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I Await the Devil's Coming

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,172 ratings  ·  229 reviews
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 widel
Paperback, 162 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Melville House (first published April 26th 1902)
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 ·  1,172 ratings  ·  229 reviews

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Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Holy cats, that was ridiculous. And hilarious and possibly amazing. I Await The Devil's Coming is a bit like being locked in the bathroom with the drunkest girl at the party who keeps talking at you about her 'pain'. Written over 100 years ago, when Maclane was 19, this was one of the very first confessional memoirs (though she refers to Marie Bashkirtseff's published diaries, the humbly named 'I Am The Most Interesting Book Of All', which sounds like it might be similarly crazy too, though Macl ...more
Mary Maclane was 19, an 1899 graduate of Butte High School when she wrote the journal-like entries that became I Await the Devil's Coming, her original title for this book.

On long, long daily walks around Butte, Montana and the "sand and barrenness" surrounding it, "so ugly indeed that it is near the perfection of ugliness", she rages against her bitter loneliness, now that her only love, her high school literature teacher Fannie Corbin, had moved away, leaving her alone with her genius and suff
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I decided to read this for a curious reason: it figures prominently in the new novel Plain Bad Heroines, that I'm reading next, so I thought it might be wise to read this first. Alas, even though fairly short, it is extremely repetitious and tedious. I really could have read the first 10 pages, and gotten the gist of the entire book. There is no plot to speak of - it is comprised solely of three months of the 1901 diary entries of a 19 year old girl living in Butte, Montana, who fashions herself ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nothing, oh nothing on the earth can suffer like a woman young and all alone!

There is a lot in this book that appeals to a part in me that likes essentialism, this affect driven part. Mary MacLane's book is something (it is /something/) that is about what it means to be an adolescent teenage girl (well, one in the Western world, and there are other important constraints here that need to be acknowledged, whiteness, privilege). But there is an anger and a yearning and a sadness that I can't help
Sian Lile-Pastore
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is crazy and ridiculous and unintentionally funny and therefore amazing. Published in 1902 when the author was 19, this has such a great style that I kept having to read bits out to whoever was in the room with me (hi bert!). Mainly she is talking about what a genius she is and how great the devil is, a bit about food and then more about her genius. I loved this bit:

'Also I eat bits of toast. I have my breakfast alone - because the rest of the family are still sleeping, - sitting at the cor
"Napoleon was a man, and though sensitive, his flesh was safely covered"

Yes, but who was Mary MacLane? Mary MacLane was a truly extraordinary nineteen-year old with a "fine young body that is feminine in every fiber" and a brain that is "a conglomeration of aggressive versatility". She is "a fantasy--absurdity--a genius!" with no parallel, "a genius, with a wondrous liver within". But she lives in Butte Montana in 1901, and stuck there, she writes this "Portrayal" of herself, in which she is ver
Sep 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-writing
The 1902 publication of Mary MacLane’s book made her an overnight sensation, discussed and written about from England to Australia, horses, cigars, even cooking products were branded with her name; admiring fan-girls formed MacLane clubs, and young women considered too wayward or too unconventional were labelled as suffering from MacLaneism. On the surface there’s nothing remarkable about I Await the Devil’s Coming it’s a brief portrait, three months in the life of a fairly ordinary, nineteen-ye ...more
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The wonderous Mary Maclane, "Montana's lit'ry lady!" This book is not a story, as the title suggests; not a memoir, either. It's the daily journal of a lonesome 19-year-old in Butte, Montana, in the early months of 1902. Each day, she reflects on life writ large or small: declaring her unprecedented genius one day, telling a surrealist story about toothbrushes the next. Sensuously teaching "how to eat an olive," or describing how she eats breakfast alone, kicking against the kitchen chair, stari ...more
Panda Incognito
When I saw this on order in the library catalog, I guessed from the cover that it must be about a female serial killer, and was very surprised when I read the description and reviews here. Despite those serial killer eyes, this is actually a confessional diary from a depressed, goth, bisexual teenage girl from turn-of-the-century Montana who was convinced that she was a genius and was alternatively in love with her female school teacher from the past, Napoleon, and the Devil.

Yes. The Devil. The
Jessica Halleck
"I have in me the germs of intense life. If I could live, and if I could succeed in writing out my living, the world itself would feel the heavy intensity of it."


"I am filled with an ambition. I wish to give the world a naked Portrayal of Mary MacLane: her wooden heart, her good young woman's-body, her mind, her soul."


