Now Playing: The New Pornographers--"Jackie Dressed In Cobras"
While Charlie Pierce certainly still needs his own blog, Ezra Klein's posts, attached to the American Prospect website, are well worth reading, on foreign policy, biking, settlement patterns, why people like myself were lukewarm on Hillary Clinton, and John McCain's scintillating opinions on Social Security.
The streets of Ann Arbor have been seized in the tentacles of the dumbest thing ever, and it's the first year I haven't staffed the Planned Parenthood booth when I've been in town (last year I spent with Jess and the gang in Marquette). With the wedding and the new schedule, I didn't know how much energy I'd have to devote to interests outside the house. Fortunately, I think I've finally gotten used to working evenings instead of days; I was able to go to my friend Nicole's birthday party Tuesday night and not bring down the festivities (at least I don't think so), so these are good signs. It's high time I got back to volunteering and giving back to the community and all that high-minded crap. I also need to start cooking at home again.
L. Sprague De Camp, Lovecraft: A Biography (1975): The literature on H.P. Lovecraft is pretty immense--he's certainly one of the most heavily examined and criticized writers in the realm of weird fiction, due to his influence, his extreme attitudes on a great many subjects, and the voluminous nature of correspondence and archival material. He was a compulsive epistler, and left reams upon reams of letters to friends, casual acquaintances, and fellow writers. Bowled over by the sheer effect of the man's cumulative body of work, as well as the informative introductions to the Penguin editions of Lovecraft's works by S.T. Joshi (who's aslso done Dunsany and the great M.R. James, for whom Lovecraft had a great deal of praise in his 1927 treatise Supernatural Horror in Literature), I decided to check out L. Sprague De Camp's 1975 biography, expecting a needed defaltion, as there's been a good deal of embarrassing idolatry around Lovecraft at least since his death in 1937. De Camp is a wonderful writer, whose early novel Lest Darkness Fall (1939) and his 1940s series collected as The Compleat Enchanter demonstrated a superb gift for rendering exquisite fantastic backdrops and plots while still keeping tongue firmly in cheek to maneuever down-to-earth characters through a spectacular story. Unfortunately, he lets himself and Lovecraft down in the biography. Lovecraft was, by the standards of his day and ours, a very strange character. Smothered by a suffocating mother, he lived most of his life in Providence, with a two-year stint in Brooklyn, never held a job, and didn't seem terribly interested in sex (come to think of it, there are hardly any important female characters in his fiction, besides the strong-willed Asenath in 1933's "The Thing On The Doorstep"). To someone like De Camp, with his engineering background and firm miring in the socially conformist culture of postwar America, Lovecraft's lifestyle couldn't have been any more foreign. Much of De Camp's biography is basically a huge finger-wag at his subject, conducted with a bizarre kind of he-man prissiness that also occasionally mars Lin Carter's 1973 "history of fantasy" Imaginary Worlds (Carter was good friends with De Camp; both contributed mightily to the "sword and sorcery" quotient of American literature during the postwar era). It doesn't help that Lovecraft's racist and anti-Semitic views, though shared by most Americans during his lifetime (though he managed to ignore the latter enough to marry an attractive Jewish businesswoman for two years and stay amicable after their divorce), were expressed in his letters to a depressingly elaborate extent (although he either disowned or moderated most of these views later in his life). De Camp goes to great lengths in (correctly) explaining the then-relative-universality of such views, but does so with an unpleasant smugness that prefigures the jackasses who pride themselves on being "politically incorrect" in our own day (when they're really just endorsing old prejudices in the guise of rebellion against nonexistent oppressors)--he certainly doesn't seem to carry on this way when examining the question of Lovecraft's possible homosexuality (at one point, he mentions that of the "big three" of the classic 1923-54 pulp Weird Tales--Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith--only Smith was never suspected of having "abnormal" sexual urges, or something of that nature). I know it was 1975 and everything, but one can use historical context as a fig leaf. It's an interesting situation, actually; a biographer writing in our day, when culture in general--and presumably the biographer--would be more hostile to such attitudes, probably wouldn't indulge in such showy hand-wringing as does De Camp. De Camp's biography is good enough to start with, i suppose, but I suspect anyone wanting a more informative or sympathetic treatment might be better off with Joshi's, which I sadly haven't read yet (he's also written The Weird Tale, an analysis of the genre in the early twentieth century, which I very much look forward to reading).