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H.P. Lovecraft: A Biography

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This biography relates a paradoxical, ironic literary life--that of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who never had a book of his stories published in his lifetime, but who became a best-selling author after his death; who died in poverty and obscurity, convinced of his failure, but who is today hailed as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century; who was a self- This biography relates a paradoxical, ironic literary life--that of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who never had a book of his stories published in his lifetime, but who became a best-selling author after his death; who died in poverty and obscurity, convinced of his failure, but who is today hailed as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century; who was a self-proclaimed misanthrope, but who collected a circle of devoted friends who remember him fondly as one of the kindest and most delightful people they ever knew. The author relates Lovecraft's peculiar upbringing, his bizarre habits and preferences, his tragicomic careers, his role in the development of science fiction, and his posthumous triumph--revealing how this strange and neurotic man transformed his nightmares into the wonderful stories that have made him one of our most influential and important literary figures.


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This biography relates a paradoxical, ironic literary life--that of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who never had a book of his stories published in his lifetime, but who became a best-selling author after his death; who died in poverty and obscurity, convinced of his failure, but who is today hailed as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century; who was a self- This biography relates a paradoxical, ironic literary life--that of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who never had a book of his stories published in his lifetime, but who became a best-selling author after his death; who died in poverty and obscurity, convinced of his failure, but who is today hailed as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century; who was a self-proclaimed misanthrope, but who collected a circle of devoted friends who remember him fondly as one of the kindest and most delightful people they ever knew. The author relates Lovecraft's peculiar upbringing, his bizarre habits and preferences, his tragicomic careers, his role in the development of science fiction, and his posthumous triumph--revealing how this strange and neurotic man transformed his nightmares into the wonderful stories that have made him one of our most influential and important literary figures.

30 review for H.P. Lovecraft: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I remember reading this soon after discovering Lovecraft, and it really pissed me off. It is the most judgemental biography I've ever read. You might be thinking L. Sprague de Camp went after Lovecraft for his notorious racism, but that isn't what he harps on. No, this author criticizes Lovecraft for writing too many letters, and never learning to type. That really is my main memory of this book; De Camp bitching about how Lovecraft could have written more fiction and finished novels if he hadn't w I remember reading this soon after discovering Lovecraft, and it really pissed me off. It is the most judgemental biography I've ever read. You might be thinking L. Sprague de Camp went after Lovecraft for his notorious racism, but that isn't what he harps on. No, this author criticizes Lovecraft for writing too many letters, and never learning to type. That really is my main memory of this book; De Camp bitching about how Lovecraft could have written more fiction and finished novels if he hadn't wasted so much time corresponding and writing by hand. It is ridiculous. Also, the book is a bit of bore. There is nothing too juicy to write about a borderline shut in who lived with his aunts most of his life and traveled little. The main interest in the book actually came from Lovecraft's letters, which were often about his mythos. Interesting topics like HP's attitudes about sex (for example his short-lived marriage in New York) and his racist viewpoints are glossed over and excused. At least, that was how I felt when i read this book. Just stick to reading Lovecraft, and wait for a smarter biography to come out. Everything you need to know is probably on the wikipedia entry anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.P._Lov...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Townsend

    While this is indeed H.P. Lovecraft's first biography (first published in 1975, and only because of August Derleth's sudden death, who had initially planned the biography), I believe that de Camp made some poor choices in the writing of it. The emphasis in his central argument, which he carries throughout the 450 page tome, is that Lovecraft was a man of contradictions. While all well and good, the fact that there is even an argument or thesis present within a biography is a cause for concern fr While this is indeed H.P. Lovecraft's first biography (first published in 1975, and only because of August Derleth's sudden death, who had initially planned the biography), I believe that de Camp made some poor choices in the writing of it. The emphasis in his central argument, which he carries throughout the 450 page tome, is that Lovecraft was a man of contradictions. While all well and good, the fact that there is even an argument or thesis present within a biography is a cause for concern from the onset--and as I expected, the book is full of de Camp's snide comments, opinions, and recommendations of how Lovecraft should have lived his life. What really gets me about this is the fact that a) this is a biography, and b) Lovecraft had been dead thirty or so years before this was even being written, how on earth is he possibly going to be able to take de Camp's suggestions at living more effectively and profitably? Lovecraft lived the life he wanted; he knew the choices he made. Berating him for his failures isn't going to change anything, and really detracts from what is an informative narrative into an opinion-laced pulpit. What absolutely grinds my gears is de Camp's complete inability to list the citations for many of the letters and correspondence that he is quoting from--many of the largest and most important passages that he includes lack a reference to a letter, year, point of contact, anything, without even a footnote. Sure, he does include references to his notes pages for some of the small asides, but when there is something that I see he has quoted that is absolutely essential to my professional research, and I look, and lo and behold, there is no citation anywhere on the page or in the notes, I lose my mind. Of less import, he sets aside multiple pages interspersed within the biography to discuss his own views on fiction (in what it is and on the writing of it), as well as his own experiences and techniques; completely unnecessary in any biography, especially one of someone that you had never even heard of until after his death. Nonetheless, I respect de Camp for at least making the first steps towards informing the populace of his life fifty years ago, and it was indeed informative. However, I'm sure that there is a reason that S.T. Joshi's work is considered the go-to biography of today. Review may change contingent upon my opinion of Houllebecq's and Joshi's biographies, but my expectation is that Joshi's will be far more reserved, and thus, palatable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrick.G.P