"I wish to leave all my obscurity, my misery--my weary unhappiness--behind me forever.

I am deadly, deadly tired of my unhappiness."


I feel like Mary's handful of actual ideas
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
All poor Mary MacLane wanted to do was to get laid and make art. What more could anyone want? Well, in 1900s Montana she couldn't do much of the former, and the latter got her run out of town. How in God's name can a nineteen-year old write like this? I mean, holy fucking shit: "Surely there must be in a world of manifold beautiful things something among them for me. And always, while I am still young, there is that dim light, the Future. But it is indeed a dim, dim light, and ofttimes there's a ...more
From an ACLU handout at a Lewis & Clark Public Library program during the Big Read 2011: Banned in Butte when the author called the Butte area "as ugly an outlook as one could wish to see" and called the people of Butte "dry and warped." Butte did not like being insulted and the book was banned by the local library and denounced by The Butte Miner. ...more
Hayley DeRoche
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the words of Mary MacLane, "Poor little Mary MacLane!"

Her egotism must surely be the weight of an ark. Her genius is self-proclaimed from the rooftops. She is stuck in nowheresville Butte, Montana, and she is 19, and lonely, and despairing, and everyone else's souls are dumb, and she is so very much alone with her own philosophy, and her mad genius, and she is, by the way, 19, just to make things worse. As the forward notes, imagine the tragedy, the utter uselessness, of Napoleon being trapp
Michael Brown
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All persons literate
Recommended to Michael by: Melville House
Summary: The electrifying MacLane returns.

As a long-time researcher and publisher of MacLane's work, I welcome Melville House's publication of this 1902 classic: much-imitated in her time, and unsurpassed to this day in communicating the inner reality of a complex, surging, sui generis spirit.

As I remarked in a forthcoming MacLane anthology: [She] wrote at least five books: three published, two she is known to have destroyed. Her first - a journal of three months in utter obscurity in Butte - br
May 14, 2016 rated it liked it
This diary enlightened me to the fact that the teenage mind has changed much less due to modernity than I thought. The compulsive obsessions with the glory of oneself and the horror of feeling isolated are probably a continuation from the time before the pyramids. I can picture an Egyptian teenage girl sitting in the shadow of a half built pyramid musing about how her genuis wasn't understood by the adults around her. "I can write stories that will make the Gods come alive!!"
My hubby and I read
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In her early pictures she wears the same look of fiery sullenness we see in the young Napoleon: she knows that within her there is a spring of life and she is afraid that the world will not let it flow forth...
-- Rebecca West
Amy Bruestle
Mar 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ebooks
Ugh. Honestly....I’m not really sure how I was even able to finish this. I thought that I would be able to relate to this...but the way it was written made it somewhat difficult. And jeez, talk about repetition! I get that this was a start at feminism back in the day, but I don’t know...I just couldn’t get into it. Yet, surprisingly I finished it. That’s about all I have to say about this one. It is hurting my head trying to think about it further. Lol.
Joe Miguez
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
The late Bill Hicks used to do a bit in the late '80s where he lamented the rise in popularity of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, and wondered how such attention could be paid to teenaged girls, who obviously couldn't have anything important to say. If he truly believed in the complete vapidity of the American teenaged girl, then it's very likely that Bill Hicks never read Mary MacLane. If he had, his autodidact's sense of snobbery and frustration with the small-mindedness of Joe and Jane America wou ...more
Peter Landau
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Mary MacLane is the kind of woman I love, a bit crazy, maybe. Self-obsessed, yeah, sure. But I want to party with this cowgirl!

She spends the entirety of her book ranting about her genius, how lonely she is in the middle-of-nowhere America and that the Devil is the only man for her. It's a constant refrain, the title of the book, the only being she reaches out for other than herself (and an unnamed female companion, long gone).

After I while I wondered where the genius was. The writing is strong
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have no idea what to make of this. I believe I'm supposed to be disgusted, fascinated, and repelled by Mary MacLane's insufferable self-absorption, her dramatics, the ignorance of youth. I'm supposed to obliterate her with a star or give her five stars for genius. But I don't feel either way, really.

MacLane is a surprisingly wonderful writer—her form and syntax are perfect. She writes taut sentences that feel bigger than they are. They flow like lava. Her inner turmoil isn't childish or whiny;
Amy Rae
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm pretty sure there's nothing I can say better than this review right here.

