Friday, December 4, 2015

Divers Hands

One of August Derleth's finest ideas was ye publication of a series of marginalia-themed books that not only included rare items from H. P. Lovecraft's pen but also, importantly, memoirs of E'ch-Pi-El by still-living members of ye Lovecraft Circle. The vile aspect of these books is that they "inspir'd" Derleth to pen one or two new collaborations "with" Lovecraft, and Augie's ego then allow'd that ye new fake collaboration serve as book title. The book's inner-flap perpetuates the myth that Derleth was completing stories that Lovecraft left unfinish'd:

"In the novella which is the title story of this collection of Lovecraftiana, August Derleth develops an incompleted Lovecraft story linking the Innsmouth and Dunwich themes, achieving a typical Lovecraftian horror."

There are so many things about that statement that are horribly false. Lovecraft wrote one story about Innsmouth and one story about Dunwich--he wou'd not have written others--as he did with the one mythical setting, Arkham, that he used repeatedly. Derleth's "The Shuttered Room" is an awful story, a clear ripoff of "The Dunwich Horror," and is an insult to Lovecraft's memory. 

But this book has some excellent features. Ye Contents:
Foreword, by August Derleth
The Shuttered Room, by August Derleth
The Fisherman of Falcon Point, by August Derleth
Juvenilia and Early Tales, by H. P. Lovecraft
     The Little Glass Bottle
     The Secret Cave
     The Mystery of the Grave-Yard
     The Mysterious Ship
     The Alchemist
     Poetry and the Gods
     The Street
Old Bugs, by H. P. Lovecraft
Idealism and Materialism: A Reflection, by H. P. Lovecraft
The Commonplace Book of H. P. Lovecraft, annotated by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei
Lovecraft in Providence, by Donald Wandrei
Lovecraft as mentor, by August Derleth
Out of the Ivory Tower, by Robert Bloch
Three Hours with H. P. Lovecraft, by Dorothy C. Walter
Memories of a Friendship, by Alfred Galpin
Four Poems
     Homage to H. P. Lovecraft, by Felix Stefanile
     H. P. L., by Clark Ashton Smith
     Lines to H. P. Lovecraft, by Joseph Payne Brennan
     Revenants, by August Derleth
The Barlow Tributes
H. P. Lovecraft: The Books, by Lin Carter
H. P. Lovecraft: The Gods, by Lin Carter
Addendum: Some Observations on the Carter Glossary, by T. G. L. Cockcroft
Notes on the Cthulhu Mythos, by George T. Wetzel
Lovecraft's First Book, by William L. Crawford
Dagon, by H. P. Lovecraft
The Strange High House in the Mist, by H. P. Lovecraft
The Outsider, by H. P. Lovecraft

To ye best of my knowledge, much of the newer material (seemingly written especially for this anthology) has never been reprinted, and much of it is interesting. The essays by Lin Carter are interesting both in their content and in the way they exhibit Carter's mania for ye Mythos, which resulted in his writing his own batch of Mythos fiction, which was then collected by Robert M. Price in ye Chaosium book, The Xothic Cycle, a book that I confess I have return'd to more than once just for the sheer joy of reading traditional Mythos fiction--although it has always seem'd to me that the stories reveal far more of a Derleth than a Lovecraft influence.

I love these Divers Hands books from Arkham House--and that phrase, "divers hands," is exactly right, and it shews the tremendous influence that Lovecraft and his work exerted during his lifetime, and shortly afterward. Happily, that eldritch influence continues, more potently than ever, in this neoteric era.

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