    At times I underestimate my love for H.P.Lovecraft and his bibliography. Since I was a teenager his works have meant extremely much too me, and I have read and re-read his tales numerous times. Up until now I actually only knew the most basic facts about his life (!), which I had learned from various forewords in his collections. L.Sprague De Camp's book is a massive tome and I must say I enjoyed every sentence in it immensely! It was truly exhilarating learning more about Grandpa Theobald and I reg At times I underestimate my love for H.P.Lovecraft and his bibliography. Since I was a teenager his works have meant extremely much too me, and I have read and re-read his tales numerous times. Up until now I actually only knew the most basic facts about his life (!), which I had learned from various forewords in his collections. L.Sprague De Camp's book is a massive tome and I must say I enjoyed every sentence in it immensely! It was truly exhilarating learning more about Grandpa Theobald and I regret not having delved into his bio earlier than this. He led a fascinating if not a bit sad (in more ways than one) life. The only thing I would criticize the book for is, as many others have pointed out, De Camp's harsh critical tone of more "trivial" aspects of Lovecrafts life. Had he managed to stay a bit more objective in his writing, I think the book would have been even better. Overall a great book,that made me even more eager to explore the mythos and Lovecraft even further than before!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Martin Gibbs

    Lovecraft was kind of a mess. This was the first biography I'd read about the author, and so it was a surprise to find that it was not entirely the most accurate. The book itself is well-written and very detailed in describing the life of Lovecraft, while sprinkling in snippets from his various stories. It certainly helped to align the biography with the body of his work, though at times it feel like it was disjointed. We get a little mention of Lovecraft's racism, but it does seem that de Camp is Lovecraft was kind of a mess. This was the first biography I'd read about the author, and so it was a surprise to find that it was not entirely the most accurate. The book itself is well-written and very detailed in describing the life of Lovecraft, while sprinkling in snippets from his various stories. It certainly helped to align the biography with the body of his work, though at times it feel like it was disjointed. We get a little mention of Lovecraft's racism, but it does seem that de Camp is trying to criticize Lovecraft for things that don't necessarily need critizing. Yet the insights into the publishing world in the '30's was very interesting--and the need to market and peddle one's work is still relevant today. A decent work with many words. Could have spent the last few weeks finishing it doing other stuff, but all in all it was OK. Now back to reading the original... "At the Mountains of Madness" awaits!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Read this in 2007 or thereabouts. Camp is extremely critical of Lovecraft which makes me wonder why he wrote this in the first place. The man had his faults, much of it influenced by the circumstances of the time, and they should not be glossed over. Camp though goes overboard, acting like those faults were exclusive to Lovecraft and nobody else. My overall impression is that Camp wishes he could have been there to advise Lovecraft and guarantee him more success than what he enjoyed in his time. Read this in 2007 or thereabouts. Camp is extremely critical of Lovecraft which makes me wonder why he wrote this in the first place. The man had his faults, much of it influenced by the circumstances of the time, and they should not be glossed over. Camp though goes overboard, acting like those faults were exclusive to Lovecraft and nobody else. My overall impression is that Camp wishes he could have been there to advise Lovecraft and guarantee him more success than what he enjoyed in his time. Or maybe he's jealous that Lovecraft was a better writer while Camp's claim to fame is collaborating with Lin Carter on bastardizing Robert Howard's Conan stories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mantis Matsuri

