Lovecraft Lexicon: A Reader's Guide to the Persons, Places, and Things in the Tales of HP
Originally for the Crouchmass, 2006 mailing of the Esoteric Order of Dagon (#134)
|I had grave doubts about this book when I first
saw its cover. Astute readers will notice that the goofy symbol from the
depressingly-commonplace "Simon Necronomicon" appears below
the title (it's a little hard to see on the scan). As a decided non-fan of that book, I
was ready to really hate the Lovecraft lexicon as yet another attempt to cash in on
Kenneth Grant's linking of Lovecraft with Aleister Crowley. Fortunately, the Lovecraft
Lexicon is not that. Even better, it isn't the incomplete and inconsistent book that Lovecraft
in Popular Culture is. Pearsall has simply set out to catalog the many people, places
and things that appear in Lovecraft's work.
I have to admit, I gained significant confidence in the work as I read through Pearsall's biography of Lovecraft, which occupies the first twenty-five pages of the nearly five hundred pages of this book. Pearsall's prose is clear and understandable, and his biography of Lovecraft fairly well-detailed and correct. Interestingly, Pearsall references both Joshi's and DeCamp's biographies of Lovecraft, and states that he values them both, but for different reasons.
Beyond that, we have the meat of the book which turns out to be exactly what it claims to be: a guide to the people, locations and things mentioned by Lovecraft. Ultimately, trying not to draw comparisons between this and ST Joshi's An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia proved futile. I am, for example, writing this review with both books in my lap, bouncing between the two checking spelling and comparing entries. This has lead me to note that there are several errors in the Lexicon; Joe Osborn, owner of Dunwich's single commercial establishment, is listed under an "Osburn" entry, for example. And page 127 repeats page 125. Fortunately, when this was brought to the publisher's attention, they sent me a .pfd file of the correct page, ("Corsi, Bartolomeo" through "Crowninshield Manor"), and will be putting the correction up on their website. Certain entries are rather oddly referenced. Pigafetta's Regnum Congo is listed under "Pigafetta", but there is no entry under "Regnum Congo". But these are fairly small complaints; by and large, Pearsall seems to have done his homework.
The primary difference between the two is that Joshi's Encyclopedia focuses on the parts of the major trends and events in Lovecraft's work. The Encyclopedia makes ties and links to Lovecraft's life and the possible sources for the stories, giving us insight into not only Lovecraft's writings, but creating an extra dimension in attempting to understand the man who created such stories. The Lexicon does not, although it pays more attention to the smaller brush-strokes of Lovecraft's fiction. The Encyclopedia has no entry for Meadow Hill, but the Lexicon does.
Ultimately, the usefulness of the Lovecraft Lexicon is questionable, especially if you already own the H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. It's not a bad book, and while it does cover some of the same material found as the Encyclopedia, it also contains much that is not included in that work.