That said, this book is an interesting historical oddity that quickly overstays its welcome. For a bohemian genius, MacLane sure is bad at writing things I'd actually want to read. Sure, she can do entire entries on eating olives and how sexy strong Napoleon is, not to mention fanfic of her proposing to the Devil, but what the hell does she do all day? Wanders around in the Nothingness of Butte's sandy scenery, makes fu
Jul 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is very bad. I'm sorry- I am more open-minded than most & certainly was excited by all the buzz surrounding this book. Maybe everyone else rating it so highly has succumbed to some intellectual elitist groupthink regarding this "memoir" (unfair to even call it this- it amounts to little more than the self-indulgent ramblings of a very bored, slightly manic teenager and not even in an engaging way) but I cannot find the appeal. I understand that her "feminist" writing was unusual for the tim ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've certainly read better books this year, but I haven't read any that gave me more pleasure than this one did on a sentence-by-sentence level. The brazen audacity and bizarre nature of Mary MacLane's constant claims of genius are breathtaking, and the vignettes she shares as proof of her genius, such as her three-page-long description of how she eats an olive and her special fudge-making technique (brown sugar only!), are bonkers and hilarious. Also, at various junctures she professes a romant ...more
Linda Martin
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers - to learn from her writing style
Recommended to Linda by: Amazon.Com
Mary MacLane wrote her heart out for three months, but unfortunately had little to say. You see, her life was extremely boring and she was suffering greatly from a lack of excitement and love. She was nineteen - an age when girls these days are exploring the world, going to rock concerts, and finding romance. Mary was deprived of all that - she was stuck in her mother's home in Butte, Montana at the start of the 20th century. Her book was published in 1902.

Mary's life was horribly dull. She'd li
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It would be difficult to not feel a little intimidated in writing this review when my sister wrote the introduction. Which is of course why I bought it. I mean, I would have been intrigued by the description anyway, and it is from one of my favorite publishers, but with my sister's name on the cover -- it was practically a contractual obligation.

And her introduction was on fire with enthusiasm. It sounded like the kind of book we would have given our eye teeth to have discovered in high school,
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This plotless and repetitive memoir from 1901 presents a nineteen year old genius (she claims it, and i believe it) lamenting the daily horror show of her life. Nothing really terrible happens, but MacLane offers us the terror of ordinary days: nothing, nothing, and more nothing. She is isolated from her fellow humans by her genius, and prays daily for one hour of happiness, which she'd be willing to give an eternity fo the devil for. It's a remarkably risky book for small town america,1901, and ...more
Ana PF
Feb 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Mary MacLane was nothing but a huge narcissist. I am sorry for those who lived next to her and did not have the choice of throwing away the book, like I did every time she started getting obnoxious again, which was every two pages, approximately.
Colour me not surprised that she vanished into oblivion soon after passing away. Colour me surprised that she is now being heralded as this rebel, visionary soul as well as, according to the Spanish publishing house in charge of her Dear Diary, the first
Michael Brown
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sharp, surreal, at times goes on in the most childish way - so much so you wonder if the author was suppressing her real personality to seem younger than she appeared - and then breaks out into the strangest wisdom and sometimes almost perfection. Like nothing else, for certain.
Abeer Abdullah
An incredibly dry and high strung stream of thoughts. tediously intense and exhausting at times, I know what it's like to live like that. An effective reflection of 'Nothingness'. I wish I could have befriended mary, I think we would have gotten a long. ...more
Feb 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Mary MacLane took four months of her life to write, not a diary, but a Portrayal. She longs for more outside the small town of Butte, Montana. She longs for people who are like her, distance from her family, and the return of the passionate love she has for her "anemone lady". Through exposing her soul, she wishes for Fame and Happiness. Her only hope in either of these, particularly Happiness, is the Devil.

Though Mary wrote this back in 1901 (with her portrayal published in 1902), her words ar
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Mary MacLane was a controversial Canadian-born American writer whose frank memoirs helped usher in the confessional style of autobiographical writing. MacLane was known as the "Wild Woman of Butte."

MacLane was a very popular author for her time, scandalizing the populace with her shocking bestselling first memoir and to a lesser extent her two following books. She was considered wild and uncontrol

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28 likes · 6 comments
“I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel—everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.” 54 likes
“May I never, I say, become that abnormal, merciless animal, that deformed monstrosity— a virtuous woman. Anything, Devil, but that.” 15 likes
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