The King in Yellow

I have been reading The King in Yellow, Robert Chambers’ masterful collection of gothic short stories from 1895. It is odd to finally read something that was such a powerful root influence upon authors whose works I have known for years, from Lovecraft to Heinlein and Silverberg to Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Also, quite evidently, Harlan Ellison.

A unifying theme behind some of the stories — the existence of a text that makes its reader go mad, simply through the sheer seductiveness of its ideas — seems to post deep questions about the nature of literature, communication and human interconnectedness. Could mere words and expressed thoughts indeed have the power to drive us insane, to separate us from whatever hold we may have upon objective (or at least collective) reality?

Whatever side you come down on in answering that question, the implications are profound. I suspect Jung would have responded in the affirmative, whereas most thinkers today would say no.

Could such a text in fact exist? I find the question interesting, but I’m not going to, you know, go crazy trying to figure it out. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The King in Yellow”

  1. I’ll take a look at this– it sounds a little like the dangerous static in Snow Crash, or the meme wars in John Barnes’ _Candle_. Or the Funniest Joke In the World.

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