    This biography of Lovecraft's helped me put in perspective a writer we are prone to idealize. HPL was a profoundly flawed person with countless shortcomings in life; De Camp's portrait of the man is brutal at times and, though he misses the magic and romance of Lovecraft's romanticized vision of the world and his life decisions, this kind of tough love is indispensable for a devout HPL reader and aspiring writers of strange fiction.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I was given this book by a fellow Lovecraft fan, which he had had for some 40 years and had just reread it. The book was written by L. Sprague DeCamp, himself a well-respected SFF author, who certainly was influenced by Mr. Lovecraft (as have the likes of John Faris, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, among others of the horror genre). Mr. DeCamp’s meticulous research and interviews are quite obvious, although this (paperback) edition has, by the author’s admission, been shortened from the original I was given this book by a fellow Lovecraft fan, which he had had for some 40 years and had just reread it. The book was written by L. Sprague DeCamp, himself a well-respected SFF author, who certainly was influenced by Mr. Lovecraft (as have the likes of John Faris, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, among others of the horror genre). Mr. DeCamp’s meticulous research and interviews are quite obvious, although this (paperback) edition has, by the author’s admission, been shortened from the original in response to what he felt were valid criticisms of excessive verbosity, repetitions and other snags; also, the original extensive list of references was eliminated from the paperback edition. Nonetheless, the endpapers of this edition contain a number of photographs of Lovecraft, his family, his wife, the homes where he grew up, and friends. Mr. Lovecraft is, for want of a better term, the father of the modern horror story. Most of his tales are from the 1920’s and are largely situated in New England, his birthplace. (by the way, I am wending my way through the “Complete Lovecraft,” a mammoth work encompassing his fiction, poetry, correspondence and essays; gonna be awhile before that’s finished). Mr. Lovecraft was an enigmatic person, mostly a recluse who nonetheless had friends in a journalism group; a man with strongly racist and anti-Semitic leanings who married a Jewish woman; a man plagued by the absence of a mentally-ill, institutionalized father and a doting, overprotective mother, who along with two aunts raised him after his father’s death. Lovecraft had a frail constitution and missed much of his elementary and secondary education due to what was described as both physical and emotional maladies. He reportedly did not complete high school or attend college. Although intelligent, he was chronically underemployed, relying on family for support. Relatedly, despite his prodigious oeuvre, he apparently made little or no money from any of it, indicating that his writing was for his entertainment and that of his friends and relatives. He was very formal in his writing and speech, preferring a stilted, anachronistic Victorian mode of communication. Lovecraft’s fiction in marked by at times florid descriptions of weird, vaguely threatening landscapes; evil forces affecting the very soil of a house suspected to be haunted;, extraterrestrial beings (“The Old Ones”) which exist in the cracks between conscious and unconscious thought and which are awaiting a sign to emerge and conquer; an alien leader (Cthulhu) with an octopus-like face and the ability to control humans’ thoughts; and flawed, vulnerable and plagued humans who throw themselves upon these forces, sometimes for generations. His influences include Lord Dunsany and Edgar Allen Poe (whose “The Narrative of H. Gordon Pym” is the basis for “At the Mountains of Madness,” in which an underground civilization of supposedly extinct aliens is discovered underneath Antarctica). The reader will cringe and shudder (well, this one has done so) upon reading many of these passages, not a few of which are thematically linked. Lovecraft has been praised for both his comprehensive “Cthulhu Mythos” and for being a sort of combination of science fiction and fantasy. However, most of these positive comments, as well as large-scale sales of his writings, did not come until decades after his death, and his writings continue to be widely read. I greatly enjoyed this book, although according to Wikipedia Mr. DeCamp’s research has been criticized for not being thorough enough, with the book “I am Providence” by S. T. Joshi considered as more comprehensive and updated. Maybe I’ll read it someday. Five stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This was loaned to me by the horror-fantasy writer and, now, GoodReads author, Larry Santoro. I'd read most everything by Lovecraft that had ever been published--well, at least his fiction and his book about the craft of horror writing, not his newspaper science articles, poetry or amateur fandom pieces--over the years and had long been interested in knowing it the stories about his eccentricities--so compatible with the character of his writing--were true. Conclusion: he was much less bizarre t This was loaned to me by the horror-fantasy writer and, now, GoodReads author, Larry Santoro. I'd read most everything by Lovecraft that had ever been published--well, at least his fiction and his book about the craft of horror writing, not his newspaper science articles, poetry or amateur fandom pieces--over the years and had long been interested in knowing it the stories about his eccentricities--so compatible with the character of his writing--were true. Conclusion: he was much less bizarre than I had thought. Indeed, he'd been married, had lived in New York City, held common racist notions of the time etc. He was almost, but not quite, "normal". During the seventies I had occasion to travel to Providence, RI, staying a weekend at the home of some college students there. On a drive somewhere Lovecraft's old house was pointed out to me. Recently, returning to Providence with friends from Vermont who have a daughter there, I had occasion to ask about the Lovecraft house. Sadly, I was told that it no longer exists.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Donald

