Midnight Rambles

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Midnight Rambles: H.P. Lovecraft in Gotham by David J. Goodwin

Hardcover – Fordham University Press – Nov 2023 – 287 pages

By the end of his life and near financial ruin, pulp horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft resigned himself to the likelihood that his writing would be forgotten. Today, Lovecraft stands alongside J. R. R. Tolkien as the most influential genre writer of the twentieth century. His reputation as an unreformed racist and bigot, however, leaves readers to grapple with his legacy. Midnight Rambles explores Lovecraft’s time in New York City, a crucial yet often overlooked chapter in his life that shaped his literary career and the inextricable racism in his work.

Initially, New York stood as a place of liberation for Lovecraft. During the brief period between 1924 and 1926 when he lived there, Lovecraft joined a creative community and experimented with bohemian living in the publishing and cultural capital of the United States. He also married fellow writer Sonia H. Greene, a Ukrainian-Jewish émigré in the fashion industry. However, cascading personal setbacks and his own professional ineptitude soured him on New York. As Lovecraft became more frustrated, his xenophobia and racism became more pronounced. New York’s large immigrant population and minority communities disgusted him, and this mindset soon became evident in his writing. Many of his stories from this era are infused with racial and ethnic stereotypes and nativist themes, most notably his overtly racist short story, “The Horror at Red Hook,” set in Red Hook, Brooklyn. His personal letters reveal an even darker bigotry.

Author David J. Goodwin presents a chronological micro-biography of Lovecraft’s New York years, emphasizing Lovecraft’s exploration of the city environment, the greater metropolitan region, and other locales and how they molded him as a writer and as an individual. Drawing from primary sources (letters, memoirs, and published personal reflections) and secondary sources (biographies and scholarship), Midnight Rambles develops a portrait of a talented and troubled author and offers insights into his unsettling beliefs on race, ethnicity, and immigration.

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