Book Rec: Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber

Forgive me if this blog suddenly turns into a Gothic treasure trove through December. I think I've mentioned NaNoWriMo before. My first attempt at completing the challenge will be a modern Gothic novel. While I feel myself to be quite familiar with the Gothic aesthetic (especially the Victorian Gothic and Gothic Parody), I want to do as much research into the style and conventions as possible so that I can attempt to faithfully update them for 2008. Book Rec: Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber For all the horror films I talk about on this blog, you think I would get excited more often about horror fiction. After all, many of the films I love are based on the popular horror stories of that time. But it doesn't happen. All too often, I find myself wondering why some of the more popular horror novels are all tell the story, show the gore. No subtlety, little character development, just boring people thrown into horrifying situations to show some twisted idea of the author. Not with Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber. Like all of my favorite horror novels, Fritz Leiber is a firm believer in providing only the slightest hints possible to what is really happening in the novel. If you guess one thing that's going to happen, you probably missed seven things also hinted at in the text. As the reader, you don't know what is going to happen until the characters know, an even greater achievement as the novel has survived for over sixty years and is still very chilling. Fair warning for the uninitiated: this was written in 1943 and some of the racial and gender rhetoric is dated to say the least. The story? A professor at a college discovers his wife has been practicing witchcraft for years in an effort to ensure his success. He convinces her to burn every magical possession she has and give up her silly superstitious nonsense. As his wife begins to flourish without the weight of the superstitions over her head, the husband begins to unravel as paranoid thoughts creep into his head. Could his wife have been correct in stating she wasn't the only faculty wife practicing for the benefit of their husband? If the story sounds familiar, it very well may be. The novel has been adapted for the screen three times: Weird Women, Night of the Eagle (Burn, Witch, Burn), and Witches' Brew (Which Witch is Which). This particular storyline is arguably an original notion by Fritz Leiber. Meaning, he was the first to tell this particular tale in the same way Jane Austen was the first (in Pride and Prejudice) to have two would be lovers meet and hate each other (the basis of many romantic comedies). Aside from the craft in plotting, the language is beautiful and clever. "He felt like he fell in love with her for the hundredth first time." Makes your heart melt, doesn't it? Give it a try if you can find a copy.

Labels: book rec