H.P. Lovecraft: Collected Fiction: A Variorum Edition

Edited by S. T. Joshi. Hippocampus (www.hippocampus.com), $180 (1600p) ISBN 978-1-61498-108-4
This definitive three-volume compilation of Lovecraft's complete fiction—a fourth volume featuring his collaborations and stories that he ghost wrote for other writers is due out later in 2015—is an HPL enthusiast's dream: a record of all textual variants in important publications for each of the horror titan's tales. The culmination of the 20 years of research that Lovecraft scholar Joshi put into correcting thousands of errors and editorial alterations to the stories in the standard editions of Lovecraft's works, the texts in this edition differ slightly from the corrected texts published by Arkham House between 1984 and 1986 owing to Joshi's reconsideration of some of Lovecraft's stylistic tics—among them Lovecraft's preferred, though inconsistent, use of British spellings, and his presumed acceptance in his later works of style changes imposed by the magazines in which they originally appeared. Where possible, Joshi consulted autograph manuscripts, typescripts, and even personally annotated copies of magazines in which Lovecraft restored phrasing changed by the editors. The stories are organized chronologically in order of their composition, and each features an editor's note detailing its publishing history and the copy text used to compare against other editions of the work. The contents of Volume I span the years 1905 to 1925 and feature 45 tales. The vast majority of corrections are virtually subclinical, at the level of punctuation and word choices, although Joshi identifies revisions to a handful of works that first appeared in the amateur press before Lovecraft submitted them for professional publication, as well as changes that he made to two of his better-known early tales—"Dagon" and "The Rats in the Walls"—between their first publication in Weird Tales (the pulp magazine that was the biggest market for his fiction) and their reprints in later issues of the magazine. The 13 stories in Volume II, published between 1926 and 1930, include several major works, among them "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" and "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath," neither of which was published in Lovecraft's lifetime and whose hundreds of corrections show the difficulties Lovecraft's publishers faced transcribing the crabbed handwriting of his original manuscripts. One of the volume's highlights is the reprinting of an entire paragraph that Lovecraft excised from the climactic finale of his monster masterpiece, "Pickman's Model." Volume III, which covers the years 1931 through 1937, features nine of Lovecraft's greatest stories, as well as several incidental pieces and juvenile works. Its centerpieces are the cosmic horror classic "The Shadow out of Time," whose autograph manuscript surfaced after Joshi's speculative correction of its heavily edited text in 1986, and "At the Mountains of Madness," the most problematic work in the Lovecraft canon since it is not clear which deviations from Lovecraft's autograph manuscript are attributable to him or to his editors. Although the overwhelming majority of textual variants that Joshi identifies will be of interest primarily to Lovecraft scholars rather than to casual readers, anyone who appreciates the care with which Lovecraft chose words and applied his unique style to create his unique works of modern horror will find this excursion into the minutiae of his craft both fascinating and rewarding. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014
Genre: Fiction
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