Monday, March 24, 2014

The Yellow King

No thanks to HBO's 'True Detective', I resolutely read Robert W Chambers' 1895 short stories in 'The King in Yellow'. Metaphors of black stars and how time is a flat circle flew fast and furious as I devoured the first three episodes in one sitting. The first thing that struck me was the show's title, 'True Detective'. Singular. But there're two of them detectives. Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle, brilliantly portrayed by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Carcosa. Ahhh, not an unfamiliar name after spending all that time on D & D. If you know this fictional city, then you'll know how Carcosa appears everywhere in the realm of fantasy. Yea, tesseract, Lovecraft and all that made me pause watching the series halfway; saved the last four episodes of this one season to be watched later, after I finished all references about yellow kings. These are the stuff of sci-fi I know, and yet dunno. The genre of time travel and sci-fi, Lovecraft and HG Wells are topics I barely skimmed as a kid, but had to know because I wasn't interested in discussing Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. The film 'Primer', gave me a major migraine. (All about the play and tv series here, here and here.)

10 short stories set either in 1920s America or Paris. All the stories are loosely connected to either a fictional play within titled 'The King in Yellow' (had two cats and three characters), or a supernatural creature called that, or a creepy symbol named 'The Yellow Sign'. At many points, it felt like Murakami (the author today) took his cues from these stories. Anyway, it just felt so meta and surrealistic that I uhh got lost at many points. Say, a story like 'In The Court of the Dragon' where it's got nothing to do with dragons, and everything to do with the mind.

One story that I quite like is 'The Demoiselle d'Ys'. Kinda a ghost story. Less surreal. Whewww. In a nutshell, the American narrator Philip was in France, went shooting, got lost in the moors, met a 19-year old girl-Demoiselle Jeanne d'Ys who gave him shelter for the night at her home. He was immersed amidst an old form of the language of falconry as well as "the old forgotten French of the middle ages was sounding in his [my] ears". He promised to stay with her for a week. There was a supposed romance, then shattered by the bite of a viper. Philip opened his eyes and saw crumbling ruins covered with ivy and great trees.

She looked at me again with an expression almost like pity. 
"Ah," she said, "to come is easy and takes hours; to go is different - and may take centuries." 
I stared at her in amazement but decided that I had misunderstood her. Then before I had time to speak she drew a whistle from her belt and sounded it.

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