Books I’ve Read: The King in Yellow Tales: Vol. 1

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I just finished reading Joseph S. Pulver, Sr’s collection: The King in Yellow Tales vol 1. Now, maybe it’s because I’ve been buried in text books for the better part of the last decade and my brain was starved for anything that wasn’t concerned with mastering the art of diagnosis, but for me, this book was something special.

I must confess that up until relatively recently (within the last six months or so) I had not yet found the yellow sign, so to speak. I was unaware that Robert W. Chambers, Joe Pulver, or the King in Yellow even existed. I was introduced to the mythology when I began tuning in to The Lovecraft eZine webcast which features Joe Pulver as a recurring panelist. Inspired by curiosity about the play which induced madness in all who read it, I did what any reasonable person would do: purchased Chambers’s King in Yellow. I found it quite readable for having been written at the turn of the 20th century, but I digress.

Having familiarized myself with the source  material, I was ready to see what had been done to expand the mythology. This is where Joe Pulver comes in; it is my understanding that he’s the undisputed contemporary authority and Earthly familiar of the King in Yellow himself. It only seemed natural to start there.

I picked up King in Yellow Tales: vol 1 with zero expectations. I’d never read Joe’s work before, so I had no point of reference—good or bad.

This collection is not a breezy afternoon read. By that I mean that many of these tales do not follow a traditional narrative structure. The language, the formatting, and the unease that results when these elements combine whisper madness in your ear. Often, there are no (easy) answers, and one must read between the lines to decipher the yellow text just waiting to be revealed.

Among my favorites were:

The Carl Lee & Cassilda Trilogy (Carl Lee & Cassilda; An American Tango Ending in Madness; Hello is a Yellow Kiss)

Chasing Shadows

My Mirage

A Cold Yellow Moon (with Edward R. Morris, Jr.)

With each of these tales I was swept into a dreamworld of ashy daylight and jaundiced shadows, and despite having never traveled these roads before, there was a familiarity to it all. Like returning visit to your hometown after time and memory have rendered it unrecognizable, but still there is that pull…

You belong here.

These are stories to be experienced, not consumed. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to read, pages that can be opened and closed in an afternoon and then tossed back onto the pile without a second thought, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in something deeper—if you’re willing to burn the torch, venture into the shifting darkness, and risk glimpsing something not of this Earth—then I highly recommend this collection. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friends. Hell, buy it for your enemies because you just never know…

I have another of Joe’s anthologies, the recently released A House of Hollow Wounds. It isn’t next on my TBR pile, but after KiY vol 1, it will probably move up a couple of spots.

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