Welcome back to my first read of the Dark Tower series after a one-week hiatus for Independence Day, the original Brexit. This week I cover The Lady of Shadows from The Drawing of the Three.
Before we get to The Lady of Shadows, there is a “shuffle.” Roland and Eddie Dean are back in the world of the Dark Tower (the Mid-World? All-World?), but the antibiotics haven’t started working yet. And they have to get to the next door. They do, but when they get there, Eddie Dean demands that Roland take him with him, or he will kill Roland’s body while he is on the other side.
The story then shifts to Odetta/Detta, “The Lady of Shadows” and Roland’s next target. We learn that she is “schizophrenic,” which actually means that she has two entirely different personalities. Odetta is her “real” personality, as a wealthy black New Yorker (and actual limousine liberal). Detta is a caricature of a black woman, but even more racist than you’re thinking. Each is entirely unaware of the other. Odetta has blank spots in her memory from when she is Detta. This doesn’t make any sense, so don’t think about it.
We learn that Odetta has just returned from “Oxford Town.” There isn’t an actual Oxford Town. This is presumably a reference to James Meredith enrolling in Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. Bob Dylan wrote a song about it called Oxford Town. Two men died in the rioting. We also learn that Odetta lost both her legs in a subway accident. The book strongly implies she was pushed. By who? The Man in Black? Just some racist asshole?
When Roland opens the door, he sees Detta stealing costume jewelry from a display at Macy’s. He immediately takes control, rolls Detta into a changing room, and takes her through the door.
She hits the other side as Odetta and doesn’t remember anything since the night before. (Then how did she get to Macy’s? How did she credibly pull off being Odetta in Macy’s when (1) she doesn’t know she is Odetta and (2) we are given no indication Detta could pull it off?) Eddie Dean immediately begins to fall in love with her, even though she is the sort of person who talks in tortured sentences to avoid ending sentences with prepositions. (I’ve met plenty of rich people and plenty of over-educated people—these people only seem to exist in fiction.)
If Odetta stayed Odetta, Roland and Eddie Dean would probably be fine, wheelchair notwithstanding. But she switches to Detta shortly after crossing. Which means they have to tie her in her chair and push her while she tries to stymie them by knocking over the chair whenever possible.
Where I’m Reading
What I’m Drinking
Right Brain Brewery Northern Hawk Owl. An amber/red ale in honor of being far enough north that I can actually get away with drinking an amber in July.
Just “Honky voodoo bullshit.”
Just Honk Mafahs. And maybe some sort of big cat up in the hills.
Right after we are introduced to Odetta, her chauffer references a newspaper article that refers to Kennedy (who was recently killed) as the “world’s last gunslinger.” As best I can tell, this isn’t a real article but rather an invention of King’s. I didn’t like it at first, but it’s growing on me. Was Kennedy staring down Krushchev to end the Cuban Missile Crisis not gunslinger-like? Of course that raises the question of whether Reagan was a gunslinger too (The Drawing of the Three was written deep into the Reagan presidency), but I don’t think King would go for that. (Hell, Thatcher too.) Odetta thinks that there is no “difference between good shooters and bad shooters,” that her world, at least, is “no world for gunslingers” and that “[i]f there had ever been a time for them, it had passed.” We’ve already seen Roland sacrifice a child, as the text in this section reminds us. Is this foreshadowing that King will show us a cure that may be as bad as the symptoms?
The less said about Detta, the better. She is intentionally a caricature—Odetta knows about as much about the ugly side of black America as King does—but that doesn’t make Detta any easier to read. If you’re a writer, and you’re considering whether you should adopt overly phonetic spelling to represent a dialect, the answer is no. Does King spell fire as “fie-yer” every time he writes a New Englander? No.
I’m beginning to despise any scene set in our world relative to Roland’s. They’ve been bringing out King’s worst tendencies. On the other hand, King writes more readable prose then maybe anybody. I hated the scenes in our world, and the scenes in Roland’s amounted to rolling a wheelchair several miles down the beach, but I still blew through this section in one sitting.
You can find all of my Dark Tower Big Read posts here.