Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon by Dan Clore (book review).

January 17, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

HP Lovecraft liked to use archaic and obscure words, often spelled out in an archaic or at least non-American sort of way. Words such as ‘gibbous’, ‘eldritch’, ‘batrachian’ and ‘cyclopean’ to name but a few. Of course, he didn’t coin these words, but the frequency with which he used them was distinctive and set him apart from his contemporaries. It’s also one of the things that his readers seem to enjoy, if the countless HPL homages and parodies are anything to go by.

WeirdWordsLovecraft

As its name suggests, ‘Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon’ is a compilation of memorable and interesting words taken from Lovecraft’s fiction. But rather than simply explaining the meaning of the word and adding one or two examples from the Lovecraft body of work, author Dan Clore has produced something far more comprehensive and erudite. He includes numerous examples of the word expressed in passages of text taken from fiction other than Lovecraft’s.

Unsurprisingly, most of the words are descriptive, but there are some naming words created by Lovecraft by tying together existing words (‘night-gaunt’ being perhaps the best known). Clore has chosen the quotations used to illustrate these words from authors who wrote before, during and after Lovecraft’s time. Although there are examples from genres other than weird fiction, these are within the minority.

If there’s a failing with the book, it’s the lack of any sort of overall argument or synthesis. For example, it isn’t explained why particular authors and quotations were used for a given word’s entry. Some readers will know that authors like Poe, Machen and Lord Dunsany were particularly enjoyed by Lovecraft and influenced his writing style, but such connections aren’t made clear. Similarly, there are quotations taken from authors who Lovecraft corresponded with such as Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, but, again, there’s no discussion of the degree to which Lovecraft influenced them. Of course, the reader may simply find out about such things from other reference books and biographies, but ‘Weird Words’ would have been more satisfying with some sort of introduction that pinned Lovecraft down within the development of weird and supernatural fiction.

However, the lack of overall synthesis or criticism notwithstanding, the thoroughness of this book is exceptional. Most readers will probably have in mind one or two words that Clore doesn’t discuss. For this reader, ‘polypous’ and ‘amorphous’ were two words that drew blanks. But that’s inevitable when a book this size tried to tackle a body of work as large as Lovecraft’s. ‘Weird Words’ is a rich, intelligent and highly entertaining that all Lovecraft fans are going to find hugely enjoyable.

Neale Monks

(pub: Hippocampus Press. 572 page paperback Price: $25.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-98242-964-8)
check out website: www.hippocampuspress.com

 

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Category: Books, Horror

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  1. It looks a good read for logophiles – particularly for Lovecraft fans such as myself. My only problem with some of these Lovecraftian adjectives is their overuse in his work – there’s only so many times I can be afraid of “eldritch horrors.” And In the Mountains of Madness must use the word “cyclopian” at least ten times…

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