Review: The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature and From The Pest Zone

From Bukowski Zine

The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature by H.P. Lovecraft (Ed) S.T. Joshi

From The Pest Zone: The New York Stories of HP Lovecraft (Ed) S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz

Here at Bukowski Zine we often ask ourselves 'what makes a cult writer?' Someone who has small book sales to a loyal group of readers? Someone who's life style is not unlike the books he writes? (Bukowski immediately springs to mind on this.) Well, meet H. P. Lovecraft: the ultimate cult writer in my estimation. Like Bukowski, he had a wretched life but found the outlet for his writing in small amateur journals and pulp magazines of the 20s and 30s. Unlike Bukowski, Lovecraft only saw one of his books in print during his lifetime (The Shadow Over Innsmouth, 1936) but like Bukowski, Europe was first to embrace him, recognising the originality of his weird demonic fiction over his own native country. This eventual recognition of Lovecraft's writing was largely thanks to August Derleth who became a close friend and publisher, founding Arkham House as a way of preserving Lovecraft's best stories in the book form. Now we're in the year 2000 and Hippocampus Press are following in the footsteps of Arkham House putting out more great writing by or about Lovecraft to fan the flame of reader interest (which is growing by the year judging by the websites!)

The first book to hand is The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature written by HP Lovecraft in 1927 and edited by Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi in 2000. The original book was a seminal guide for lovers of Horror and Weird fiction alike but to my mind this new annotated edition goes one better. Why? Because it's like reading the original book, then having a Lovecraft expert (Joshi) on hand to clarify the points raised or inject some of his own interesting opinions on the authors covered. If you're into Lovecraft or just getting into weird fiction then this is the place to start. Most of the "heavyweights" of that genre are covered here including Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood to name a few. indeed a supernatural source book to treasure. The "Recluse" illustration by Vrest Orton is surely a future depiction of Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi as he labours furiously over the meaning of an old H. P. Lovecraft shopping list...

Next to hand is From the Pest Zone: The New York Stories of H. P. Lovecraft (Hippocampus Press) edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi (S. T. Joshi again? Is this man August Derleth reincarnated??)

For a writer like Lovecraft who felt he belonged in the serene antiquity of another era, his stay in the big city during 1924 to 1926 - as destitute as he was - must have felt truly wretched. Unlike Bukowski, who found much inspiration in the REALITY of such gritty places, to Lovecraft's tastes it was sheer hell. The Pest Zone contains five stories from this Hellish period, each with useful background notes and photo's that encapsulate a telling portrait of Lovecraft's anger and despair at this point in his life.

It's an interesting book not only for the stories contained but also as a telling insight into the mind of a struggling visionary writer as he tries to express himself through imagination and memory on the page to escape from the drudges of his real life at that time. Lastly let me say one of the most pleasing aspects about these two Lovecraft books by Hippocampus Press are the formats and cover illustrations. If Lovecraft were alive today I'm sure he would SHUDDER with delight at Sean Madden's excellent cover; the exotic red and green despotic megalopolis illustration is a superb visual vista of what awaits the reader inside.