December 21st, 2003


Our Lady of Darkness, Fritz Leiber.

working out thoughts aloud, once again:

fritz leiber's horror novel, our lady of darkness, is based around the idea that cities are haunted. this has happened due to the steel, electricity, poles, roads, and the general rush of people living and dying in them every day, with their ashes collecting in the air around people. in fact cities (through the voice of a dead old man and his book) are portrayed as a giant tomb, like the pyramids that were constructed to house the bodies of important individuals.

it draws its atmosphere, its sense of dread (for, in a one hundred and sixty odd page novel, little happens) from the city around him. the sight of corona heights, the park around it, the one thousand foot tv tower: all of these become symbols of terror as the novel progresses, taping into the literally real world, but also the way that technology and nature conflict when placed next to each other.

in addition to this, leiber's character, franz weston, recently recovering fromt he death of his wife, and the alcoholism that was crutch during this time, is transparently leiber himself. the raw emotion, the sense of grief has been placed into the page, and one is forced to wonder of this is how he viewed san francisco after his wife's death. (his wife is in the book, or so one of the reference sites will have you believe. she's the painting in franz's apartment.) i'm personally not a big believer in saying that the author is talking about his or herself, but the similarity between franz and fritz appears to be quite deliberate, and done to add a second layer to the book.

the next layer for the book is that of city fiction itself, either in the form of writers, or their work. dashiell hammett, h.p. lovecraft, jack london, ambrose bierce, and clark ashton smith are just some of the writers leiber uses to add to the sense of dread that is forming outside his window. one suspects that what leiber is doing is talking about the new mythos that is developing around cities--which is certainly an interesting idea, i think, but i'm not quite sure how far it'll fly since i've not read all the authors in question, and some i'm not qualified to say in the content of their work i have read. yet, still, i think it's an interesting idea. despite this, it would seem that leiber has layered his story with these authors work, so that people can pick at strands and peel back layers here and there for additional meaning.

it is, really, quite a fascinating novel in which very little happens outside franz walking around san francisco and piecing together the story. there is no real sense of menace from the brown figure he sees through his binoculars, though leiber does make it a menacing figure in its appearance. he also plays the end nicely, though cal's invoking of science and music to defeat the horror of the city and its literature fueled beast was a bit of a let down, really.

still, it's an interesting, fascinating book that draws deeply and effectively from the world around it.

addition references:

Our Lady of Darkness: A Jamesian Classic.

Our Lady of Darkness: Annotations.

Pringle Review.

Looney Tunes: Back In Action.

yeah, yeah, yeah, i went and saw looney tunes: back in action. i really like the original looney tunes stuff, with bugs and daffy in the hunting season skits, and the various daffy duck literature figure spoofs (buck rogers, sherlock holmes), and i'm pretty fond of wiley e. coyote. i've always liked them, what can i say? sylvester and tweety drive me a bit insane, and fog horn leghorn was pretty much a character i would change the channel on. anyhow, i went and saw it.

bit of a shame, really.

humans and looney tunes don't mix. steve martin in some silly wig and big glasses is just annoying. jenna elfman always kinda irritates me. brendan frasier... well, i kinda like him, and he has fun with his role, and so, it appears, is timothy dalton as an aging spy who gets caught. but you know, who goes to watch people in looney tunes? you go to watch bugs and daffy and all the other guys and, really, they've taken second string to the real actors and all the largely pointless references to old films.

(there are a lot of pointless references to other films in this film. okay, some are funny, but you can't help but think that hey, if they'd spent a bit less time on referencing these films, that they might've made a funnier film.)

i knew i shouldn't have gone, but i did anyway, and the few jokes that worked didn't make up for it.