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H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schulz Book Review | SFReader.com
H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schulz Genre: Non-Fiction Publisher: Hippocampus Press Published: 2004 Review Posted: 6/12/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10
H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schulz
Book Review by Phillip A. Ellis
Have you read this book?
It is probably no exaggeration to argue that H. P. Lovecraft is the most
influential writer of speculative fiction from the first half of the
twentieth century. Not only have his works generated the entire Cthulhu
Mythos in their wake, not only has he influenced most subsequent writers of
weird fiction, and many of his contemporaries, and not only have his works
remained a fruitful source of adaptations, he has proved instrumental in the
blurring of categories, mixing horror with science fiction, fantasy with
philosophy, and creating a rich and complex oeuvre.
Yet, his total body of extant work far exceeds this focus on genre fiction.
His collected essays will fill five volumes, his poetry has been collected
into one massive collection, and his total number of letters are still in
the process of being published. He was, then, much more and other than just
a weird fictioneer, and this encyclopedia not only reflects this, but
reinforces this reading.
For the most part, the emphasis is upon the fiction. Entries cover not only
the titles, but also significant characters. Typically, they summarise the
story, and give further information. Most also have potted bibliographies,
listing significant studies of the individual works. Similar entries exist
for the major poems, and the major characters also have entries. The
information in these entries is succinct and to the point, wasting no space
on irrelevancies or trivia. On the whole, these entries succeed in conveying
a basic introduction to the work of Lovecraft, and they form a very cogent
reason for purchasing this book.
In addition, amateur and professional colleagues also get their own entries.
Here, the emphasis is on their relations with Lovecraft, and with giving
some idea, for those who are writers, of their significant works. Again, the
entries are succinct, and they easily convey the range of Lovecraft's
contacts and friendships, easily belying any accusations of him being a
Although the bulk of the entries focus on the work and contemporaries, on
the various titles and figures, there are also lemma on several topics. Each
of these is, once more, succinct, yet at the same time they remain
authoritative. These three groups of entries make up the bulk of the book,
however, they are supplemented by both an index and a comprehensive
bibliography. Taken as a whole, then, this book is an invaluable reference;
it would do well to keep a copy by your side when you tackle Joshi's
biography of Lovecraft, as the entries would illuminate and enlighten on the
occasions when used.
Having said all this, there are, nonetheless, problems. Notably, there is a
lack of cross-referencing between most of the entries. This limits the
encyclopedia's efficaciousness, naturally, and interesting and useful
entries could easily be missed. Also, the emphasis on the fiction, and, to a
lesser extent, the other non-epistolatory works, disguises the wealth and
richness to be found in the letters. A greater indication of the breadth of
Lovecraft's interests, and his thought, would be more than welcome,
especially where they would illuminate other works.
On the whole, though, this is a masterful production. It will remain the
standard general reference to Lovecraft and his works for a long time yet,
and should be in the hands of every serious fan and Lovecraft scholar. As
such, then, it remains indispensable, and a marvellous overview of
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