Wandrei, Donald [Albert]
- (1908–1987)weird poet and short story writer living chiefly in St. Paul, Minn., and correspondent of HPL (1926– 37). Wandrei had been corresponding with Clark Ashton Smith since 1924; in late 1926 Smith asked Wandrei to return some of HPL’s manuscripts directly to HPL after reading them. Wandrei did so, thereby initiating an association that lasted till HPL’s death. The two writers exchanged manuscripts, and HPL offered advice to Wandrei on some of his but did no revision. Wandrei had already written “The Chuckler,” a pseudo-sequel to HPL’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” although it remained unpublished until it appeared in Fantasy Magazine(September 1934). Wandrei had an extensive library of weird fiction and lent HPL several key volumes, notably F.Marion Crawford’s Wandering Ghosts (1911) and Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned (1919). HPL was instrumental in securing the acceptance of Wandrei’s “The Twilight of Time” for WT(it appeared in the October 1927 issue under the title “The Red Brain”); Wandrei returned the favor when visiting the WToffices in the summer of 1927, urging Farnsworth Wright to accept HPL’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” which Wright had earlier rejected. Wandrei’s trip was part of a long hitchhiking expedition from St. Paul to Providence, with an extensive stop in New York to meet HPL’s friends (especially Samuel Loveman). Wandrei arrived in Providence on July 12, staying till July 29. Part of this time Frank Belknap Long and James F. Morton were also present. Some months later HPL put Wandrei in touch with August Derleth, initiating a lifelong relationship. HPL advised Wandrei to let W. Paul Cook publish his first volume of poetry, Ecstasy and Other Poems (1928). A second volume, Dark Odyssey (1931), was published in St. Paul.After 1929 the correspondence became more sporadic. For a time Wandrei worked in the advertising department of E.P.Dutton in New York, but he gave up the job and returned to St. Paul to write. Wandrei published numerous horror tales in WT;HPL had a high regard for many of them, finding in them a cosmic quality lacking in much work of its kind (see SL3.196). In 1931–32 Wandrei wrote the weird novel Dead Titans, Waken!,partially inspired by HPL’s work; HPL admired it but suggested numerous revisions in style and proportioning. The novel was not published in this form, but appeared years later in a revised edition as The Web of Easter Island(1948). In 1932 Wandrei completed a mainstream novel, Invisible Sun; HPL also expressed approbation of this work (even though it contained much explicit sexual content), but it too remained unpublished. (This novel and Dead Titans, Waken!have now been published in one volume [Fedogan & Bremer, 2001].) In September 1932 Wandrei visited HPL again in Providence; he met HPL also occasionally during the latter’s year-end visits to New York in the 1930s. By this time he was doing much writing for the science fiction pulps, with such tales as “Colossus” (Astounding Stories,January 1934) and “Infinity Zero” ( Astounding Stories,October 1936), as well as stories for the mystery pulps, many involving the detective Ivy Frost. He also appeared occasionally in high-paying mainstream markets; for example, ‘The Eye and the Finger” ( Esquire,December 1936). A horror tale, “The Tree-Men of M’Bwa” ( WT,February 1932), is regarded by some as Lovecraftian. HPL thought Wandrei’s later work had succumbed to pulp standards—a criticism that Wandrei found highly discouraging when he read it in HPL’s letters years later.After HPL’s death August Derleth and Donald Wandrei founded Arkham House to publish HPL’s work in hard covers. Wandrei was particularly insistent that HPL’s letters be published, and he spent years editing HPL’s Selected Letters (1965–76), even though his enlistment in the army in 1942 curtailed his literary career and his other work for Arkham House. Wandrei’s literary career never resumed thereafter, largely because he needed to tend to his increasingly ailing mother and sister; he became a virtual recluse in his home in St. Paul. Arkham House published two collections of his weird tales, The Eye and the Finger (1944) and Strange Harvest (1965), and his poetry, Poems for Midnight (1964). Wandrei prepared texts of the last two volumes of HPL’s Selected Letters, and, although his name does not appear as editor, it seems that his texts were largely used as the basis of the selections. After Derleth’s death in 1971, Wandrei became embroiled in a bitter dispute with Derleth’s successors at Arkham House and ultimately severed his relations with the firm. Following his death, his work was gathered in more thematically coherent editions: Collected Poems (Necronomicon Press, 1988); Colossus(Fedogan & Bremer, 1989), his collected science fiction tales; Don’t Dream (Fedogan & Bremer, 1997), his collected horror and fantasy tales; and Frost (Fedogan & Bremer, 2000), a collection of his detective tales (others are forthcoming). The joint HPL-Wandrei correspondence is forthcoming as Mysteries of Time and Spirit (Fedogan & Bremer, 2002).See Studies in Weird Fiction No. 3 (Fall 1988) (special Wandrei issue, with articles by Dennis Rickard, S.T.Joshi, Marc A.Michaud, Steve Behrends, and T.E.D.Klein); Richard L.Tierney, “Introduction” to Wandrei’s Colossus (1989); D.H.Olson, “Afterword: Of Donald Wandrei, August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft,” in Wandrei’s Don’t Dream (1997).
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.
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