Wednesday, 31 August 2016 06:39 pm
carose59: scary stuff (they're coming to get you barbara)
[personal profile] carose59
"Oh, Oh Sweet Lord! This Is What Evil Must Taste Like!"*

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I have now finished The King in Yellow, and I can say with great authority that I do not understand it.

It's a collection of stories, "loosely connected" to, I thought, each other by way of The King in Yellow, which is "a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it," and apparently another name for Hastur (one of the Elder Gods, the ones Lovecraft later wrote about).

Here's the problem. The first story, The Repairer of Reputations is definitely creepy. It's about a man who has lost his mind, though nobody seems to have noticed—or if they have, they aren't taking it very seriously. It reminded me a lot of a short story I read in grade school in an Alfred Hitchcock collection; it's called Sleep Is the Enemy. Both stories are first person and have seriously unreliable narrators who don't seem to get what's going on around them. It's been described as being set in an imagined future 1920's America, but that's presupposing the narrator can be trusted—which he really, really can't. It was going along fine until we got to the end, which was . . . abrupt. But I was happy because I thought this was the tone of the book.

I was wrong.

The next three stories are dreamy, supernatural, and disturbing—well, disturbing unless you grew up watching The Night Gallery. There was nothing particularly unexpected. And as the stories went on, they became less and less disturbing and more average until we get to the last three which—

Honest-to-God, the first story had me craving some Lovecraft, but by the end I was laughing and wanting to re-read The Lawrenceville Stories! (The Lawrenceville Stories are set in Lawrenceville, a prep school for boys, in the 1920's. There's nothing remotely scary about them.)

I know I'm jaded. I've been reading and watching scary stuff since I was a kid—and really, this is a problem with all genres. When you've read those who were influenced by the originators, it's very hard to go back and be shocked by the originals—or even surprised. I knew where most of them were going long before they got there. The problem is, I've read a lot and I remember the patterns. They taught me well in high school.

I might listen to the first one again, to get my Lovecraft mood back.

*Phoebe Buffay

July 2017

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