With so many different Lovecraft collections out there, it may help prospective buyers to know what's actually in this one:
[By Joyce Carol Oates:] Introduction; [by H.P. Lovecraft:] The Outsider; The Music of Erich Zann; The Rats in the Walls; The Shunned House; The Call of Cthulhu; The Colour out of Space; The Dunwich Horror; At the Mountains of Madness; The Shadow over Innsmouth; The Shadow out of Time
This is an excellent introductory selection of short fiction -- Lovecraft didn't write any other kind -- by one of the major figures in the history of what is nowadays called horror fiction (though a very good case can be made that, as with his idol Poe, Lovecraft belongs among the ranks of literary greats, period). Still, there are comparably fine collections available, e.g. THE CALL OF CTHULHU AND OTHER WEIRD TALES, THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP AND OTHER WEIRD TALES (both of which, unlike the collection being reviewed here, have endnotes), THE DUNWICH HORROR AND OTHERS, and AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS AND OTHER NOVELS.
What makes this particular collection a marketing novelty -- indeed, why it was ever published in the first place -- is that it's edited and introduced by a well-established, much-respected mainstream literary fiction writer, namely Oates. The publisher's hope may have been that some of those who wouldn't otherwise consider reading an oldtime pulp horror writer like Lovecraft will finally give him a try, what with Oates's more widely intellectually respected name attached. As one who believes Lovecraft deserves a much higher rank in the proverbial literary pantheon than the literary establishment generally accords him, I have no complaint about trying that approach.
But marketing strategy aside, the main reason a prospective buyer should consider choosing this particular collection is the moderate-length introductory essay by Oates, since the fiction selections are readily available elsewhere. The question, in other words, is: How valuable is her essay?
Somewhat. It's a repackaging of her review of S.T. Joshi's LOVECRAFT: A LIFE that she wrote some years back for THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. In it, she makes some sophisticated observations about Lovecraft's psyche, literary techniques, and parallels with various great mainstream American writers: Little that serious-minded Lovecraft readers don't already know, but perhaps have never before seen put so well.
Oates's essay, for those who care to do a search, can be found on her own site.