Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Yellow and Red" by Tanith Lee

Yesterday, via a tweet from Joachim Boaz, I learned that Tanith Lee had recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention.  The very same day I first encountered the colossal (1100 pages!) collection The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.  The Weird includes a story by Lee I quite liked when I read it a year or two ago, “Yellow and Red,” and today I reread it.

“Yellow and Red” is a great little horror story, perfectly paced and a perfect length, with just enough detail to paint believable characters, settings, and images that have an emotional effect on the reader.  Lee uses the first person form (the story consists of diary entries and a letter) masterfully.  The plot is traditional (perhaps “classic” is a better word): in the 1950s, a wealthy middle-aged Londoner inherits a large old house in the country, full of an ancestor’s souvenirs of a successful career in the Orient.  The diarist gradually realizes that his adventurous ancestor brought back from the East something horrible that is in the process of destroying the family.  In Lee’s capable hands this straightforward plot runs smooth as silk and carries real impact.  Hints that Lee means this to perhaps be a feminist and anti-imperialist tale add depth.

Congrats to Lee on the recent award; “Yellow and Red” strongly suggests she deserves it.      

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