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Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness (Tor Doubles) Mass Market Paperback – August 15, 1991

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Easily the most frightening and (necessarily) the most convincing of all modern horror stories.” ―Damon Knight --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

FRITZ LEIBER, who died in 1992, was one of the most important SF and fantasy writers of the century.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tor Doubles
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (August 15, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812512960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812512960
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Where to start?
Both Conjure Wife and Our Lady of Darkness are masterpeices of supernatural fiction. Conjure Wife, written by Fritz Leiber in the 1940's, is both frightening and thought-provoking, it is also suprisingly up to date. The proposition that all women are witches and utterly control their husbands lives is followed through in a very personal narrative. Don't be put off by the film versions (particularly Night of The Eage, aka Burn Witch Burn), this is a complex story which has an eerie power akin to his famous story 'Smoke Ghost'.

Our Lady of Darkness, was written by Fritz Leiber in the late seventies and is one of his finest novels. Autobiographical (the location, the alcoholism and the loss of his wife are all based on fact) and thus very upsetting in parts. It weaves a magical vision of modern urban horror, a theme that he used throughout his career.
At the centre of the book lies horror fiction itself in the form of Lovecraft and particularly Clark Ashton Smith (both of whom Fritz corresponded with). A lot of the book is a voyage of discovery, the central character is recovering from an alcaholic wake and is slowly waking up into reality again.

This volume brings together Fritz Leibers finest supernatural novels, something not to be missed
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Considered a modern horror story for it's time, Conjure Wife reinvents the 'witch' as well educated women far removed from the green-skinned, hag of our collective imagination and allows her story to unfold on a modern university campus. The action begins fairly early in the book when Norman Saylor, a professor of ethnology, discovers his wife Tansy has put his research into "Negro Conjure Magic" into practice for the sake of protecting him from other spell casting faculty wives who wish to further their own husbands careers and with that their own social standing.

Being a rational man of science Norman has only an academic interest in the subject of magic and superstition and he forces Tansy to cease all her workings and to burn all her charms which mostly take the form of mojo bags (called hands in the book)--with the exception of her diary which contains her formulas for How to Make Wishes Work, How To Get and Guard, to Spell and to Hex. No sooner does Norman burn the last charm hidden in his pocket watch, which Tansy either purposely or accidentally forgot was there, do things start to fall apart. A former student accuses Norman of railroading him into failing out of school and threatens him with a gun, his student-secretary accuses him of having seduced her, and he is passed over for a promotion that had seemed guaranteed.

Norman then begins to have more than his fair share of small accidents such as cutting himself while shaving, stepping on carpet tacks, cutting his hand with a letter opener, etc... and he begins to imagine that he senses a dark presence which exploits his fear of trucks.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
** spoiler alert ** I choose to describe Conjure Wife as a cautionary tale and parable about how closed mindedness, sexism and arrogance (in this case in 1950's academia) can damage those that we love. Norman, a sociology professor at a small, second tier university, is quite full of himself. He describes his wife as "his most prized possession" and, for reasons that are unclear, has chosen to snoop on her and look through her closet and private possessions. As a result, he discovers that his wife is in actuality a practicing witch, and a good one at that. Being the modern scientist and responsible for his wife's well-being (as he sees it) he immediately must sit her down and didactically enlighten his wife, who he clearly considers to be child-like and in need of his guidance. The extended scene in which he describes his patient attempts to help her make the logical steps to "realize" that witchcraft is just a delusion of less advanced societies is nauseating in its paternalism and condescension. She finally agrees to throw it all away. He is finally convinced that he has helped his wife Tansy mature and that this dabbling in primitive customs is behind them. The problem is that the witchcraft is very real and so is the danger created by the sudden removal of all the spells that were protecting him for years. He is about to learn that there are more witches out there and that some can be pretty nasty.

I think that the use of the first person narrative voice was brilliant, even necessary for this novel to have the proper effect. We are able to hear Norman tell the story from his point of view and in his own words and roll our eyes wondering if this pig-headed snob is EVER going to open his eyes to what is happening around him.
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While packaged together, these books really have more differences than commonalities. Still, they are both excellent and interesting together.

Conjure Wife tells a story of the hidden magic of women. Written in the 1940s and set in a small college town, it's an interesting look at a time when even the most intelligent women were largely restricted to supporting roles to their husbands' careers, and often helped them in ways that the men didn't recognize. It was an interesting window into another time, and didn't bother this feminist as much as others apparently, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the second novel.

Our Lady of Darkness, in contrast, is set in a vividly drawn 1970s San Francisco permeated with (hints of) sex, drugs, mysticism, and books. Here you find a whole new set of anxieties on display in response to the times and Leiber's own history. The ostensible main plot, where a journal found in a used bookstore sets the main character to wondering if a city can create its own new kind of magic, builds slowly at first, but his interactions with his neighbors, his excursions through the perfectly realized city, and the characters he meets there are all so engaging that I never felt bored. In the end the real story was less about the ghost and more about what he was really searching for.
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