A bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a career in libraries almost killed my fiction consumption. I’d read a story here and there, but mostly, I was reading articles, and nonfiction manuals and analyses of library services, assessment and copyright.
Then, one evening, I walked into our dining room-library-office and looked at the shelves full of interesting books that we had, for various reasons, picked up over the years. I reached out and I grabbed one. Probably by design, I grabbed one that I knew wouldn’t be to hard to get through – an Agatha Christie Poirot mystery. I followed it with another Poirot, then a young adult ghost story, and then, the spine of the Conjure Wife winked at me from a short stack of books on the shelf one down from the top.
It was a book that Richard had picked up, probably because of the cover or the ‘Gothic Horror’ emblazoned on the front. Everybody has their own method of selecting unheard of literature…pleasure reading. My method is to allow the title, cover and description to grab me, then to open the first page of the first chapter and read. If what I read doesn’t grab me, I open to a random page in the middle and read. If what I read the second time doesn’t grab me, I put the book down. This is a luxury of selection that I was not able to enjoy while getting my English Literature degree, and am not able to enjoy while researching and studying for my work. When I picked up the Conjure Wife from our shelves and tried my method on it, I found myself standing in a dimming room, facing the corner of books, while I read several pages without being able to tear myself away.
It was fascinating and timeless, set within an envelope of academia that seemed so familiar and yet different from what I experience every day. Fritz Leiber writes so that you know every corner of a room and every freckle on a person’s face without tediously focusing on any one thing or bloating his work with never ending descriptions. The scene is laid out like the action, so that they are both one thing, inseparable. In the same way, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 9 was so tied to the emotional state of the character/narrator that I wasn’t always sure which was being described; that I was propelled to seek out the music to hear the story in another way.
But, I can’t tell you any more about the story because Richard hasn’t read it yet.