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The King in Yellow – Robert W. Chambers #BookReview

Title:
The King in Yellow and Other Stories

Author:
Robert W. Chambers

Genre:
Horror/Weird Fiction

Book procurement:
Obtained a copy from The Project Gutenberg

Rating:

A pleasant 3 out of 5

Synopsis:

“Every story of The King in Yellow has something riveting about it … so perfectly realized, they became the model for much of twentieth-century horror/fantasy.” — New York Press
One of the most important works of American supernatural fiction since those of Poe, The King in Yellow was among the first attempts to establish the horror of the nameless and the unimaginable. A treasured source used by almost all the significant writers in the American pulp tradition — H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and many others — it endures as a work of remarkable power and one of the most chillingly original books in the genre.
This collection reprints all the supernatural stories from The King in Yellow, including the grisly “Yellow Sign,” the disquieting “Repairer of Reputations,” the tender “Demoiselle d’Ys,” and others. Robert W. Chambers’ finest stories from other sources have also been added, such as the thrilling “Maker of Moons” and “The Messenger.” In addition, an unusual pleasure awaits those who know Chambers only by his horror stories: three of his finest early biological science-fiction fantasies from In Search of the Unknown appear here as well.

First Thoughts

I’m a Stephen King fan. I’ve read my share of Edgar Allen Poe. Fawned over H.P. Lovecraft. All of them influenced in some way by Robert W. Chambers from Stephen King’s Crimson King in The Dark Tower series to mention of the Yellow Sign in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in the Darkness. Once I learned of these correlations, it is obvious I would read the very man who influenced the writers who influenced me.

So I was expecting something of profound darkness and fear and instead  was greeted by a good dose of weird fiction. The title of this book is also the name of the book appearing in most of the short stories contained within the anthology; a fictional play called The King in Yellow. It reminds me of the “Necronomicon” where madness proceeds those that either read through it or research its contents. The first few stories had me begging for more while the remaining stories moved from the weird and into character development.

This book (the Necronomicon) was also the inspiration for my Wattpad horror novella Faux.

The Story

The Repairer of Reputations

A fascinating story to kick off the weirdness in the collection. A man is drawn towards a recluse whose business is repairing the reputation of those in society. While there is much scorn for this Repairer, out protagonist Constance finds much fascination in the man and the journal he keeps. One that causes deep paranoia and abject egotism in Constance, all of which relate to The King. Yes, that king.

The Mask

The story begins with an excerpt from the play The King in Yellow Act I, Scene 2. From then we delve into the lives of Alec, Boris, and Geneviève where Alex and Boris are artists (sculptors). Boris finds a peculiar substance that can transform live objects into pure, detailed marble works. At the same time there is romance and art revolving around the three. Beautiful and mesmerising.

In The Court of the Dragon

Ah this was one of my favourite stories. A man is in a church and spots a perculiar organist who begins to haunt him. He fears the man is after his soul. You get a sense of fear and paranoia as he seeks to escape what he feels is certain fate.

The Yellow Sign

Another one that prickled my sense of paranoia (are you getting the theme yet?) where an artist (this too) finds himself haunted by vivid dreams and a sinister, bizarre churchyard watchman who resembles a maggot. There is also some romance involved.

The Demoiselle D’YS

Yeah… So I had to translate a lot of words from French to English to understand some of the words being used here but a lot of the story can be read without needing to fully understand the romantic language. The story also contains a lot of references to The King in Yellow although no actual reference to the book is used. Romance builds very quickly in what I can only describe as a ghost story.

The Prophets’ Paradise

Beautifully written short prose pieces that speak of love and death and beauty, all drawn from a quote within the King in Yellow.

The Street of the Four Winds

This was a unique story that did not involve art (but an artist) or romance but a cat. Yes a feline stops at the door of Severn and he seeks to take care of it while looking for its owner. The end takes an interesting morbid twist.

The Street of the First Shell

A poignant tale set in Paris during the Paris Seige of 1870 as bombs drop and a poverty stricken city do what they can to survive. Protagonist Jack cares for his sickly wife who worries dearly about him leaving the house at night while bombs drop from the sky. Nothing weird or horrific in this tale in terms of the supernatural, but only of the horrors of romance.

The Street of Our Lady of the Fields / Rue Barrèe

More sentimental, moving stories of love and romance set in Paris and among artists coming from America to be art students in the city. A story with an assortment of fascinating characters and a bohemian lifestyle. Gorgeous setting and character development.

Writing

Beyond the weird and the paranoia and assortment of artists practicing their art in Paris, the writing itself is vivid and descriptive. Enough to give form to each character you meet and delving into each of their personas with clarity. Allowing you to feel their heartbreaks, their paranoia and all the emotions they experience. Chamber’s writing style flows eloquently and at the same time almost disjointed. Reflecting the very way  people speak and think despite what our contemporaries might deem grammatically incorrect.

