Friday, August 26, 2016

The Weird World of Robert W. Chambers

Last night I read The King in Yellow, the 1895 collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Chambers, like the more famous weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft, has lingered at the edges of my awareness for decades. A couple of events prompted me to finally read Chambers: watching season one of True Detective, which weaves the titular King in Yellow into its subtext, and a delightfully creepy experience a friend shared with me - an experience I can't share in turn, lest I spoil it for others.

The first four stories in the collection concern the unseen King in Yellow him(it)self, as well as the macabre world that lurks around the edges of our own - a world of looming, unseen, but horrifying menace. Two of the first four stories are set in a then-future USA of 1920; two take place in Paris. Each is full of dreary atmosphere and subtle menace, though not every story has an unhappy ending, which I found added to the effectiveness of the collection as a whole.

I was particularly intrigued, however, by the way in which the genre of the stories suddenly jump from horror to mainstream midway through the collection. The King in Yellow fades into the distance, and Chambers turns his attention to crafting amusing stories of 19th-century romance.

I don't recall reading a work that shifts so suddenly in genre and tone. There is a slight callback to the titular menace in the last couple of paragraphs of the final story, but it's subtle.

Chambers' prose is economical, and yet he manages to evoke a palpable sense of dread where appropriate. And while some of the details date the work, the writing itself is surprisingly timeless and fresh. I look forward to sampling more of his weird world.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Photoshop Tsar Bomba

Be careful what you wish for. Yesterday Jeff suggested I should add elements from other pictures to this one, with unforgivable results, as you can see here. I wanted to evoke the suburban dread of Twin Peaks by depicting a ghostly hand reaching for a bowl of cocaine while the Sean from Another Place looks on. Instead, because I am bad at this, we have a series of badly cut-and-pasted elements that clearly don't belong together. An embarrassing spectacle. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reading by the Fireplace

Back in 2007 Sylvia and I were very kindly gifted the use of a very lovely condo in Canmore for the Thanksgiving long weekend. It was a very relaxing few days, and I remain grateful. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Hand

Here's another mysterious image from the family slide carousel. I would bet that this was shot at Oak Lake in southern Manitoba, sometime in the 1970s. It's a hilariously bad photo - a collection of faceless limbs, improperly exposed, badly composed. In fact, I'm sure it's an accidental exposure; someone hit the shutter release at the wrong moment. Why would I bother scanning this image? Well, I think every image of the past reveals something. In this case, we see the then-current fashion in watch bands and beach towels. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Antidote for Gloom

It's very dark and rainy in Edmonton today, a gloomy end to my summer vacation. So here's a colourful photo of flowers taken by either my parents or my Aunt Jean or Uncle John back in September 1975.