Your Black Magic Library: Lolly Willowes and I Await the Devil’s Coming

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“The amusement she had drawn from their disapproval was a slavish remnant, a derisive dance on the north bank of the Ohio. There was no question of forgiving them. She had not, in any case, a forgiving nature; and the injury they had done her was not done by them. If she were to start forgiving she must needs forgive Society, the Law, the Church, the History of Europe, the Old Testament, great-great-aunt Salome and her prayer-book, the Bank of England, Prostitution, the Architect of Apsley Terrace, and half a dozen other useful props of civilization. All she could do was to go on forgetting them. But now she was able to forget them without flouting them by her forgetfulness.” — Sylvia Townsend Warner, Lolly Willowes

How does one go about tracking down the Devil? I mean, if you really need him. It helps to be an unruly woman, ready to reject society and pursue pleasure for its own sake. Pleasure, power, the wild embrace of alienation. Women have long been more heavily policed than men, in their behavior, their dress, their ambitions. So it’s no wonder that women are traditionally the ones thought to embrace the Devil’s teachings. He offers them a way out from all of that observation. He offers them the power of

In Lolly Willowes, an old woman sick to death of the obligations of home and family walks off one day to go find the Devil. Or, he finds her, after she allows her disobedience and boredom with the traditional female roles show.

And in I Await the Devil’s Coming, a 19-year-old Mary MacLane, living in the dreary confines of Butte, Montana, and watched over by a family and community that does not understand her, writes her Devil-loving manifesto, claiming his love for her own. This bisexual punk rock pioneer spilled all of her hate and all of her rejection of those who rejected her into a fiery manuscript that was an instant bestseller.

Both novels show the power of walking away from the role society has assigned to you, and the dark, feminine power of the Devil.

Image: Portrait of Mary MacLane