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Gumbywan

Randolph "Dilda" Carter

A rant about books, horror, and the weird.  I sometimes take on my love/hate relationship with goodreads and Amazon.

Currently reading

Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories
Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William Shatner
Progress: 140/336 pages
Pavane
Keith Roberts

Conjure Wife

Conjure Wife - Fritz Leiber Imagine that all the women in the world were witches, some good (white), some bad (black), and there was a constant battle between these good and bad forces and in this way a sort of balance is maintained. Now imagine all the "rationalistic" men in the world haven't got a clue (I know some will say this part is easy). There you have the gist of Conjure Wife.Norman and Tansy are a stereotypical 1940s young couple. Norman is a college anthropology professor driven by everything scientific and Tansy is a white witch trying to nudge his career along a bit through magic but mainly trying to save his ass from all the evil forces, jealous black witch university spouses, trying to run him down. One day Norman finds some of Tansy's witchy things while going through her personal stuff, something he does regularly when she is not around (which is creepy by itself). Norman enraged demands that Tansy give up all this superstitious nonsense and she like a good wifey does. Well this is a supernatural story so you can see where this is all going. Predictably everything in Norm's and Tansy's life goes downhill really fast. The rest of the story is how this mess is going to be resolved.The primary theme that drives the novel is the tension between the rational and irrational. Norm is a pig headed asshole who dearly loves Tansy but in my opinion takes way too long to come around. They are pretty much in the basement of the outhouse by the time Norm even starts to "get it," and poor Tansy, not Norm, has the worst of it. Even then Norm is really only going through the motions instead of actually believing in what is really happening and what he is doing to set things right. He just can't set his rationality aside even for love or death.There is a critical juncture late in the novel where the suspense finally takes us. I'm not going to tell what it is, but the male gets to be the typical hero. I would have liked a more ambiguous ending. I think it would have been more profound. Having discussed Tiptree a lot recently I wondered what she would have done with this idea. There was an entire gender aspect that could have been a more explored part of the story.I had two problems with the believability of the plot. One, as I said, Norm takes way too long (maybe even never) to "get it," and concede his rational view of the universe is just plain wrong. I know that if he came around sooner we get a short story and not a short novel, so good ol' Fritz needs to drag this out for there to be a novel. Two, Tansy is way too intelligent to be the good wifey and to let this thing get as out of hand as it does. She KNOWS what shit is possible. True she loses her conjure book at one point, but somehow she manages to eventually come up with some pretty mojo magic without it and spell it out for dimwit Norm from this side and from beyond the grave as well.The novel starts out sort of slow, for the first third, but eventually becomes a pretty suspenseful supernatural thriller; a real page turner for the last 2/3. Despite being gender dated it was a good read. Lots of subsequent secret coven plots used ideas pioneered here.