Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Books/CDs Received; Fritz Leiber – Conjure Wife; “The Mutant’s Brother”

Posted by Mike on September 14, 2006

Books:

  • Caitlin R. Kiernan – Alabaster
  • Paul Di Filippo – A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicalia

CDs:

  • Circulus – The Lick on the Tip of an Envelope Yet to be Sent
  • High Tide – Sea Shanties (eclectic)
  • High Tide – High Tide (eclectic)
  • Missus Beastly – Missus Beastly (garden of delights)
  • One Shot – Ewaz Vader
  • Pienza Ethnorkester – Indiens d’Europe
  • Pure Reason Revolution – The Dark Third
  • Sikth – Death of a Dead Day
  • Dungen – Ta Det Lugnt
  • Fast ‘N Bulbous – Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind
  • Charles Kaczynski – Lumiere de la Nuit
  • October Equus – October Equus
  • Sebkha Chott – Nagah Mahdi
  • Soft Machine – Grides

I’ve already spoken on a few of these over at Outer Music and there will probably be more to come.

I’d rather spend this morning talking about Fritz Leiber. I’ve been reading Leiber for ages, when I was 11 I came across the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books/Lankhmar/Swords books. Was probably a bit too young at the time and never remembered where I left off, but I ended up reading the whole series again about a decade ago and absolutely adore it, I never cut them loose. A few years later I read “The Big Time” which I didn’t particularly care for, but then the novella “Ship of Shadows,” which I think I went over here, really blew me away. So I embarked on a mission to find everything I could at this point, which is not easy. Most Leiber short fiction is being released by Darkside Press in very limited editions, two of which, The Black Gondolier and Smoke Ghost are severely out of print (fortunately there’s a print on demand version of BG). Even in his heyday, many of Leiber’s short stories were never anthologized.

I’ve read all but one story through 1942, which should show up in an upcoming Darkside Press collection, but it seems to be 1943 when there’s a really big jump in quality. His first novel was released in the pulps at the time, called “Conjure Wife.” I believe it was updated in the 50s, so I doubt what I’m reading is probably pure 1943, mostly because it’s one of those  masterpieces that truly lives up to the hype and much better quality than everything to date. Norman Saylor is a college professor in true rational/skeptical mode who finds out that his wife is a practicing witch. When confronted with this, he tells her to get rid of everything and the couple go through the house burning various charms and such. Then all hell breaks loose as strange things start to happen, subtly at first. I won’t go into it too much more, but it’s a clever story, extremely well plotted and thought out, with a couple of chilling scares. A 12-13 on the Gnosis scale at least.

I found “The Mutant’s Brother” in the third modern Leiber hardback “Day Dark, Night Bright.” It hasn’t ever been anthologized through the years, like a lot of Leiber’s work between 1943 and 1944, but it’s a real shame because, even though it’s a bit dated by featuring a futuristic world in 1973 (September 17th the letter in the story is dated, which is my birthday :)), it’s tautly plotted with a nice premise and great end twist. Definitely better than all his stories to date. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to knocking a few more Leiber stories down this weekend.

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