Thursday, May 15, 2008

...At Last

It's funny how some books make such an impression that even a rereading thirty-five years later is a moving experience. Willis Conover's Lovecraft at Last is just such a book.

Conover was a fifteen year old boy when he began corresponding with H.P. Lovecraft; it was a correspondence that would continue for a little more than a year, ending with the Lovecraft's death. Conover saved his correspondence with Lovecraft for decades, ultimately sharing it with the world in this book. But he didn't just transcribe the text; he reproduced letters and notes and postcards and evenelopes written in HPL's own hand, even working with the publisher to come up with just the proper blend of ink that would capture the distinctive blue-black tone of Lovecraft's written missives.

It's an amazing book that opens a friendship for the world to see; there's no particular reason for Lovecraft and this teenage boy to have become such avid correspondents and good friends, but it's obvious that the friendship meant a great deal to both. The correspondence is far-reaching and fascinating, presenting HPL's views on a number of subjects--but most of all, the book reminds us of the permanence of friendship, and how it can survive long after the friends are gone.

The book ends with a note from Lovecraft's aunt, sharing the somber news that her nephew had passed away. By the time you reach that final page, you understand just how devastating that letter must have been to Conover; he says nothing after that because he doesn't have to.

Books of letters are often a bit dry; this book, however, brings both Lovecraft and Conover to life on the page. I understand the book has been reprinted; while the reprint might not have been prepared with the same loving attention to ink-color detail, etc., as the original Carrolton & Clark edition, it's still going to have the same emotional impact. I can't recommend it enough.

1 comment:

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You're right, Cliff. It is a wonderful book, and I mean that in all senses of the word wonder. I read about half of it last night and I'm amazed at the patience Lovecraft showed toward his young corespondent. At his long and well thought out answers and at his willingness to enter into the spirit of the boy's juvenile humor. I'm also amazed at the anecdotes Lovecraft relates about Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and the like. Very different from the sort of letters HPL wrote to his writer friends. Oh and of course I was surprised and pleased by the appearances of early fandom members like Mort Weisinger, Julius Schwartz, Donald Wollheim, and Otto Binder. And man, everybody rags on Forry Ackerman, don't they? Though I know the book can't end well, I'm seriously enjoying this record of a friendship. Thanks for loaning it to me.