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.
We've sent an email with your order details. Order ID #:
To access this title, visit your library in the app or on the desktop website.
Fizzles out early on
Somebody who was around at the time it came out.
I once read that a classic is a work that has stood the test of time. Based on that, The King in Yellow is not a classic.
To be fair it wasn't really his fault. He wrote a series of short stories that presumably worked at the time, and which influenced the likes of Lovecraft.
Then again, the fact that he completely dropped the King in Yellow thread less than halfway through the book of that title meant we were left with a handful of vaguely similar stories about American artists slumming it in Paris.
That was not their purpose. He read the stories; she read the poems that preceded each story. They were okay but nothing special.
Initially I was intrigued by the hints about the titular king, but of course it never went anywhere, and so I got bored. A shame, as I'd read the relevant Ambrose Bierce fiction to enable me to immerse myself in the whole thing.
The American bohemians in the last half spend their time having squabbles and falling in love with young women in a way that I think is supposed to elicit our disapproval, but which is in fact incredibly tame in comparison with the social and sexual mores of today. The stories are unfocused - it is often unclear whom we are supposed to care about - so that they are not even interesting in a "so that's how things were in 1895" sort of way.
Now, I'm relieved I've got it out the way. I can probably buy and enjoy True Detective, feeling I'm "in the know".
The Repairer of Reputations seems to get a lot of praise. I found it a very dull opener, and I had to listen twice because I thought I'd missed something. I don't think I did. I was amused that this future America (1920!) had something similar to the suicide booths in Futurama.
The Mask is my favourite - a straight SF/fantasy story based on a neat idea.
In The Court of the Dragon. A nebulous supernatural story, the second in the collection that I had to relisten to.
The Yellow Sign. Quite effectively creepy.
The Demoiselle d'Ys. A pleasant enough time travel story, but I've already mostly forgotten it.
The Prophets' Paradise. If you went to art college and spent a few days writing pretentious poems, you'll be familiar with this.
The Street of the Four Winds. Well written, but the sort of thing you might find in a small press magazine.
The Street of the First Shell. Again, this one gets a lot of praise, but I found it hard to keep track of who was who and why I should care. This is another I listened to twice.
The Street of Our Lady of the Fields. Inconsequential flirtations, I think. I can't remember now - it's been nearly a week. Some of the same characters appear in the equally forgettable Rue Barree.
- Dr Caterpillar