Friday, November 27, 2015

Brief Thoughts 8

The Yellow Sign and Other Stories: The Complete Weird Tales of Robert W. Chambers by Robert W. Chambers, edited by ST Joshi

I picked up this collection because I was looking for The King in Yellow, but my library had this instead. It seems like a good deal, getting almost 650 pages of an author as influential as Chambers. Well, even the introduction by ST Joshi points out that Chambers was a very uneven writer. The vast majority of what he wrote was romance that was written for money and is largely forgotten. You kind of get that sense from a number of the later stories. It's also worth pointing out that "weird" in this context is basically a broad term for speculative fiction, rather than Lovecraftesque horror. Really, only maybe half this book actually is horror.

One of the odder choices in the editing is that this does not include all of the stories from The King in Yellow, only six of the ten. These are easily the best and most memorable stories here. It's easy to see why the stories are as influential as they have been.

It's also easy to see why The King in Yellow is what Chambers is most remembered for. The rest of the stories range from enjoyable to forgettable to downright grating.

There are two complete works here, In Search of the Unknown and Police!!! Both of them are short cryptozoological adventure novels.

In Search of the Unknown are the recollections of a scientist in his adventures to discover new species. The chapters are formulaic, but still mix it up enough to keep things interesting. Despite that, the quality wanes towards the end and you get the sense that Chambers was running out of ideas. Unfortunately, he kept going with it.

Police!!! is pretty much of sequel to In Search of the Unknown and it's the worst section. The recollections here are more "whimsical," but rather than being funny or entertaining, it's just irritating. I can see why it was tucked away at the end of the book. I'd say just put it down when you get here if you pick it up.

Overall, if you're already a fan of Chambers, this might be worth getting. Otherwise, just pick up The King in Yellow and In Search of the Unknown on their own. I know that's what I'll be doing.

Buy The Yellow Sign and Other Stories: The Complete Weird Tales of Robert W. Chambers by Robert W. Chambers, edited by ST Joshi here. 

Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist by Frank Chodorov

I don't read much political philosophy these days. I read a lot back in college and frankly I just got burned out on the subject. I started reading this because I randomly remembered Chodorov's "Taxation in Robbery" essay and wanted to reread it. I figured I may as well read the whole book it was in.

Despite the title, the book isn't really a traditional autobiography. The essays are all about politics but are written from a personal perspective.

For example, "I Watch Westerns" is about Chodorov's love of Western television shows and the possibility it may be a sign of immaturity. He notes that it's considered more "mature" to watch things like political programs. The problem with that, he says, is that the nonsense that gets spouted on those programs is far more ridiculous than the stories in Westerns. And at least he knows Westerns aren't supposed to be taken seriously.

Some other stand outs are his essay on Henry David Thoreau and "The Radical Rich," where he attempts to explore why it's largely the sons of the rich in political office, and why the well-off are often at the forefront of radical movements like communism.

Chodorov's writing is intelligent without being pretentious and highly entertaining. There is a passion that comes through in his prose for his beliefs and an engaging curiosity in the questions he explores. Likely, the essays won't convince of you of his viewpoint, but I believe it's well worth reading, even if you're not a libertarian.

Buy Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist by Frank Chodorov here.

Or you can download it for free here.  

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