    H.P. Lovecraft inspired many a conspiracy theorist with his ominous tales of the Ancient Ones and the persistent references to some sort of "Them" in his short stories and novellas. This biography is lively and interesting, which is to be expected considering the author, L. Sprague De Camp, produced some memorable science fiction and fantasy himself. Lovecraft was a strange bird, and his writing reflected that. Unlike Poe though, whose life was seemingly intertwined with his tragic, forboding ta H.P. Lovecraft inspired many a conspiracy theorist with his ominous tales of the Ancient Ones and the persistent references to some sort of "Them" in his short stories and novellas. This biography is lively and interesting, which is to be expected considering the author, L. Sprague De Camp, produced some memorable science fiction and fantasy himself. Lovecraft was a strange bird, and his writing reflected that. Unlike Poe though, whose life was seemingly intertwined with his tragic, forboding tales, Lovecraft didn't seem to walk around looking over his shoulder or searching for the "Them" that his stories certainly proclaimed to exist. The "Illuminatus" trilogy by Shea and Wilson relied heavily on Lovecraft, who they speculated was an innocent dweeb who inadvertently stumbled upon part of the truth about "Them" in his writings. Reading this story of Lovecraft's life is especially essential for all those who are enraptured by his fantastic stories.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Ferry

    I would put this book at 4 stars for the overall research and possibly the growth of the author with regards to his feeling about Lovecraft at the end of the book. Especially maybe the last paragraph or 2. He states clearly at the beginning that he wasn't really into Lovecraft and Derleth had been the one who was going to write a bio but never did. I did not enjoy so much though the author's nitpicking and critiquing Lovecraft when I doubt he has written anything better. He just goes on and on t I would put this book at 4 stars for the overall research and possibly the growth of the author with regards to his feeling about Lovecraft at the end of the book. Especially maybe the last paragraph or 2. He states clearly at the beginning that he wasn't really into Lovecraft and Derleth had been the one who was going to write a bio but never did. I did not enjoy so much though the author's nitpicking and critiquing Lovecraft when I doubt he has written anything better. He just goes on and on throughout the book. For myself a lot of Lovecraft's downfalls and character flaws for sure added to his writing and he may not have been able to write what he did without them. This book though left me wishing to read another biography on Lovecraft with maybe a different perspective and approach.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Quinn

    This biography is much derided due to de Camp's overreach in his psychological analysis of Lovecraft, and this criticism is justified, but I encourage fans to read it just the same. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This biography has quite a few good qualities which in my estimation more than outweigh it's shortcomings. For one thing de Camp does not let Lovecraft off the hook when it comes to his racism and chauvinism. I also appreciated de Camp's willingness to describe Lovecraft This biography is much derided due to de Camp's overreach in his psychological analysis of Lovecraft, and this criticism is justified, but I encourage fans to read it just the same. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This biography has quite a few good qualities which in my estimation more than outweigh it's shortcomings. For one thing de Camp does not let Lovecraft off the hook when it comes to his racism and chauvinism. I also appreciated de Camp's willingness to describe Lovecraft as refusing to give up his childlike romantic views of the world and class hierarchy and how no one suffered more from this stubbornness than Lovecraft himself. Lovecraft would have benefited immensely from a simple Liberal Arts education at a university, but he coddled himself to such a degree he never even finished high school. This weakness greatly restricted his intellectual and professional development throughout his life. I recognize Joshi's two volume biography is now the standard, but I actually got less out of it than from this work. I think Joshi is too enthralled with his subject to write objectively. Joshi's insecurities also mar his work. To my mind, Joshi's need to elevate Lovecraft writing to the scholarly plain leads to at least as much overreach in his analysis as you will find in de Camp's analysis of Lovecraft's character. De Camp creates a portrait of Lovecraft as a messed up adult who lived a very unconventional life, but one who still emerges as likable on many levels, understandable on even more. This book helped me appreciate Lovecraft's writing more, not less, and for that alone it gets my recommendation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Williams

    I usually give pretty high stars but this only gets three from me. All the way through I am thinking 'L. Sprague de Camp, if all this negativity is all you have to say about Lovecraft why on earth did you write such a lengthy biography? (and it was long). The detail he goes into about Lovecraft's xenophobia and racism is all good and should be there but there is a lot of negative criticism not just of Lovecraft's character, personal life, sexuality(or lack of) but also his story writing. I almost I usually give pretty high stars but this only gets three from me. All the way through I am thinking 'L. Sprague de Camp, if all this negativity is all you have to say about Lovecraft why on earth did you write such a lengthy biography? (and it was long). The detail he goes into about Lovecraft's xenophobia and racism is all good and should be there but there is a lot of negative criticism not just of Lovecraft's character, personal life, sexuality(or lack of) but also his story writing. I almost didn't finish it due to the repetitiveness of it. There is lot's of information in there which is good but to be honest I am more interested in his correspondence and idea sharing with other weird tales legends like Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith which wasn't covered in much detail. Overall, I am glad I am finished and can move on to something else ;)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Olivia (Phoenix_Park)

    Very interesting, but took me forever.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Josh Dollins