Deep reflective writing if I have read any.

Final Thoughts

While the content of the short stories were not exactly what I was expecting, there is no denying the beauty of Chamber’s writing style and ability to create such well detailed characters. As though he himself were observing these very people and writing of them in their presence. I glean some of that Stephen King character development style, understanding the influence may extend beyond the embodiment of evil known as the Crimson King.

I won’t say I enjoyed the book for its horror, but the ideas were unique and wide spread and the writing masterful.


The King in Yellow was published in 1895/1970.

Did you know: Lovecraft borrowed Chambers’ method of only vaguely referring to supernatural events, entities, and places, thereby allowing his readers to imagine the horror for themselves. The play The King in Yellow effectively became another piece of occult literature in the Cthulhu Mythos alongside the Necronomicon and others.

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Let’s Pretend: Guest Poem – Ole’s Truth #Poetry

Another heart-wrenching poem by Olerato of Ole’s Truth.


Okay so let’s play a game of pretend.

Let’s pretend for a second that I was in love with you.

While we’re at it, let’s pretend for a second you were in love with me too. What would our love affair look like? how would the story of our meeting go and would my face have the rosy, angelic glow of someone in love when they recount watching the rose in the concrete that is their love take seed and grow.

Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend I could look in the mirror and see myself measure up to your standards.

Would I be the image of something you call beautiful or would I be all that’s left for a cornered animal feeling the walls of time closing in on them?

Would I be your best or simply the rest in place of the dream of what you once had for yourself?

Let’s just pretend Let’s pretend I never lose you to another man and build a pretend world where we count the passing days by the mornings we spent in bed and the night we spent doing anything but sleeping for fear that we might miss each other too much. Let our game of pretend be held in this pretend world where we pretend count the passing of time by the passing of rose tinted seasons and such. Let time not touch us in this world. Let’s make love. Let’s make pretend love in the fullness there of, feeling each other into the eternal vows we’d make to each other to take. Take care of each other. Give as much as we take from each other.

Let’s pretend we stood in each other’s waltz-like embrace as time got hard and we realise that raising kids is a lot harder than anyone told us it would be. Let’s pretend our teenage son has started to rebel and out teenage daughter thinks we’re the devil. They both hate us.

But let’s pretend through it all that we’d hold each other close even as we see them off to college and eventually down the isle.

Let’s pretend we’re alone again and our empty nest is filled with a strong but nostalgic kinda love. That we’ve been through hell and back kinda love. That I gave you the space to grieve our drunk driving statistic of a son and our suicide story of a daughter. They still kinda hated us. But that’s okay because we held strong, showering them with all the love and adoration our star-crossed hearts could muster.

Let’s pretend the constant worrying over your mental state and bottled up grief over our kids turns me pale and has me lose my mind’s creative luster.

Let’s pretend that I fall ill and despite this gown made of hospital tubes, my bones that ache and my skin that burns, I still just wanna be held by you.

Even though I’d never wanna leave you I see the reaper at your shoulder staring with sad and hollow eyes. As the old man takes my hand, I close my eyes and pretend his hand is yours. Let’s pretend our life was tragic but happy despite our best intentions.

Let’s pretend in the end we couldn’t keep out misery and one of us will eventually leave. Would you still wanna pretend with me?

Would you stay here and play pretend with me?


Do you have poetry you would like to share on my blog? Any sort, any length and any topic. Let me know 🙂

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea #BookRecommendation

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (French: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers) is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne, published in 1870. It is about the fictional Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus, as seen by one of his passengers, Professor Pierre Aronnax.


This is one of those classics I have yet to read and have heard great things about. From Jules Verne, the man who wrote “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” he is obviously on my to read list and should be on yours too.

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the genre of science-fiction. Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated author of all time, behind Disney Productions and Agatha Christie. His prominent novels have been made into films. Verne, along with H. G. Wells, is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

Submitting the Perfect Story

The year begins with a bang and there’s been much afoot since the clock turned the calendar over from 2017 to 2018. I’ll be meeting Nicky of Chasing Dreams Publishing this Saturday to work on getting my own novella published. What I hope to be a psychological thriller horror based on a short story I’m working on.

This particular short story is an idea I want to submit to FlashBack Fiction by the end of this week. The foundation for what is to come. The problem is that I keep running into the same wall every time I get to that 500 word limit; I find the story… boring.


