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Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness (Tor…
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Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness (Tor Doubles)

by Fritz Leiber

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Showing 5 of 5
_Conjure Wife_ was a bit dated, but still fun. Have not read _Our Lady of Darkness_ yet. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I've always wanted to read "Conjure Wife" as I'm a huge fan of the British film adaptation "Night of the Eagle", and although I already own a copy of "Our Lady of Darkness" I snapped this up immediately. I'm glad I did. The two complement each other wonderfully.

The first novel is in some ways a period piece, but a wonderful period piece at that. Leiber's greatest skill seems to be taking a slightly hackneyed bit of story - overly rational university professor finds his dizzying rise in academia is more to do with witchcraft than talent - and then making it seem somehow *real*. There's a quote by Damon Knight on the back of the book to this effect, but basically it has to be as real as possible for the story to work. And Leiber seems to really enjoy taking something quite nonsensical - the various magical rites of the book - and somehow trying to piece together a way in which they *could* work in a rational manner.

Leiber takes this one step further in "Our Lady of Darkness", especially with his concept of "megapolisomancy", somewhere between a magical rite and a more hysterical form of psychogeography. The real bit of genius though is that the book is basically Leiber's own tribute to the horror writers he loves so much. Plot aside - which is a wonderful thing, a brilliant riff on several tropes from M R James' stories - it's the very obviously semi-autobiographical tale of a recovered alcoholic, recently widowed horror/ sci fi writer finding the source of the real horrors in the world is intrinsically linked to the horror books he so loves to read. It works as a commentary on writers such as Ambrose Bierce, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith as well as a sort of pastiche of them. The ending particularly runs with this idea - literally bringing these books to life. A very clever, and beautifully ruminative, book. Also improved by nestling with what for another writer would be seen as juvenilia, but in Leiber's terms just seems like a slightly different angle to pursue very much the same idea. ( )
  irkthepurist | Jul 7, 2010 |
I've been reading horror books as far back as I can remember, starting with fairy tales, Greek myths and Halloween books (I was born too young for Goosebumps, and I was too male for Christopher Pike books) and eventually moving into the mainstream with Stephen King, Dean Koontz and even a quick run through Anne Rice. A few years back I came across a book called Horror: The 100 Best books, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, and was finally able to begin a look at some really cool classic horror. I have now read a lot of horror from the 1800s - and I'll probably post on the value of reading it in a few weeks, but one of my favourite finds in the book was a novel called "Conjure Wife"(1943) by Fritz Leiber.

It is very difficult to pick a favourite book by Fritz Leiber. I love this guy's writing, he goes from classic Fantasy (his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series were one of the main influences on Dungeons and Dragons) to award-winning Science Fiction (he won two Hugo awards for best Novel - The Big Time in 1958 and The Wanderer in 1965), but the books I'll be looking at today were in the horror genre.

Yup - I said books. I cheated a little, I'm using the book Dark Ladies, a collection of two of his horror books, Conjure Wife and Our Lady of Darkness (1977). When I went looking for a copy of Conjure wife, all I could find was this two-in-one edition, but the other book - Our Lady of Darkness, was both extremely Lovecraft influenced and looked a lot like one of my favourite RPGs of the 1990s, Kult (Sorry Vampire: The Masquerade, but I like the REALLY dark stuff).

Anyway, back to the reasons you should read these two books - The plots are simply awesome:

Conjure wife focuses on a college professor who comes across witchy stuff his wife is keeping, which she says she has been using for years to help his career, and in fact she says that most college professor's wives do the same thing. Being a bit of jerk, he demands that all of it be removed from the house as it is all just superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Unfortunately, at this college it isn't, and when this up-and-coming professor loses his magical protection, things get very bad VERY fast.

Our Lady of Darkness (which won the World Fantasy Award for best novel in 1978) is a little trickier as a read. If you are looking to start reading Leiber, I would only suggest this one if you are really into H.P. Lovecraft, as this book takes the ideas from his Cthulhu Mythos and updates them to 20th Century San Francisco. The book focuses on a writer who becomes aware of a cult and begins to see just how massive it's control of the city is. I really liked the book, but I am definitely a big Lovecraft fan so I have a lot of bias.

Both books are worth a read, but if Horror is not your thing, check out his Fantasy or SF, they are all older, so should be available at your local library and are some of the coolest fiction I have had the luck to come across in the last few years.

Check out my actual blog at http://wisdomofbookmonkey.blogspot.com ( )
1 vote bookmonkey00k | Sep 28, 2009 |
Horror story written in a slow-building style, full of the protagonist's unfocused dread. Reminiscent of Lovecraft, structurally. Quite a bit of the plot revolves around San Francisco geography, and some of the climactic scenes take place just up the hill from my apartment. ( )
  aneel | Jan 15, 2006 |
If you've never read Leiber this is a great place to start. 2 great books from an undisputed master. ( )
  LastCall | Dec 27, 2005 |
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Contains the novels Our Lady of Darkness and Conjure Wife.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031286972X, Paperback)

Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) is best known as the creator of the popular heroic-fantasy duo, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but his accomplishments, far more diverse than this suggests, have been strongly influenced not only by fantasy but also by science fiction and horror. His fiction has won the Hugo, Nebula, Derleth, Gandalf, Lovecraft, and World Fantasy Awards, and he has been honored with the Life Achievement Lovecraft Award and the Grand Master Nebula Award. Two of his best novels are the classic dark fantasies Conjure Wife (in 1943 filmed as Weird Woman and Burn Witch Burn) and Our Lady of Darkness (1978 winner of the World Fantasy Award), available in a single volume as Dark Ladies.

In Conjure Wife, Professor Norman Saylor, ethnologist and rationalist, is enjoying rapid career advancement and a happy marriage until the day he discovers that his wife, Tansy, is a witch. When Norm reminds her that magic is baseless superstition, she destroys her charms and protections--and Norm finds his career disintegrating and himself and his wife in dangers he'd once thought impossible.

Our Lady of Darkness introduces San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen. While studying his beloved city by binoculars from his apartment window, he is astonished to see a mysterious figure waving at him from a hilltop two miles away. He walks to Corona Heights and looks back at his building, to discover the figure waving at him from his apartment window--and to find himself caught in a century-spanning curse that may have destroyed Clark Ashton Smith and Jack London. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:53 -0400)

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