Wednesday, 7 September 2016

'The Queen in the Yellow Wallpaper'

The next story in Lynda E. Rucker's new collection is, for me, a re-read. I first read it last year while staying in a very old building in Rye, once the home town of Henry James and E.F. Benson. Like the previous tale's M.R. James vibe, this one offers an intelligent re-take on classic weird fiction involving women.

A woman moves to a remote house to live with her partner and his sister, an eccentric playwright who is prone to crises. The house is called Carcosa, and the first-person narrator's bedroom wallpaper is indeed yellow. This is an unholy hybrid of elements in The King in Yellow and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic feminist tale. Sara, the writer, is creating a play that has the same dangerous, fascinating power as the play in Chambers' stories. The difference is that the narrator is not entirely horrified by the entity that Sara's work apparently conjures up.

This finely-turned tale rewards re-reading, and holds together well. The author handles the quasi-Decadent language superbly in prose that evokes not only Gilman and Chambers, but also Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carole Oats.

'And something wakes in the darkness and wakes in the air and wakes in my bones and we wait for our goddess, our ruler of Carcosa, our charnel queen.'

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