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This is a collection of short stories from an American writer who is not widely known these days. He is also credited with having influenced some horror writers including H.P. Lovecraft.
This collection mentions horror in its title; this is misleading as only first four stories can be qualified for this genre. Some blurbs mention the stores have common theme of fictional book The King in Yellow present in them (think about it as a small and much less harmful version of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon);
So let me try to make a quick summary of the stories. As I mentioned above the first four (The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In the Court of the Dragon, and The Yellow Sign) belong to horror genre with the moral that reading the second act of The King in Yellow is a Really Bad Idea. I mentioned the influence on horror genre; the one of the fourth story in particular can be seen in later works by other writers.
I think the best description of the next story (The Demoiselle d’Ys) would be fantasy romance.
The next one (The Street of the Four Winds) defies the qualifications. A story of a cat with gloomy ending would be the best I can come up with.
The next (The Street of the First Shell) is about horrors of war which takes place in war-torn Paris.
The last two (The Street of Our Lady of the Fields, and Rue Barrée) are romances about love between a young American man and a French woman of lower social standing. The couples are different, but some characters appear in both stories. I would like to mention a romantic scene of the last story when a drunken guy climbs into an apartment of unsuspecting lone woman in the evening. It is romantic, is not it?
The best horror story I mentioned – The Yellow Sign – deserves 4.5 stars for its lasting influence if nothing else. The rest of the stories while never boring are really nothing to write home about. Considering the price of the book (it is free from Project Gutenberg) I feel I got my money worth. I can name a lot of much worse ways to spend a couple of evenings than to read this book. Three stars is the rating, nothing more, nothing less.
I finished reading The King In Yellow and I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I feel satisfied that I’ve finally read this horror classic and I feel somewhat enlightened about the HBO show True Detective.
The KiY consists of a total of 8 stories. 4 horror, 1 ghost, 1 war and two romance-y type tales. The horror tales were my favorites of the collection, most especially “The Repairer of Reputations”. These shorts were loosely connected by a play in book form titled The King in Yellow. Anyone who
– The Repairer of Reputations
This story is wonderfully weird – and disturbing on several levels.
Set in a future 1920, the world has made several steps toward peace and stability. (I’m not sure I like them, and I’m also not so sure the author does, either.) The introductory segment drags on a bit, reminding me a bit in style of Edward Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward’ (1888). Then, the story really starts…
Our narrator lets us know that after a fall from a horse, he was unjustly confined t
In the first story, a passing mention is made of a sculpture called ‘The Fates,’ crafted by a brilliant sculptor who died tragically young.
Here, we learn the sad and romantic tale of his death.
Not only is the young man a sculptor, but a chemist/inventor, it seems. He has come up with a solution which will turn whatever is placed in it to stone. At first, his experiments create ‘stone’ lilies and goldfish… but when we discover that he’s filled up his home’s pool with the solution, it’s not hard for the reader to foresee that trouble is soon to come.
On top of that, the narrator is, admittedly, in love with the sculptor’s wife. Yep. Trouble.
-In the Court of the Dragon
In the midst of church services, a man suddenly is troubled by the perception of great malice. A malevolent force that no one else can perceive seems to be directed at him. Is it real, or all in his mind? (He has been reading ‘The King in Yellow’…) This story works well as part of ‘The King in Yellow’ collection, but as a stand-alone, I felt like it would leave the reader wanting a bit more development of the ideas…
-The Yellow Sign
Very similar in theme to ‘In the Court of the Dragon.’ Here, a bohemian artist senses malevolence from the figure of the night watchman of the churchyard outside his window. It seems to him, the man looks almost like a corpse himself. He attempts to dismiss his irrational fears, but they only seem to be compounded with the strange and morbid dreams his favorite model has been having, and disturbing tales from neighbors…
An ill-advised gift hints of doom; and when the artist and his model are oddly compelled to sit down and read ‘The King in Yellow,’ their fate is sealed.
-The Demoiselle d’Ys
A hunter, lost on the moors, encounters a strangely old-fashioned young woman out hunting with her falcon, who offers him shelter at her manor. Is she just a lonely and isolated girl or is something uncanny at play?
A beautifully eerie and romantic horror tale.
-The Prophets’ Paradise
A series of theatrical-feeling vignettes or tableaux. This one didn’t really come together for me…
-The Street of the Four Winds
A starving artist in a garret encounters a mangy, possibly-stray cat, which he treats with great kindness and affection, which is returned by the grateful creature. (Really, this is one for the cat-lovers… the scene is so very true and touching.) But when he attempts to find the possible-mistress of the cat, the story takes a sharp turn into the uncanny.
-The Street of the First Shell
This one is arguably not a horror story – except in the sense that war is truly horrific. This piece introduces us to a circle of struggling artists and friends in Paris, and shows how the raging Franco-Prussian war affects their lives, in 1870.
-The Street of Our Lady of the Fields
[In which I learned that the electric doorbell was invented much earlier than I realized… in 1831!]
OK, this story really has nothing to do with doorbells. And again, it’s not a horror story at all. It’s a poignant, bittersweet piece about the role of women in society, and cultural expectations.
A young American student, newly arrived in Paris, assumes (not so strangely, to a modern, American reader) that the young women his new friends associate with are their female counterparts: students, artists, reasonably upper class. Soon, he develops feelings for one of these girls, and does not understand why she responds so strangely.
In actuality, the girls are lower-class… basically whores, and the girl who’s the recipient of the crush is desperate to grab this one small chance at an innocent happiness, begging the other boys not to tell ‘what she really is’…
I’m guessing that this piece may be semi-autobiographical, as Chambers himself was an American art student in Paris from 1886 to 1893.
Another one that might be semi-autobiographical.
A group of art students tend to be womanizers, working their way through the available working-class girls of Paris’ Latin Quarter.
However, one girl, a pianist, who has made herself markedly unavailable, has particularly captured their imaginations due to her cool inaccessibility. (Or, at least, that’s how the boys perceive it – from her perspective, it’s a necessary self-preservation.)
This collection is Chambers’ most famous – but he was a popular and prolific author whose output spanned decades. I liked these well enough to pick up a few more of Chambers’ books (all free at archive.org and Project Gutenberg!)