    Obviously out of date now still a fun quick read for fans of Lovecraft and Lyon

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    Bad biographies are never so-called for a lack of good style and grace in the prose. Any life, be it one of near-mythic intrigue or of the most hum-drum ordinariness, is still a life; still strange, complex, simple, distant and familiar all at once, and even the worst prose stylist will have difficultly diminishing that if they can recognise what made the life they write of so significant. Bad biographies, in other words, are the ones that are disinterested in their own subject. H. P. Lovecraft's Bad biographies are never so-called for a lack of good style and grace in the prose. Any life, be it one of near-mythic intrigue or of the most hum-drum ordinariness, is still a life; still strange, complex, simple, distant and familiar all at once, and even the worst prose stylist will have difficultly diminishing that if they can recognise what made the life they write of so significant. Bad biographies, in other words, are the ones that are disinterested in their own subject. H. P. Lovecraft's first biography, written by the mostly but unfairly forgotten L. Sprague de Camp (a contemporary of Asimov and Heinlein, and a man with a very good prose style indeed), flirts with outright bad just enough times for the whole affair to seem hair-rendingly redundant. de Camp launches on a contemptuous first note, declaring himself relatively unattached to Lovecraft and unable to see the merit that the likes of, say, August Derleth (Lovecraft's correspondent and first editor proper) were all too eager to see without much reservation. The attempt is to seem balanced; the attempt fails. From this ominous note, de Camp sprinkles the rest of the story, from Lovecraft's circling journey from Providence, to New York, and back to Providence, with dismissiveness, bemusement, and enough exhausted resignation for it to become frequently uncomfortable. He despairs too often of Lovecraft's professional failings. He denounces Lovecraft's racist outbursts, then follows them, sometimes near-immediately, with his own sudden tangents on homosexuals and feminists, whom he addresses several times as 'deviants'. Worst of all, his critical digressions on Lovecraft's writings are so uniformly disapproving that, besides 'At the Mountains of Madness', de Camp seems to feel that Lovecraft never even wrote a worthwhile or lasting horror story - all of which leaves one wondering what on earth motivated him to expend five hundred pages on his subject in the first place! Yet, despite this sometimes palpable feeling of disdain from de Camp, he never allows his opinions to so carry the book away that it becomes unreadable. Far from it; though deeply problematical, the book cannot but remain essential reading for any serious Lovecraft devotee or scholar, though 'I Am Providence' by S. T. Joshi has probably trumped it by now. de Camp provides plentiful access to Lovecraft's illuminating and absolutely gigantic body of correspondence - a privilege given how expensive those letters are in published form - and his telling of the macabre fabulists' story is richly detailed and broad in topic and scope, covering almost every pre-WWII social issue that might've concerned the author. His discussions of Lovecraft's notoriously fierce racism, though perhaps marred by its insistent description as 'ethnocentrism', are empathetic without being undeservedly sympathetic, but the great achievement of the book is that, for all its flaws, it does make one feel, for an instant, what kind of emotional life it was that Lovecraft experienced, and in that sense de Camp succeeds as a biographer. Whether this is an attractive achievement is another question - do not to come to this book for a story of misunderstood genius ending in a final triumph. Here you open up the story of a truly lonely life, a life of thwarted ambition and bottle-corked bitterness, much of which will seep through unbidden and sting the heart of the reader, even as they note that, had it not been so, we might never have been left with all those wonderful, terrifying stories, and certainly with a whole different conception of the weird tale.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James

    I finally finished L. Sprague De Camp's "Lovecraft: A Biography." For years a friend had told me that he saw great parallels between me and Lovecraft in terms of our lifestyles, neuroses, and biographies. I knew him to be correct to some extent, but until I read this book I had no idea just how much Lovecraft and I have in common. Indeed, there were times where I started to get bored, and ask myself, "Why am I even reading this? I know exactly what's going to come next. This is like a biography o I finally finished L. Sprague De Camp's "Lovecraft: A Biography." For years a friend had told me that he saw great parallels between me and Lovecraft in terms of our lifestyles, neuroses, and biographies. I knew him to be correct to some extent, but until I read this book I had no idea just how much Lovecraft and I have in common. Indeed, there were times where I started to get bored, and ask myself, "Why am I even reading this? I know exactly what's going to come next. This is like a biography of a life I'd never realized I'd lived before." I admit that I must wonder why a person, who lived only forty-seven years, spent one-fourth of his life as a total recluse and the rest as a semi-recluse, needs a biography 500-pages long. Granted, Lovecraft is hugely influential in his genre, but De Camp is one of those biographers who feels it necessary to mention in the text every single time his subject blew his nose, then back it up with extensive documentation in the end notes. This can make for slow reading. Even stranger is the fact that De Camp doesn't even seem to like Lovecraft as a man or a writer. Indeed, there are places in the book where he makes a point of trying to defend himself against charges that he dislikes Lovecraft, but De Camp protesteth too much, I think. He's highly critical of Lovecraft's writing style, gives only so-so marks for Lovecraft's better works, and lousy marks for the rest. He takes great pains to point out Lovecraft's faults, especially the racism that marked most of his life, and even though he mentions that Lovecraft outgrew a lot of these faults in later life, that doesn't seem to satisfy De Camp. Much of the book seemed to me to be an attempt by De Camp to give Lovecraft a posthumous lecturing and dressing-down, to wag his finger under Lovecraft's nose for his shortcomings, and to prove, by comparison, De Camp's own superiority. From start to finish the book reads as a "Here's-what-I'd-have-done-instead." De Camp constantly criticizes Lovecraft's lack of professionalism, his blasé attitude towards his writing career, his preoccupation with his hobbies, his correspondence, his travels, and his friends, his silly affectations, his blustering political and social views, his fear of sex, his acquiescence to his female relatives, his low self-esteem, and his very real, crippling neuroses. And while, yes, Lovecraft does come across to some degree as absurd, embarrassing, and a little pathetic, De Camp comes across as a snotty, bullying, pedantic p***k. And there is no doubt which of the two writers will remain a major influence on science fiction, horror, and fantastic literature. Lovecraft made major contributions to popular culture, and will be remembered as long as there are readers who enjoy the weird and the uncanny. De Camp, on the other hand, spent his final years in Plano, Texas, a suburban s**t-hole so hellish that not even Lovecraft at his most twisted could have come up with such an awful place.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Sebesta

