Collected Essays: Amateur Journalism (vol. 1)

Lovecraft, H.P.; Ed. Joshi, S.T.
Hippocampus Press 2004
ISBN 0-9721644-2-1
440pp
Date finished: 2006-07-03

Hippocampus Press, S.T. Joshi's publishing imprint, has set out to publish all of H.P. Lovecraft's nonfiction work. Most of this work was previously unattainable, buried in obscure amateur publications by long-forgotten editors. This first volume in the series collects pieces related to HPL's involvement with amateur press organizations such as the United or National Amater Press Societies (the UAPA and the NAPA).

The amateur press was something like the fanzine communities of the 1980s and 90s. People would assemble their own publications and fill them with prose or poetry, and mail them to friends or sell them for a small cost. The amateur press was more organized than the later fanzine community, though, as there were national organizations that They even held irregular conferences from time to time, just like today's webloggers.

I can't fault this book's production or quality, but most of the content is only of interest to a potential Lovecraft scholar or biographer. There are editorials on one political squabble or another -- the UAPA split in two, reassembled a few years later, and Lovecraft left for the NAPA, for example -- and notes from committee chairs. HPL wrote a column that reviewed the various amateur publications received, and several are included here, but dissections of long-dead minor writers aren't very interesting. Even a Lovecraft completist won't want to plow through this mass of old text.

A sampling:

The Piper for May is a delightfully discriminating bit of selected verse and criticism. Mr Kleiner's remarks on metrical precision ought to attract attention, while his lines on "The Books I Used to Read" brought up tender memories in our hearts.

However, we wish that Miss Ronning were less fond of unusual rhyming arrangements. The lines here given are of regular ballad length. Were they disposed in couplets, we should have a tuneful lay of the "Chevy Chase" order; but as it is, our ear misses the steady couplet effect to which the standard models have accustomed us.

There are a very few pieces that aren't completely forgettable, such as a touching eulogy for Mrs. Edith Miniter, a central figure in the Boston amateur club. During a stay at her farmhouse, HPL was told about whippoorwill legends that show up in "The Dunwich Horror", and the terrain in that story is modelled on the Wilbraham MA area where she lived. The book is worth dipping into, but certainly won't be read straight through.

Tagged: essays

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/2006/07/Amateur_Journalism.html

%T Collected Essays
%V 1
%S Amateur Journalism
%A Lovecraft, H.P.
%E Joshi, S.T.
%I Hippocampus Press
%G ISBN 0-9721644-2-1
%K essays
%@ 2006-07-03
%P 440pp
%D 2004

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