Today’s Dress Up Fancy Friday post is based on a challenge that I was going to do last week called T3. It’s a fashion challenge thought up by Maricel of MyClosetCatalogue and Selah of ABibliophilesStyle and planned for each third Thursday of a month; to participate you basically have to come up with an outfit that was inspired by a quote from a piece of literature you’re currently reading or you’ve just read. It can be a traditional book, a blog post, a magazine and heck if I was reading a comic book with a good quote/theme in it I’d probably go with that. I wasn’t able to do that post but I had the literature and the outfit and then strangely enough visited my favourite ruins in England; Kenilworth Castle and all went together nicely. (I’m wearing the dress today in tribute to finishing off this task.)
That said I have a bloody hard time with getting it down to one quote! I just can’t do it, I can’t look at one quote and make an outfit out of it. Though from last month I saw a lot of the quotes from the participants were longer than I’d expected so it’s not as difficult as it could be. My last post/outfit can be seen HERE was inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This time it’s easier because I’m reading a book of ten stories, called The King in Yellow (1895). It was written by Robert W. Chambers and falls into the classic horror genre. Four of the stories (The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In the Court of the Dragon and The Yellow Sign) allude to The Yellow king being a secret play, it’s only ever mentioned or quoted in bits and pieces, never as a whole (which would probably be separate section in itself). It’s a curse and somehow linked to a Yellow Sign (what type of sign it is, is uncertain but it’s guessed to be a diagram perhaps an insignia – design unknown).
The whole book is online here: http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/library/stacks/literature/chambers/stories/kinginye/contents.htm
or freely downloadable and online audio versions here:
Remember this book, well the elusive play of the King in Yellow specifically, is supposed to drive the reader (and I guess by extension listener) to despair and madness 😉 though of course the point of this post is to put a stop to that 😉
If you’re in any way sensitive to the idea of spooks and things that go bump in the night or don’t like being alone/in the dark when looking at things like this then perhaps it’s not one for you. It’s been popular with a number of well known occultists or authors of works likened to or inspired by occultism and spiritualism. However, like the works of Edgar Allen Poe I never really saw what most saw in it. That’s not to say they’re not well written e.g. Gustav Meyrink’s ‘The Golem’ is another one where I could see where the fear and doubt came from but not the outcome, but books like George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, ‘Animal Farm’ and Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ are more chilling, tense or hair raising imo. That doesn’t mean I prefer one over the other or think of physical machinations such as politically driven books as having more substance or relevance over supernatural or paranormal works but these more flowing, less revealing poems, prose, short stories or psychological horrors are more personal to the character(s) in the story and tend to work well for those on the wolf side rather than the sheep side in the Iron Mountain. Books that go into detail on the human condition and in situ to those around them can be more unsettling and personal to the reader/watchers and those around them potentially making us think. Sadly not for too long though as the public tend to eat up drama, gore and fantasy and dystopian setting but more feeding on it than addressing where it comes from/why it’s come about.
There’s a barrier due to words like ‘fiction’/’fantasy’ aka ‘fake’ and so there’s a cut off point, disbelief is suspended for a short time. Perhaps rather than directly comparing to reality for those with little experience of fantastical or extremely difficult situations, fiction can be a magnifying glass. Symbolic and metaphor heavy books using fantasy to illustrate methods of mind control like the Chronicals of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass are easily pushed, made into classics and all time favourites often overlooking the connections between where the authors were educated, what groups they were involved, letters/memoirs/biographies etc old boys network big time. It’s hard to tell with all this fantasy about though whose telling you what, whether it’s propaganda laden like the Oz books or veiled secret knowledge like in the Mary Poppins ones. Gothic horrors tend to be harder to decipher e.g. even with all my looking back in the day and re-reads, the ‘interesting bits’ in Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ are elusive other than the word Drac-Ul being Romanian for dragon and/or devil and with the whampyre himself being linked to historical figures connected to the Order of the Dragon (which feeds into the worldwide reptile obsession that the upper peerages have fed to people for how long). Perhaps that piece of lit is too in house. Where do the words ‘chivalry’ and ‘gentlemen’ come from? They’re anything but what people consider chivalrous and gentle-person-ly. It’s too easy to say it’s just fiction, it’s just entertainment, it has no consequence. But heck who remembers what the films The Matrix and The Truman show were darkly depticting and what the connections were other than being landmark films for filming (and fashion from The M) style and imagination. Imagination, another tricky barrier word. May as well as overlap it with the word ‘dream’ for all the credibility it has yet we spend approx 1/3 of our lives doing/going through it.
People remember the picture painted, the impression upon seeing it or the impressions of other having done so, without seeing what went into the painting and who/what the model or inspiration was and/or why they were painted. We don’t remember or think of beauty or horror itself – we think of our portrayal of it, the painting and perhaps painter (or wizard, genius, whatever) becomes great, the original forgotten or not as important. Not much more efficient mental conditioning than that, making ourselves into masters and creators. Little other uderlying reason for displaying heads on walls for example, not always of enemies, many of the heads considered beautiful, graceful, noble or even of a respected rival. So beautiful that our way of showing admiration and respect is to hunt, torture, kill and display it as a trophy degrading it’s beauty into a scene we can impose ourselves upon/into. Lepidoptery anyone or the bloody annoying Mona Lisa? People thinking Shakespeare was some poor bard who made it big, and of course those speculating whether his name penned onto works meaning authorship. The graffiti in the Great Pyramid anyone?