    Fascinating. There's a reason why this is the standard text on the man. Impeccably reasearched, written by a writer who came in as Lovecraft went out, this is a commentary on two men: Howard Philips Lovecraft, and L. Sprague DeCamp. Lovecraft was a fascinating, complicated man, who lived an intense life on paper, and DeCamp is not sparing with his opinion of the man. It is a picture of the 20s from the point of the view of the 70s. It's also a story of an insane racist. HPL is a little hard to tak Fascinating. There's a reason why this is the standard text on the man. Impeccably reasearched, written by a writer who came in as Lovecraft went out, this is a commentary on two men: Howard Philips Lovecraft, and L. Sprague DeCamp. Lovecraft was a fascinating, complicated man, who lived an intense life on paper, and DeCamp is not sparing with his opinion of the man. It is a picture of the 20s from the point of the view of the 70s. It's also a story of an insane racist. HPL is a little hard to take these days, because one of the things he's best known for is one of the things that de Camp, and Derleth, and so many other commentators have done their best to hide, and cover up, and apologize for; Lovecraft wrote some of the craziest, most racist stuff I have ever read, and I've read Ben Johnson's version of The Merchant of Venice. I'm not just talking about his stories, but his personal letters were, shall we say, pre-Nazi. In fact, it was only the growing horror of what the Nazis actually became that pulled him away from his antisemitism and racism at the end of his life. He repented at the end, but from 1910 to 1930 HPL wrote many, many things of which a Nazi eugenicist would be proud. De Camp sort of tries to glide over this, but to the modern eye it is a show-stopper and to many a deal-breaker. And then De Camp gets to the subject of sexuality, and does not cover himself in glory there either. This book was written in the 70s. Their picture of homosexuality was badly incorrect. But if you look at this book correctly, it's not a terrible thing. What you're reading is a picture of the 1920s, written in the 1970s. It is honest and forthright as it knows how to be. Of course it's wrong. Don't waste your time correcting dead men; learn about the world they lived in. Learn what your grandparents and great-great grandparents went through. De Camp also points out that there is another level of horror to Lovecraft's life; his career. To any professional man of words HPL presents a sort of encyclopedia of what not to do, how not to try to make a living from writing, what choices not to make. After reading this book I lost 1d4 sanity.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andres

