Saturday, May 19, 2012

O Fortunate Floridian: H. P. Lovecraft's Letters to R. H. Barlow

The University of Tampa Press published in 2007 a selection of the letters of H. P. Lovecraft edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz.  O Fortunate Floridian:  H. P. Lovecraft's Letters to R. H. Barlow is a  volume of 465 pages, with a press run of only 500 copies, handsomely bound in green cloth, stamped in gold lettering, with illustrations and appendices having the usual bibliographical apparatus as well as some of Barlow's autobiographical writings.  These present his memories of Lovecraft.  Robert H. Barlow, who was born in 1918, began corresponding with Lovecraft in 1931.  He later became a leading figure in Mexican archaeology, but ended his life in Mexico by suicide in 1951. 

A check of OCLC reveals that most copies of O Fortunate Floridian are held by academic libraries.  In a way, this is good because it may mean that Lovecraft is being accepted into the literary canon.  There is also the banal fact that books in academic libraries seem to suffer less abrasion, wear and tear, and just plain chewing by the family dog, than do books in public libraries.  This is not to denigrate public libraries, which this reviewer loves.  Of course, I love all libraries.  Go to the library, say I, if you would escape from wherever you are, which is usually "the pits" anyway.   (Since O Fortunate Floridian costs $40, I have read a library's copy.  For those with a large discretionary income, though, a copy of the book is a most worthy purchase.)

Readers familiar with the letters of Lovecraft will find few surprises here.  The letters do reflect the views of Lovecraft during the final years of his life.  Although still a traditionalist in a cultural sense, he had come to reject laissez faire capitalism.  Those who might be distressed by Lovecraft's "racism" or his anti-Semitism will find little to distress them in O Fortunate Floridian.

Although Lovecraft changed some of his views, he remained a steadfast adherent of amateur journalism to his last day.  It was his chief publishing venue outside of such "pulp" magazines as Weird Tales.   Amateur journalism is traceable back to the 19th century.  Thomas Edison practiced amateur journalism, as a youth had his own printing press and produced a paper which he sold on railway trains where he worked.  One wonders what has happened to amateur journalism today.  Perhaps the "blogs" on the Internet are the successors to amateur journalism.  Are today's amateur journalists the millions of "bloggers" on the Internet?  If so, they may soon totally displace professional journalists, given the increasing decline of newspaper circulations.

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