Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Season in Carcosa edited by Joseph S Pulver Sr, from Miskatonic River Press.
This book is one of a tiny number (probably in the single digits) to focus on the elaboration of the jauniste weird, a literary tradition with its seminal irruption in The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. Far more enjoyable than the sort of pastiches and retreads that are common to the Lovecraftian “mythos,” these stories take motives and inspiration from the source material, but they are invariably discrete and original approaches to madness and terror. The dread play itself mutates into opera, film, radio, children’s television, tribal folklore, and other media. The metafictional qualities of the original Chambers stories (and the cousin-kisses they received from later Yog-Sothothery) have led many contributors to bring in other literary allusions ranging from Antonin Artaud to C.S. Lewis.
Materially, the book is no great shakes. The cover art is attractive enough, but the paper and binding are print-on-demand quality, and it could have used much more thorough proofing to attend to the ubiquitous typos. It almost avoids the nonsense “Yellow Sign” that originated in game graphics, but the damned thing still appears in the midst of the letter o in “Carcosa” on the spine! The book’s greatest unmet desideratum is some information on the contributors, most of whom were new to me.
Stand-out pieces included the hallucinatory Victorian American period piece “MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room” by Daniel Mills, the erudite surrealist “Theater and Its Double” by Edward Morris, and the psychotic crescendo of “Whose Hearts Are Pure Gold” by Kristin Prevallet. The sardonic present-day story by Cody Goodfellow, “Wishing Well,” reminded me a great deal of the work of Chuck Palahniuk, and was certainly one of the volume’s best.
All of these stories are suitably eerie and perverse. Perhaps as many as a third of them culminate with the incoherent collapse of the narrating perspective, which doesn’t seem excessive given the importance of madness and destruction to the Carcosan mytheme. There’s no special value to reading all of these stories in a continuous effort. I took one significant pause in the course of reading them, and the experience might have benefited from a couple more hiatuses. I strongly recommend the collection to those who are “into this sort of thing.” [via]
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