Tag Archives: robert w chambers

Rehearsals for Oblivion

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Rehearsals for Oblivion, Act I: Tales of the King in Yellow, edited by Peter A Worthy.

Peter Worthy Rehearsals for Oblivion, Act I: Tales of the King in Yellow

This collection consists of “Tales of the King in Yellow,” i.e. instances of the microgenre that I call the jauniste weird, dependent from The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers. The jauniste literary current is now most often regarded as an annex to the Yog-Sothothery (latterly-dubbed “mythos”) of H.P. Lovecraft, although it came first: the imaginary text The King in Yellow (a play) served as an inspiration and model for Lovecraft’s similarly dreaded and deranging Necronomicon.

Rehearsals for Oblivion is subtitled Act I, and the back cover boasts that it is “the first volume in a comprehensive set,” but none further have appeared since 2006, as far as I can determine. It does have company, however. In 2012, the collection A Season in Carcosa was issued under the editorship of Joseph S. Pulver Sr. Both have materially unimpressive softcovers for their first (and so far only) editions. To contrast the contents of the two, editor Peter A. Worthy’s earlier book Rehearsals for Oblivion is far more conservative in the way that the stories integrate the Carcosan tropes and themes. There are a handful of short poems as well.

Rehearsals successfully avoids the use of the so-called “Yellow Sign” graphic invented for games in the late 20th century. There is a sort of double-yod symbol at the foot of each selection which may be intended to suggest the “real” sign. Tim Wilson’s cover painting is quite beautiful, and the fonts chosen for the texts meet my full approval.

My favorite Rehearsals included the Wilde homage “In Memoriam” by Roger Johnson and Robert M. Price, and Carlos Orsi Martinho’s “Machine in Yellow,” both of which trace attempts to produce the banned play on stage, in very different contexts. Other notable stories include the noir “Broadalbin” by John Scott Tynes, and “The Adventure of the Yellow Sign,” in which G. Warlock Vance supplies a jauniste Sherlock Holmes tale.

The King in Yellow

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The King in Yellow by Thom Ryng:

Thom Ryng's The King in Yellow

This stage play text was written to fulfill a literary hoax, one that in fact helped to inspire the notorious Necronomicon of Lovecraft. In the weird fiction of Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow was a play with a degenerative effect on the morals and sanity of its readers. Thom Ryng is not the first to flesh out the text of the play; in his introduction he suggests that he is perhaps the eighth, and he refers specifically to two earlier attempts: one by Lin Carter and one by James Blish. (I’ve read both.) In the first edition of the Ryng text, the conceit was that the text had been recovered from a 19th-century French edition. In this softbound reprint, editorial and authorial matter confesses its actual late-20th-century composition in the distant wake of Chambers’ fiction. It has been produced on stage at least once, if we are to believe the current edition.

Materially, the book is a sturdy softcover volume with a generous font size. I was a little disappointed that the cover had the false Yellow Sign originally designed by artist Kevin Ross and corrupted in the editorial process for the Chaosium role-playing game Call of Cthulhu. (Chambers’ original Yellow Sign was probably the “inverted torch” insignia that appeared on the binding of early editions of Chambers’ story collection The King in Yellow.)

There is a vein of socio-political commentary that is disturbingly prescient (the author implies that it could have been causative), considering that the book was written in the 1990s. Readers are also furnished with a Hasturian incantation to achieve magical invisibility.

When I read this book, the experience was attended with appropriate inter-textual synchronicities. The Oedipus eyes of Thales echoed my recent philosophical reading in Nietzsche criticism (to wit, The Shortest Shadow and Foucault’s Lectures on the Will to Know). Also relating to that reading, but opening onto a perpetual return to a secret place, is the play’s portrayal of Truth as a phantom who is martyred.

Overall, I was suitably impressed, instructed, and infected by Ryng’s deposition from the ether of this dread volume. [via]


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