The Perfect Story

I sit at my desk and let the mind begin its usual marathon run through visuals and ideas until it latches upon a man in a high collar shirt, white, and sleeves rolled to the elbows. Perfectly tousled hair whips in the soft breeze as he walks through a bustling street filled with dames in flouncing dress and lace parasols. The men tip hats, lips curling up with their carefully trimmed mustaches. Others ride by nonchalant on bicycles with empty baskets leading the way. Many park against intermittent trees lining the paved walkways where cafes and curious shops have opened for the morning. Woven chairs are arranged around square tables draped in cloth, adorned with cutlery and obscure vases from the local artisans. Coffee. Bacon. Toast. Their scents fill the warm air. Accompanying the scent is the rustle of leaves from the nearby trees. The crinkle of newspaper as a man in a bowler hat turns his copy of Die Zeit. Tranquil. Peaceful. Happy.

It contrasts the thoughts swirling through my protagonist who watches with a careful smile hiding his darkest thoughts. The satchel at his waist portrays him as an artisan though none know of his particular work. Of the “museum” that awaits him in the bricked apartments right above the supposed serenity the scene in front of him plays. He knows behind the coiffed styles of both the men and woman, behind their rosy cheeks and wide smiles and oiled beards lie secrets. Fears. Worries. Dark thoughts. They aren’t that much different from him. Not much at all.

And this is where I begin my story. The above description is a cut scene from my mind and now we step into the protagonist’s shoes as the writing begins.

Only from here, as I try to slip the darkness into the serenity, I find the pacing too slow or too fast. The transition too drastic or not drastic enough. I’m failing to find the balance between writing style and effect. To add that gut-wrenching punch drawing breath from lungs as you wail “No!” in horror and squirm where you sit, glancing behind you as paranoia sweeps along your spine in cold tendrils.

That. That is what my perfect story would be. But I’m struggling here. Anyway let me get to writing the new draft and see if I can craft the perfect story so I can submit it. *Sighs

Memorable Books

I was going to post the book review for C.L. Polk’s debut novella, Witchmark, but then I remembered that it first has to appear in our next issue of Gamecca Magazine first which means it will have to wait until next month. It’s a contract thing. Anyway while I’m still working through Robert W. Chambers’ The King In Yellow for the next review (I’m halfway through don’t worry), I thought perhaps I should talk about books for today.


There’s this part of me that wishes I had impeccable memory and can recall the contents of a book thoroughly enough to sound… well like a scholar. I know it sounds pretentious but have you heard people talk about books like they were literally living in them? Character names. Places. Events. Linking scenes and quotes between books to draw revelations I would have otherwise completely missed. I want that ha ha. Although in my defense, I spent way too much of my youth reading Stephen King so I could probably do that with a couple of his books (looks at the collection of The Dark Tower novels).

Memorable Books

While I may lack that ability to fully recount a book’s contents, here are some memorable books I’ve read over the years that I remember well and still think of to this day. Some I can draw correlations across other books while others just changed my worldview:

1. The Program – Gregg Hurwitz

The Program Gregg Hurwitz

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

3. Kill Baxter – Charlie Human

4. Once – James Herbert

5. Endgame – James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton

6. The Bachman Books – Stephen King as Richard Bachman

7. Books of Blood – Clive Barker

8. Beyond the Pale – Mark Anthony

9. Three – Ted Dekker

10. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline


Do you have any books that have stuck in your mind or you still recall to this day? Perhaps any book that changed your mind, thoughts, world view?

Trance #Poetry

The wind moved with the uncertain gait of a certain brown-haired beauty causing storms with a mere smile.Though new to the flock none noticed the slight gleam and juvenile twinkle accompanying hidden guile. Caught. Fraught. I sought not to entertain the thought but the heart moves on strings it aught not. No surprise then when I was left essentially immobile. Heart and mind volatile.

We moved through breathless spaces lingering just beyond palpitating collisions. The span of stars stretching above us yet still suffocating within the clutches of inadmissable decisions. Ire. Desire. Star-crossed bonfire set to burn the world like uncontrollable bush fire with heart-shaped precisions.

At first sight with rose-tainted glasses the air shimmered with each furtive glance. Engaged in the age-old dance we waltzed across thin blade holding nothing but chance. Inclined. Maligned. We resigned to remain confined in asphyxiating dark spaces keeping us blind. Lest we are forcefully pulled from that willful circumstance. Reality wrenching us from rue-filled blissful trance.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk #BookRecommendation

C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reviewing it for tomorrow’s book review. I know this recommendation is a day late but hey better late than never right?