Bah no wonder my favourite media tends to consist of more simple, straightforward themes/issues, soft or heartfelt, mostly with a dash of humour to help. Thank goodness I watched The Wild Thornberrys before reading this, gave me strength!
I’m focusing on the fourth story in the book entitled The Yellow Sign and as I thought about my outfit I felt it best to channel my inner Erza Scarlet for this one 🙂 (got the temp Red colour in my hair too 😉 )
ANYWAY ON TO THE STORY, AT LEAST – OOPS AT LAST!
The story starts with an artist’s wandering attention when he had intended to be focused on painting and upon looking back at his work not recognizing the skin tone. He tries to remedy it but it just gets worse, inexplicably so. He gets upset and takes it out on his tools to then be thoroughly chastised by his model. Typically, he’s painting a nude woman who then needs help putting on her clothes. Honestly, I can unequivocally say I’d bloody hate to be anybody’s muse. From the viewpoint of an artist needing/wanting one (other than for work/obligations, there’s enough to be inspired by out there without feigning boredom or lack and unless you need to see something in detail there’s no decent reason to audition muses to find who suits your tastes the most at that moment) to the side of the muse wanting and enjoying being painted for the sake of being painted and admirers (unless of course it’s for a message, some kind of support/bond building or sympathetic circumstances). Yeah yeah the body is a beautiful thing because it’s apparently from nature (hmm) – that’s why artists and their muses rarely have romantic liaisons? The artist/muse relationship is empty vanity to me and hence, for me, did not set the tone of the story well. (I also hate the way she’s described as dancing whilst near him – since the story is written in first person how self-gratifying can the character get?) Ok being cynical early on, moving on!
What was he distracted by? A ‘pasty, soft, fat’ man in a churchyard within view of his window.
Ah, now I remember why people are scared of gothic/classic horrors – portends. People do not like portends, and obviously bad omens that they give any credit to. That building fear of the future, the unknown like the fear of death. It turns out that the man who distracted the artist is the man from a re-curring nightmare the model has been having. One in which her artist friend is alive but being transported in a coffin in a hearse no less.
Then it goes on in conversational tone between various characters regarding the strange man who it turns out is the night watchman at the church (watchman for and against what I wonder), and their lives. It seems the creepy man may not be made of the same stuff as they are, or at least not in the same condition. Later the artist admits he has no morals yet feels good for crossing himself and confession. He then goes on to tell his model that he had the same dream last night, from the viewpoint of being in the coffin. That leads to story becoming completely predictable and their actions illustrate my earlier cynicism was not unwarranted. Though the main character/artist turned out to be thoroughly more dislikable and self involved than I had anticipated. ‘Oh woe is me’ seems to be his motto without any real desire or effort for improvement and I have little sympathy since his situation is mostly his own fault.
He goes for a walk near the Washington Arch whilst finding some way to excuse his general existence, goes to dinner with a random woman, comes back through the park and has a nerve wracking experience. “Have you found the Yellow sign?” rings through his head. Events had conspired to show him a curse, from seeing the face of his muse’s dreams to a keepsake trinket/jewellery she gives him.
He ends up badly spraining his wrists, a terrible thing for anyone let alone an artist, rendering him artless so to speak. Why his wrists I wonder – simply because he works with his hands?
I was turning to go into the dining-room when my eye fell upon a book bound in yellow, standing in a corner of the top shelf of the last bookcase. I did not remember it and from the floor could not decipher the pale lettering on the back, so I went to the smoking-room and called Tessie. She came in from the studio and climbed up to reach the book.
“What is it?” I asked.
“‘The King in Yellow.'”
I was dumfounded. Who had placed it there? How came it in my rooms? I had long ago decided that I should never open that book, and nothing on earth could have persuaded me to buy it. Fearful lest curiosity might tempt me to open it, I had never even looked at it in book-stores. If I ever had any curiosity to read it, the awful tragedy of young Castaigne, who I knew, prevented me from exploring its wicked pages. I had refused to listen to any description of it, and indeed, nobody ever ventured to discuss the second part aloud, so I had absolutely no knowledge of what those leaves might reveal. I stared at the poisonous yellow binding as I would at a snake.
Their fates are sealed.
The King in Yellow never fully describes the shape and purpose of the Yellow Sign. Nonetheless, “The Repairer of Reputations”, one of the stories in the collection, suggests that anyone who possesses, even by accident, a copy of the sign is susceptible to some form of insidious mind control, or possession, by the King in Yellow or one of his heirs. The stories also suggest that the original creator of the sign was not human and possibly came from a strange alternate dimension that contains an ominous and ancient city known as Carcosa. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_Sign)
The stories mention the following terms; Hastur, Carcosa (a place), Hali, Aldebaran, and the Hyades.
The term Hastur has been speculatively linked as an inspiration to the character Hastur from H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu pantheons/Mythos.
Hastur (The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, H’aaztre, or Kaiwan)
Wretches and Kings lyrics video
The Yellow/Black theme reminds me of a book called Half of a Yellow Sun
So all together; Yellow for the king, Black for Death. The Yellow also represents half of the Yellow sun, but of course there’s two halves here above and below the Black line (belt) in the middle. The sun was split, but with the death of the king and by removing the remnants of his existence it is whole again (no belt).
Black and Yellow also mean demolition – e.g. as written about/illustrated so well in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
All hail, the King is Dead.