hero of his youth, Edgar Allan Poe.rnIn the 1920’s, there emerged a smallrnnational market for the genre of popularrnliterature known as “supernatural horror”rnor “weird fiction,” mainly through arnnow-famous pulp magazine called WeirdrnTales. Lovecraft published frequently inrnWeird Tales and similar pulps in that period,rnand indeed the principal reasonrnthey are remembered today at all is becausernof him. But even there he did notrnfit. His stories were often rejected byrnWeird Tales’s eccentric, mercenary, andrnlargely incompetent editor, FarnsworthrnWright, and in truth Lovecraft’s ownrnhighly original and distinctive tales ofrnhorror simply did not conform to the formulasrnon which Wright and similar editorsrninsisted.rnIn 1924, Lovecraft married a womanrnnamed Sonia Greene, but in marriagerntoo he was a failure. Unable to find a jobrnin New York that could support both ofrnthem, he lived on her earnings as a fashionrndesigner. He was never comfortablerndoing so, nor indeed in being married atrnall, and he insisted on divorcing her inrn1929. Reduced to poverty—at timesrnnearly to starvation—Lovecraft returnedrnto his beloved Providence to live withrnan aunt, his only remaining relative,rnscratching out less than a livelihood byrnghostwriting stories, articles, and anrnoccasional book for other “writers.”rnWracked by bad health from the days ofrnhis boyhood, unable to endure cold temperaturesrnwithout becoming comatose,rnand consuming a diet that by his ownrncalculations cost him 30 cents a day,rnLovecraft contracted both a kidney infectionrnand intestinal cancer at the age ofrn46. He died in Providence in 1937. Onlyrnseven people attended his funeral, andrnat the time of his death probably notrnmore than a thousand readers wouldrnhave recognized his name.rnAnd yet, had he lived for only a fewrnmore years, he would probably have becomernworld famous and, eventually,rnwealthy. His work has been in print almostrnsince his death, and in the latern1960’s he began to become something ofrna cult figure, Not only all his stories andrnnovelettes but five volumes of his lettersrnas well as the substantial collection of hisrnMiscellaneous Writings are in print, andrnthe stories at least continue to sell well.rnA number of biographical accounts andrnreminiscences of Lovecraft have beenrnpublished by his fans and friends; therernare at least two magazines devoted to hisrnlife and work (one of them seemingly arnserious literary journal), and two fullscalernbiographies (including Mr. Joshi’srnnew one) have appeared.rnSeveral films have been based on hisrnstories, which have influenced some ofrnthe major writers of the late 20th century,rnincluding Jorge Luis Borges and UmbertornEco, and an entire school of “supernaturalrnhorror fiction” has based itselfrnon the “Cthulhu Mythos” that he inventedrnfor his own stories. An academicrnconference on Lovecraft was held atrnBrown University on the centenary of hisrnbirth, and several monographs on himrnand his work have been published. Lovecraftrnhimself has popped up as a characterrnin several science fiction and fantasyrnnovels, as well as in comic books; a roleplayingrngame, based on one of his stories,rnhas been created, and in the 1970’s therernwas a rock band called “H.P. Lovecraft.”rnIndeed, in 1996 some Lovecraft fansrneven mounted a presidential campaignrnfor one of the principal arch-demons ofrnhis fictitious mythology, using the slogan,rn”Cthulhu For President: Why VoternFor The Lesser Evil?”rnLovecraft has thus evolved into arnmyth, and much of what has beenrnwritten about him is no less mythicalrnthan the monsters and macabre charactersrnhe created. The eccentricity of hisrnpersonality and the even more bizarrerncontours of his personal philosophicalrnand political beliefs—he was at once arnmilitant atheist and a “mechanistic materialist”rnas well as an extreme reactionaryrnand racialist, if not an outrightrnNazi, who ardently admired FranklinrnRoosevelt as well as Hitler and Mussolinirn—simply add to the myth; while thernthousands of letters he produced duringrnhis lifetime (the published five volumesrnof letters are heavily edited and abridgedrnand represent only a fraction of the total)rnrender his life and mind difficult to assimilate,rnespecially for an intelligentsiarnthat sneers at both the sort of fiction hernwrote and the ideas around which hisrnmind revolved. Some critics have placedrnhis literary work on the same level as thatrnof Poe, while others dismiss his writing asrntrash. Some regard him as a seriousrnthinker and aesthetic theorist; others,rnsimply as a crackpot and a neurotic malcontent.rnHe has been accepted almostrnliterally as a god—and as the very sandwichrnman or elevator boy he was convincedrnhe was.rnBy far the greatest merit of Mr. Joshi’srnbiography is that it takes Lovecraft seriouslyrn—perhaps too seriously—but notrnas a god. While Joshi spends a good dealrnof time elaborating and explaining Lovecraft’srnphilosophical views and showingrntheir importance to his literary work, hernis often quite savage in his assessment ofrnLovecraft’s writing at its worst. At thernsame time, he readily hails Lovecraft’srnseveral major stories as the masterpiecesrnof literary horror that they are and carefullyrnavoids the temptations either to indulgernin speculations about the more obscurerncorners of Lovecraft’s life or tornenvelop his peculiar mind and personalitvrnin the psychobabble which detractsrnfrom the other major biography of Lovecraftrnby the science fiction writer L.rnSprague de Camp.rnLovecraft’s early stories are flawedrnmainly by verbosity and what critics haverncalled “adjectivitis”—an overreliancernon adjectives to describe the horrible,rndreadful, frightening, gruesome, mindchilling,rnetc. Moreover, throughout hisrntales character development is weak: indeed,rnthere are precious few characters atrnall. The protagonists of his stories arernusually thinly disguised doppelgangers ofrnLovecraft himself, scholariy bachelors ofrngood family but dim prospects who encounterrnevents and beings that defy naturalrnexplanation and which usually endrnin the horrible, dreadful, frightening,rngruesome, mind-chilling death or dismembermentrnof the protagonist or otherrncharacters, or at least in their insanity.rnThere are virtually no female characters,rnlittle story development (Lovecraft’srnplot devices often consist of diaries, letters,rnand various documents from whichrna narrative is reconstructed), less dialogue,rnand a good deal of heavy messagernbetween the lines as to how the cosmosrnis not really as nice or neat as mere mortalsrnlike to imagine.rnThe centerpiece of his stories, developedrnat various times throughout hisrncareer but intensively in the I920’s, isrnthe aforementioned “Cthulhu Mythos,”rna term that refers to various fictitiouslyrnnamed locations in New Englandrn(Arkham, Miskatonic University), asrnwell as to a series of supernatural orrn(more accurately) extraterrestrial beingsrnknown as the “Old Ones.” In Lovecraft’srnliterary cosmology, the Old Ones—withrnnames like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth,rnNyarlathotep, Azathoth, et cetera, looselyrnderived from real mythology andrnphilology—dominated the Earth millionsrnof years ago. Hideous in appearancern(they often resemble gigantic poly-rnMAY 1997/25rnrnrn