Originally published in 1895, Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow is a marvel of supernatural fiction that has influenced a number of writers in the genre, most notably H. P. Lovecraft. Its powerful combination of horror and lyrical prose has made it a classic, a masterpiece of weird fiction that endures to this day.
There is a book that is shrouded in mystery. Some even say it's a myth. Within its pages is a play - one that brings madness and despair to all who read it. It is the play of the King in Yellow, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.
The King in Yellow is a collection of stories interwoven loosely by the elements of the play, including the central figure himself.
Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
"True Detective" is the only telly I've watched all year, and I only finished it over Thanksgiving. (Nothing against watching telly, I'm just a workaholic). Before watching the series, I'd never heard of this author, far less of this book. But I am a huge Ambrose Bierce fan, so when they referenced "Carcosa," I was intrigued.
After I finished watching, I went back to my well-worn Bierce and found his short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa," the penultimate tale in his 1893 collection "Can Such Things Be?"
The story is told through the medium Bayrolles, a form he uses more than once. The deceased soul tells the medium of how he came from "the ancient city of Carcosa" to find his own grave and then the ruins of his former dwelling place. It's a haunting, time-twisting, dark, breathtakingly brief story so typical of Bierce: "I called aloud the names of my wives and sons, reached out my hands in search of theirs, even as I walked among the crumbling stones and the withered grass..."
Then I checked out "The King in Yellow," and found in its first chapter, "The Repairer of Reputations" a brief reference that points to the Bierce story, including mention of "the lake of Hali," and "Carcosa, where the black stars hang in the heavens."
I listened on, becoming ever more disappointed in the book. Far from being a Bierce-inspired story or pointing to anything much in "True Detective," it's an overwrought, fevered, disorganized mess. It seems to be a pale shadow of the French Decadent and Symbolist writers. The first part is really a long story, with several short stories with only the most tenuous connection to the original premise.
If you like the character of Rust, Bierce's work is full of complicated, dark, tormented, wonderfully wild men with pasts. Many times the characters are "here but not here" and seem to have one foot in this world and the other in the next. I highly recommend his work to any reader. And Bierce is classic for a reason: his work has held up over time. Chambers' work has not.
Perhaps in 1895 when it was published, "The King in Yellow" was more relevant. It might even be possible that the murderers in "True Detective" could have built their dark Mardi Gras rites around it's themes. But for today's reader, I'm not sure it has much value, and for "True Detective" fans, it's not going to help much. Look to the original master, Bierce. Time with him is always well spent.
The complete shift of story type in the second half. The first half of the book is a series of macabre short stories in the vein of Poe, but then the second half turns into a series of pointless romantic blathering about American artists in Paris' Latin Quarter at the close of the 19th century. I kept waiting for the stories to take a turn but they just continued to prattle on about pots of pansies and the inane interactions between the artists and their various crushes.
Rudnicki's monotone performance with little distinction between characters means I am unlikely to listen to something by him again. Gabrielle de Cuir only performed the occasional snippet of poetry at the beginning of a story. Basically a non-entity.
Disappointment. The actual stories around the fictional play of the King in Yellow were intriguing, but the rest was a waste of time
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