?

I don't have a problem with Joshi's criticism of CAS's writing. He's free to his opinion and that's all it is. Nor do I think Joshi nor anybody else needs to justify every opinion they hold. No one needs to say why they like/dislike something - sometimes there is no reason, just a gut reaction. Saying that, he can't hate CAS's fiction that much as he's edited/published two vols of his juvenile work.

As for CAS and HPL's relative strength and weaknesses as philosophers, well I'm sure neither hold water against most actual philosophers (classical or modern) and I doubt that either would make any great claims for them self as such either. I've not read all their respective non-fiction/letters, so maybe I'm wrong, but, despite the strength of said writing, neither seem to have any truly original ideas as such and neither would I expect them to: both being autodidactic and both primarily being artists rather than great thinkers of their time. However, I think the main difference between the two is that HLP has a philosophy, while CAS just has an open mind, although I'm not saying that he doesn't have strong opinions too. Maybe I'm wrong. I've only read CAS's letters to George Sterling and to HPL, but no where in them did I see anything I'd call a distinct philosophical perspective nor an strong synthesis of pre-existing philosophies (as I think can be seen in Lovecraft) as such, just a willingness to discuss philosophy as you might expect in a conversation between any two intellectual friends. Nor do I see any underlying conceit to CAS's fiction either like I do in Lovecraft. And I see that as no slight on CAS's name. While I love HPL's writing, I'd probably concede that CAS is the more naturally gifted writer of the two, but conceptually he seems a little naive in comparison, which might be part of his charm. Of course its all just personal opinion and I'm more than willing to bow to someone with greater knowledge of CAS: his life and writings.

Re: "I Am Providence" - S.T. Joshi's expanded/unabridged Lovecraft Biography (2 vols.)
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2009 12:47PM
Quote:
Not sure why Joshi has such contrasting opinions [regarding CAS's poetry and his fiction]

I believe that it's because, as of the early '90's, when Joshi finished writing his biography of Lovecraft, what little of CAS's fiction he'd read consisted largely of CAS's small body of science fiction pulp work. CAS himself admitted that much of this was hack work, but it constitutes only a small portion of his fictional oeuvre, and to generalize from these tales to CAS's fiction as a whole, as Joshi does, is indeed absurd.

Philosophy: I think that English Assassin severely underestimates CAS and his philosophical abilities, but I see little point in debating the matter further. English Assassin and I have a different definition of philosopher, it seems. To me, a philosopher is simply someone who thinks philosophically and who seriously considers philosophical problems. One does not need to have a Ph.D. in the subject, or to found a philosophical school, in order to be a philosopher. The Ancient Greeks wisely considered philosophizing to be the province of every thinking subject.

As for CAS's personal philosophy, his cosmicism and his ability to escape the conditioning of the "human aquarium" are profoundly original. I know of few Western philosophers, apart from the Stoics, who were able to de-center human perspectives and view reality from non-human viewpoints without bringing "God" into the equation--and a highly anthropomorphic god, at that! Planets and Dimensions is a far better source for CAS's philosophical opinions than his letters to friends.

As for allegations of philosophical naivete, I'd say that true naivete lies in an uncritical worship of science and materialism. In that respect, Lovecraft is by far the more naive of the two authors. That anyone could mislabel such an extreme epistemological skeptic as CAS "naive" simply boggles the mind.

Quote:
I don't have a problem with Joshi's criticism of CAS's writing. He's free to his opinion and that's all it is.

First, like many critics, Joshi has the bad habit of stating his opinions as if they were indisputable fact. Second, when someone reads only a handful of an author's one-hundred-plus stories, and then pontificates that much of the writer's work is "routine hackwork"--which Joshi admits that he did in CAS's case--then that is grossly irresponsible "scholarship", and I have a tremendous problem with it. Again, let us hope that when Joshi revises the biography, he makes a more responsible, informed, and nuanced assessment of CAS's fiction.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 6 Sep 09 | 01:36PM by Kyberean.

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