    L. Sprague de Camp is not universally liked as a biographer. I have heard a lot of negative comments from the Robert E. Howard crowd in that respect. That said, and without having ever read any other biography penned by him, I did not dislike his Lovecraft. As a follower of Lovecraft's writing for quite a few years, especially his Cthulhu Mythos, I thought reading his biography would give me some more insight into his writing. Lovecraft was definitely a weird duck, as if his output didn't reveal L. Sprague de Camp is not universally liked as a biographer. I have heard a lot of negative comments from the Robert E. Howard crowd in that respect. That said, and without having ever read any other biography penned by him, I did not dislike his Lovecraft. As a follower of Lovecraft's writing for quite a few years, especially his Cthulhu Mythos, I thought reading his biography would give me some more insight into his writing. Lovecraft was definitely a weird duck, as if his output didn't reveal that already, and the story of his life as told by de Camp goes a long way towards explaining why. Lovecraft's upbringing seriously crippled him psychologically, and never allowed him to fully grow up. The details of how this came to be are amply covered in this book. His social ineptitude, his self-sabotaging commercial ways, his sexual hangups, intense racism during most of his life, as well as a sense of false entitlement which had him always pretending to be a landed gentleman and thus unable to even contemplate holding a job as it would dishonor his position. The only fallacy to the latter is that this landed gentleman didn't own any land, or much else to speak of, and so his income after going through his inheritance was precarious, at best. While he had some success marketing his writings, he was relatively unknown as a writer until after his death. Only towards the very end of his short life did he ever bring in any decent sums within a short period of time from his fiction. Some say he died just in time to avoid the poorhouse, while others say he would have started bringing in more money as a result of burgeoning success around the time of his passing. Regardless, this biography is no page turner, but it is well written and will probably be appreciated by all devoted Lovecraft followers. If you don't fall into that category, I really wouldn't recommend it to you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    lovecraft was an amazing character and his story is fascinating... a related anecdote: when i was originally reading this book i accidentally left it in a coffee shop and didn't realize until i was some distance away in my car...(it was at this point in my life i caught a glimpse into the potentiality for mental imbalance inherent in my psyche...) i eventually realized what i'd done and raced back to the restaurant, it was a carrow's, at top speed to retrieve the book... i went to the booth i had b lovecraft was an amazing character and his story is fascinating... a related anecdote: when i was originally reading this book i accidentally left it in a coffee shop and didn't realize until i was some distance away in my car...(it was at this point in my life i caught a glimpse into the potentiality for mental imbalance inherent in my psyche...) i eventually realized what i'd done and raced back to the restaurant, it was a carrow's, at top speed to retrieve the book... i went to the booth i had been sitting in and it was not there, i moved quickly to the hostess kiosk to inquire as to whether or not it had been turned in and was told by a heavy-set young woman in a curt, overly officious manner that it had not... dazed, i went outside, got in my car, and proceeded to have what can only be called a petite mal seizure... sitting behind the wheel of my dirt encrusted white VW bug,i literally came unhinged.... i sat for a bit and eventually found i could not leave...so, almost in tears, i got back out of the car and went back inside, not fully sure what i was going to do, but prepared to do it... i was about to declaim to the room at large my situation and ask if anyone had seen the book or anyone who might have taken it when i had the impulse to look behind the counter myself to see if the thick hostess had merely missed it when she looked... she had... behind the kiosk, sitting several shelves down was the CLEARLY VISIBLE bottom edge of the book...(it was a thick hardbound first edition with a white dust jacket i'd acquired at a used bookstore in concord california)... elation is an inadequate word really...it remains one of the happier moments of my life... The book sits at this very moment on the second shelf of my first edition case...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    This is the first biography on Lovecraft that I have read and it's hard to imagine a better job being done. In terms of judging the book (versus judging the subject which is an entirely separate matter), I found it an absorbing, thoughtful and scholastically impeccable read. Lovecraft made for a fascinating subject and while he is often portrayed (rightfully so) as a thoroughly dislikable man, he shows an almost miraculous turnabout in the later years of his life. The book's closing ten pages ap This is the first biography on Lovecraft that I have read and it's hard to imagine a better job being done. In terms of judging the book (versus judging the subject which is an entirely separate matter), I found it an absorbing, thoughtful and scholastically impeccable read. Lovecraft made for a fascinating subject and while he is often portrayed (rightfully so) as a thoroughly dislikable man, he shows an almost miraculous turnabout in the later years of his life. The book's closing ten pages aptly summarize Lovecraft's triumphs and failures (just as the rest of it had aimed at illustrating them) and provides a nice commentary on how we (particularly writers) may all learn a lesson from this man. A wonderful achievement!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    A rather bizarre abridgment (of only 30 pages-- one might fairly call this rather a revision, and given the number of repeated passages still present (which de Camp claimed to have excised in this abridgment), the book could have stood another, further, "abridgment"), with an equally bizarre conclusion: the "professional" writer ought to "keep himself in good physical trim," know something about copyright law, and practice his shorthand. Then he will be healthy, wealthy, and wise to his dying da A rather bizarre abridgment (of only 30 pages-- one might fairly call this rather a revision, and given the number of repeated passages still present (which de Camp claimed to have excised in this abridgment), the book could have stood another, further, "abridgment"), with an equally bizarre conclusion: the "professional" writer ought to "keep himself in good physical trim," know something about copyright law, and practice his shorthand. Then he will be healthy, wealthy, and wise to his dying day. Whether the "grotesque" lapses in chronology and the often nonsensical segues are the result of the abridgment, I have serious doubts, but I still enjoyed this book. Much more even-handed than Joshi gives it credit for being.