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I Await the Devil’s Coming

Introduction by Jessa Crispin

Part of The Neversink Library

Mary MacLane’s I Await the Devil’s Coming is a shocking, brave and intellectually challenging diary of a 19-year-old girl living in Butte, Montana in 1902. Written in potent, raw prose that propelled the author to celebrity upon publication, the book has become almost completely forgotten.

In the early 20th century, MacLane’s name was synonymous with sexuality; she is widely hailed as being one of the earliest American feminist authors, and critics at the time praised her work for its daringly open and confessional style. In its first month of publication, the book sold 100,000 copies — a remarkable number for a debut author, and one that illustrates MacLane’s broad appeal.

Now, with a new introduction written by critic/blogger Jessa Crispin, I Await The Devil’s Coming stands poised to renew its reputation as one of America’s earliest and most powerful accounts of feminist thought and creativity.

— Read “Why I Am a Thief” by Mary MacLane at The New Yorker —

MARY MACLANE was born on May 1st 1881 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her family moved to Minnesota while she was young, then again to Montana after the death of her father and remarriage of her mother. She began writing for her school paper in 1898 and published her first book, which she called I Await the Devil’s Coming — and which her publisher changed to The Story of Mary MacLane — in 1902 at the age of nineteen. She died under mysterious circumstances in Chicago in 1929 — according to reports, she was found dead in a Chicago hotel room — at the age of 48, and her works fell almost immediately into obscurity.

“A small masterpiece, full of camp and swagger.” —Parul Sehgal, choosing I Await the Devil’s Coming as one of 5 Forgotten Classics Worth Revisiting on NPR

“Riveting.” —Michele Filgate, selecting her top ten Summer Reads for New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth

“The book crackles with its author’s outsized personality and outrageous proclamations, yet its shock tactics are rooted in genuine feeling…anyone who reads her will never forget her voice.” —Biographile

“Shocking … sensational … heartfelt and stirring … exalted, Blakean language … She flouted conventional morality to be true to the playful, spirited woman she was.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Confessional journalists have people like Mary MacLane to thank for their blunt style of autobiographical writing…[an]unflinching memoir.” — Flavorwire

“One of the first confessional books written in the U.S… at the turn of the century, MacLane’s fiery frankness made her a pioneer.” — Time Out Chicago

“Beyond the vivid language and eccentric imagination displayed in MacLane’s diaries, her writing reminds us of the power of personal narrative, honestly told.” — The Atlantic

“A book unlike any I’ve ever read…What’s notable in the book is her voice:  her enthusiasm, her arrogance, her intensity, her insistent blasphemy. She wants to shock because this is how hopes to get noticed. Her poetry is one of extremes:  the lust for happiness and the despair for life.” —The Hairy Dog Review

“In a pre-soundbite age she already knew how to draw blood in one direct sentence.”The Awl

“A milestone… Heartwarming, sensual and candid, I Await the Devil’s Coming offers reflections that likely were quite scandalous in their time and remain evocative and powerful today.” —California Bookwatch

“One of the most fascinatingly self-involved personalities of the 20th century.” — The Age (2011)

“Mary MacLane comes off the page quivering with life. Moving.” — The London Times

“The first of the self-expressionists, and also the first of the Flappers.” — The Chicagoan

“I know of no other writer who can play upon words so magically. Mary MacLane is one of the few who actually knows how to write English. She senses the infinite resilience, the drunken exuber- ance, the magnificent power & delicacy of the language.” —H.L. Mencken

“A girl wonder.” —Harper’s Magazine

“A pioneering newswoman and later a silent-screen star, consid- ered the veritable spirit of the iconoclastic Twenties.” —Boston Globe

“She was an extraordinarily gifted girl. . . She had a natural gift for crisp and concise expression, a keen, undisciplined intelligence and the emotional sensibility of a true artist.” —New York Tribune

“A pioneering feminist. . . A sensation.” —Feminist Bookstore News

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