Every few years we see another book of Lovecraft’s fiction in the stores, inspiring another round of questions from fans. What’s in there? Are they the corrected texts, and not just magazine reprints with typos and omissions? Does it have footnotes? What does the choice of publisher have to say about Lovecraft’s overall literary impact. And, most importantly, why should I buy it when I have a shelf of other books with the same stories?
The latest such release is The Fiction, Complete and Unabridged from Barnes and Noble, from their Library of Essential Writers series. Overall, it’s an attractive book that doesn’t add anything in terms of content to my collection – but your collection is unlikely to be complete as mine, right?
The beauty of the book is simple – it presents S. T. Joshi’s corrected texts for all of Lovecraft’s stories, omitting the revisions and some of the collaborations, along with “Supernatural Horror in Literature”. When I say all, I mean more than what owners of most paperback collections will have seen. Sure, most HPL readers will look askance at the Temperance-advocating “Old Bugs” or the Horatio Alger parody “Sweet Ermengarde”, save if they appreciate Lovecraft’s sense of humor, or at his youthful attempts at stories. On the other hand, “History of the Necronomicon”, “The Very Old Folk”, and the partial first draft of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” will be welcome additions. None of these stories have any footnotes, which might baffle those reading these for the first time, but that’s a minor objection.
The main benefits of this collection are its comprehensiveness and its price. You can get the contents of the three-volume Del Rey or Penguin paperbacks in a single hardcover volume that costs less than one book from any of those series. This makes the book ideal for people who are new to Lovecraft, or who have a volume or two and want to round out their collection. If you’re in those categories, I suggest picking up this book soon, as many volumes from the Library of Essential Writers series have gone out of print after a couple years.