C. L. Polk wrote her first story in grade school and still hasn’t learned any better. After spending years in strange occupations and wandering western Canada, she settled in southern Alberta with her rescue dog Otis. She has a fondness for knitting, bicycles, and single estate coffee. C. L. has had short stories published in Baen’s UNIVERSE and Gothic.net, and contributed to the web serial Shadow Unit (http://shadowunit.org/), and spends too much time on twitter at @clpolk.

Stranger in a Strange Land #Recommendation

NAME: Valentine Michael Smith
ANCESTRY: Human
ORIGIN: Mars

Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love.


I’m on a quest to read all the classic fantasy/sci-fi books and appear more learned on these legendary literary works. Apparently it’s a thing. This particular book’s synopsis inspires a story in me, or rather fuels an existing story idea I’ve been afraid to write. Guess we’ll see.

 

Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called “the dean of science fiction writers”, he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of “hard science fiction”.

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, in the late 1940s. He was also among the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction in the modern, mass-market era.

Hold My Nigga Moment by Ole #Poetry

Ole is truth. Ole is fire. Ole is life. Olestruth.com


What is a nigga moment? Is it a couple a niggas getting hella mad over dumb ish? New shoes ish? Get your weapons out and spill blood ish? “Eish, baas it was not me” ish? Some cave ish? Retarded people, yes I said retarded for centuries in class; by class; for class, no class ish? I don’t know. What I know is that it dogs me around; stuck to my shoes, behind my back yet never making a sound. I feel it most when near people. On their faces it’s found, like puppet master shadows leading a dance from the background.

I feel it every time someone tries to make me a nigga like: when I’m my white friends’ one black friend; when Indian people say nigga like homie Gandhi was my friend; or black friends kinda treat me like I’m one of they white friends. Hai!

 

A nigger moment’s between niggers, so I figure I should try and be the man bigger; take the road high; walk the road narrow, straight arrow. Block out the stupid penny for your thoughts, chasing a sparrow on Twitter.

I’m not too fond of reading a face. Bookworm habits are more fitting a pace for a boy raised in a place where assimilation was key to fly into space and dance with the gods who came across the sea and disgraced his whole race.

See I’m not your average nigger. I’m one with a vision, born with a mission to bring about a Saipan fission.

I was cut from my roots so I could mimic people from every skin-colour or hue: talk white; dance black; and save like a Jew.

So I like Tupac and anime, but sometimes listen to Oprah. I’m a lover of both science and Deepak Chopra.

 

Curse then the gods of your logic. I may concede being a Negro but I am nobody’s nigger. I break out of the boxes that chain and keep me feeling lethargic, nostalgic antiquities of my so called “melanin magic”.

Forget the stereotypes. I come to poison your thinking, cut my wrists open and bleed black without blinking.

Dip a pen in my wounds and let my life blood sink into blank pages waiting to tell the tales of a youth seeking identity in people that he never knew.

So hold your parents who would die if you brought home a black guy. Hold your speech on black consciousness and the ego that feeds it. And hold my “nigga moment” too, this Negro no longer needs it.

The King in Yellow #Recommendation

“Every story of The King in Yellow has something riveting about it … so perfectly realized, they became the model for much of twentieth-century horror/fantasy.” — New York Press
One of the most important works of American supernatural fiction since those of Poe, The King in Yellow was among the first attempts to establish the horror of the nameless and the unimaginable. A treasured source used by almost all the significant writers in the American pulp tradition — H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and many others — it endures as a work of remarkable power and one of the most chillingly original books in the genre.
This collection reprints all the supernatural stories from The King in Yellow, including the grisly “Yellow Sign,” the disquieting “Repairer of Reputations,” the tender “Demoiselle d’Ys,” and others. Robert W. Chambers’ finest stories from other sources have also been added, such as the thrilling “Maker of Moons” and “The Messenger.” In addition, an unusual pleasure awaits those who know Chambers only by his horror stories: three of his finest early biological science-fiction fantasies from In Search of the Unknown appear here as well.


If you read my this past Friday Fiction, The Best Gift, then you know how influential this book became to my writing. I’ll probably do a review for it this Wednesday too. A great read for horror writers and readers.

Robert William Chambers was an American artist and writer. His most famous, and perhaps most meritorious, effort is The King in Yellow, a collection of weird short stories, connected by the theme of the fictitious drama The King in Yellow, which drives those who read it insane.

Chambers returned to the weird genre in his later short story collections The Maker of Moons and The Tree of Heaven, but neither earned him such success as The King in Yellow.

Chambers later turned to writing romantic fiction to earn a living. According to some estimates, Chambers was one of the most successful literary careers of his period, his later novels selling well and a handful achieving best-seller status. Many of his works were also serialized in magazines. After 1924 he devoted himself solely to writing historical fiction.

Chambers died at his home in the village of Broadalbin, New York, on December 16th 1933.

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