Christopher Sutch's Reviews > The Yellow Sign & Other Stories

The Yellow Sign & Other Stories by Robert W. Chambers
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Nov 14, 2011

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Much as I hate to agree with S. T. Joshi (the editor of this volume, and an unbearably snobbish critic, one of those who give literary critics a bad name), his assessment of Chambers's writing, expressed in Joshi's introduction, is essentially accurate. Chambers's early works and a single later work (represented in this volume by the half dozen stories from _The King in Yellow_, another half dozen from _The Mystery of Choice_, and the title tale from _The Tree of Heaven_) are brilliant, both artistically and as early examples of what became known as "weird tales." The writing in all of the _King in Yellow_ stories is brilliant, and the plots are engaging. But the rest of his output, as Joshi describes, is terrible: attempts to be humorous that fail, repetitive plots (and details of plots), and a real slog to get through. When Chambers is good he is REALLY good; when he's horrible, he is indescribably horrible. On balance, this book is mostly horrible (and some of it isn't even "weird fiction," contrary to the publisher's title), but on the basis of the quality of those few stories that are brilliant (and this book being perhaps the one place to find them outside of their original printings in the late 19th to early 20th centuries) I have to recommend its purchase or perusal. And Johsi's introduction gets one thing wrong: Chambers's work IS worthwhile for purposes of cultural analysis (Joshi's assertion to the contrary merely reveals that he hasn't read enough cultural theory and criticism to understand why his statement is false).

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message 2: by Jean-marcel (new)

Jean-marcel I really respect Joshi for doing so much for weird fiction, making sure oterhwise forgotten authors remain in print, and so on. But some of his analyses are just a bit wrongheaded seeming or make him come off like a hopeless old fart.

Christopher Sutch Jean-Marcel, I absolutely agree with you.

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