Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Today the book of correspondence between Lovecraft and Lieber came in and I've been immersed in it for hours. I should say Lovecraft's letters to the Liebers. It's kind of weird reading only one side of the conversations, but Lovecraft is so loquacious that he usually basically restates the original questions as he answers them. It was just so bizarre (and delightful!) to see the old master writing about Fafhrd and the Mouser! Kind of like if someone suddenly unearthed letters where leonardo Da Vinci discussed Star Wars with George Lucas (except of course that they didn't live contemporaneously). I always thought of Lieber's writing as much more recent than Lovecraft's, though that's largely because of his thorougly modern and whimsically inventive use of language, which I now know definitely was inspired by Shakespeare.
That's one of the strange things about this book for me.....
Lieber sent his (rejected by the publisher) manuscript for a story called Adept's Gambit (which from certain clues I gather is his first Faf/Mouser tale?) and Lovecraft elaborated at great length about it. Ironically, in my bedtime readings lately I'm midway through this very tale (which eventually did find publication). It's a weird one.... in that it takes place not in the fantastic and many-storied world of Nehwon but in a strange world alternately referred to as Gaia, Midgard or sometimes Earth somewhere around the Hellenistic era. I think originally that was to be the setting for the tales (shudder!) but, probably in response to some of Lovecraft's (rather excessive and nitpicking) criticisms in matters of historical accuracy and grammatical usage I'm thinking he invented the wonderful world and all its delightful locales, which are really some of the best things about the stories. Heh... Lovecraft went on for several long pages listing recommendations of historical treatises and compendiums Lieber should consult just to establish a proper sense of historical placement. Truly an extreme case of a rationalist and devoted antiquarian berating a true master of fanciful fantasy whose greatest strength is the creative weaving of locale to perfectly suit the story. It was also annoying to see him constantly attacking the use of some of Lieber's invented words and phrases (another of his strong points and a large part of what's so delightful about the F&M stories) because he feels that words should be chosen that would accurately fit the period. Interesting to see two such great artists who obviously admire each other professionally and as friends be so at odds over these trivialities, but that's the way art is.
And I now know for certain that Fafhrd was indeed based on Lieber. I couldn't be absolutely sure by Lovecraft's first hint, something along the lines (in a letter to Lieber's wife) of congratulations on having a husband so talented and possessed of such an admirable physique (could have meant he was small and in fantastic shape, like the Mouser) but later in a different letter he mentioned sending some books around to "Your Mouser" (meaning Harry Otto Fischer). They frequently mentioned sending books and manuscripts around to a small select group, which I found fascinating. In fact Lovecraft mentions a certain owner of several rare volumes who has a waiting list of people to be sent the books on loan.
I wish the letters by Lieber and his wife were included... and I wonder why they weren't? Possibly they no longer exist... apparently the Liebers kept everything Lovecraft sent them, I wonder if he just threw theirs away? I actually doubt it, especially since he obviously considered them good friends and Fritz a great talent similar in many ways to himself.
Actually, it just occurred to me..... in a recent bout of Lieber related websearching I discovered a database of a whole slew of material written by Lieber... just a listing that included manuscripts, published volumes, and letters to various friends as well as magazing articles essays and the like. Taking into consideration the fact that the book includes a goodly selection of Lovecraftian stories and articles about Lovecraft, all written by Lieber - it only makes sense that someone assembled all this material from the trove of material represented by that web database. And of course the letters sent BY the Liebers TO Lovecraft wouldn't be included in that stash. Possibly there were problems in getting permission from the current copyright holder to use letters in the possession of the Lovecraft estate. Ok, anyway... getting pretty dull here... sorry about that!