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This is one of two biographies i read on HP Lovecraft. Aside from the expected chronological account of his life, de Camp offers some of his personal insight about Lovecraft, his life, and his writing. Since this is the first biography written on him, you got to hand it to de Camp, who compiled letter upon letter and undertook the daunting task of organizing one of the worlds most prolific epistolaries and his writings and come out with a pretty decent biography. However, the biography is laced w This is one of two biographies i read on HP Lovecraft. Aside from the expected chronological account of his life, de Camp offers some of his personal insight about Lovecraft, his life, and his writing. Since this is the first biography written on him, you got to hand it to de Camp, who compiled letter upon letter and undertook the daunting task of organizing one of the worlds most prolific epistolaries and his writings and come out with a pretty decent biography. However, the biography is laced with the author's own voice regarding Lovecraft's mistakes. In the end the book seems more like a criticism of Lovecraft, and a personal guide to young writers on how not to do things (by example of Lovecraft). Read this book (or parts of it) if you love Lovecraft.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    An enjoyable read, as you would expect from the pen of Sprague de Camp. The life of Lovecraft, a sad, but informative tale. Interestingly, a little of Sprague de Camp comes through. He uses Lovecraft's misfortunes and attitudes to warn himself and his readers of the perils of life. I also got the feeling that Sprague de Camp would have liked to give Lovecraft a big shake, and tell him to stop whining and preening, and do something with his life. Write for money, and work at it, and stop pretendi An enjoyable read, as you would expect from the pen of Sprague de Camp. The life of Lovecraft, a sad, but informative tale. Interestingly, a little of Sprague de Camp comes through. He uses Lovecraft's misfortunes and attitudes to warn himself and his readers of the perils of life. I also got the feeling that Sprague de Camp would have liked to give Lovecraft a big shake, and tell him to stop whining and preening, and do something with his life. Write for money, and work at it, and stop pretending. Lovecraft: great talent, but a complete inability to live of his talent. A mother's boy, somewhat effete, a variable white supremacist, and a terrible business man. RIP.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    This biography is only so-so. When I read it there wasn't a lot of biographical information about Lovecraft (this was well pre-internet, even pre-PC), so there was nothing to compare it to. De Camp, for whatever reasons, had a lot of goofy notions about Lovecraft's personal life that he drew not from knowledge, but by interpreting a lot of Lovecraft's writing and a lot of hearsay. He also seemed to have some kind of ax to grind. I always thought most of de Camp's fictional output was only so-so This biography is only so-so. When I read it there wasn't a lot of biographical information about Lovecraft (this was well pre-internet, even pre-PC), so there was nothing to compare it to. De Camp, for whatever reasons, had a lot of goofy notions about Lovecraft's personal life that he drew not from knowledge, but by interpreting a lot of Lovecraft's writing and a lot of hearsay. He also seemed to have some kind of ax to grind. I always thought most of de Camp's fictional output was only so-so anyway. There are lot better biographies out there now so I would steer clear of this one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Disappointing. I'm not a big fan of de Camp in the first place, so this was a tough read. For one, it's pretty rambling and all over the place. For two, de Camp likes to continually remind his reader that he really doesn't like Lovecraft's writings all that much (which makes me wonder, why did you write this?). Also, he belabours some of Lovecraft's racist overtones (which would have been quite common in that day and age) into the ground. Finally, he has some of the most purple prose I've ever r Disappointing. I'm not a big fan of de Camp in the first place, so this was a tough read. For one, it's pretty rambling and all over the place. For two, de Camp likes to continually remind his reader that he really doesn't like Lovecraft's writings all that much (which makes me wonder, why did you write this?). Also, he belabours some of Lovecraft's racist overtones (which would have been quite common in that day and age) into the ground. Finally, he has some of the most purple prose I've ever read. It does give you some details about Lovecraft's life, but it's more narrative than insightful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I guess I'm just not a fan of biographies. I've read some of HPL's stories and I really enjoyed them so I figured why not learn about the man himself? the book was interesting but rather dry. overall the thing that impressed me the most was that HPL practically did a 180 on his belief system, which gives me hope that people can actually change. anyway if you're interested in his stories, I suggest "The Outsider" and "The Colour Out Of Space". they're probably my favorites but there are definitely I guess I'm just not a fan of biographies. I've read some of HPL's stories and I really enjoyed them so I figured why not learn about the man himself? the book was interesting but rather dry. overall the thing that impressed me the most was that HPL practically did a 180 on his belief system, which gives me hope that people can actually change. anyway if you're interested in his stories, I suggest "The Outsider" and "The Colour Out Of Space". they're probably my favorites but there are definitely other good ones out there. and now I will uselessly faint in the face of abject horror :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wesolowski

    I found this in my college library while doing a report for a literature class. I think I kept it signed out the entire time I was enrolled, and considered keeping it. Read it countless times. 20 years later, I find this in the bargain section at Barnes and Nobles. Like finding gold.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Wonderful biography -- captures the heartbreak, the horror, and the triumph of a most extraordinary man!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A brilliant writer, but barely hidden in the text is his racism. Play racism bingo and you'll be a winner by page 20.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Eh?

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