Tag: biography

Fire Child, by Maxine Sanders

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Fire Child, by Maxine SandersFirechild, by Maxine Sanders Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders 'Witch Queen', by Maxine Sanders Mandrake, 9781869928780, 309 pp., 2008I have been waiting for this book to be written for years, if not decades. We need more autobiographies (as well as biographies) concerning those people who helped to bring our religion out of the broom closet. We already had Gerald Gardner: Witch and King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders as well as several books relating the life and works of George Pickingill, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek, and more modern practitioners such as Fiona Horne. The Internet has made it easy to find out about individuals’ actions. Their motivations, however, may not be so easily determined.One of the things I enjoyed  about this book was Maxine Sanders's lack of pretension. Far too many elders in the Craft had, seemingly, flawless introductions to our religion, and smooth sailing throughout their careers. Not so with Sanders. She honestly recounts the bumps in the road and reveals the hidden warts. It may give hope to the next generation of witches to realize that snafus and bad decisions can be overcome with minimal bad effect in the long run. Read More

Stewart Farrar, by Elizabeth Guerra

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Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick, The Biography of Stewart Farrar, by Elizabeth Guerra RJ Stewart Books, 9780979140273, 227 pp., 2008I have, over the past several years, bemoaned the fact that there has been a steady erosion of knowledge about the inner thoughts and attitudes of those people most influential in the Pagan movement in the earlier days of the twentieth century. Many of them have entered the Summerland and left us no records. Others are known only by their public writings.Ms. Guerra has undertaken the gargantuan task of chronicling the life of a very influential, very well respected, and yet very private man. She is owed a large debt of gratitude for doing so. Read More

The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley, by Richard Kaczynski

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The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley, by Richard Kaczynski, edited and introduced by James WassermanWeiser Books, 978157634569, 126 pp. (incl. appendices), 2009Richard Kaczynski is the author of the acclaimed biography, Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley (sadly out of print), and it's not surprising that he is able to sketch the outlines of Crowley's life so.  Naturally, the book begins with a biography of Crowley, briefly describing his early life, his time at Cambridge, poetry, the Golden Dawn, the reception of Leiber AL vel Legis, the OTO and the A.'. A.'., the Abbey of Thelema and his end.  The section concludes with an annotated list of twelve books of Crowley's work as recommended reading.Part I deals with "Mystical and Magical Societies", specifically Read More

Review: I, Crowley, by Snoo Wilson

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I Crowley: Almost the Last Confession of the Beast 666, by Snoo Wilson
Mandrake of Oxford, 252 pp., 1997, 1999

A novel written as an autobiography of Aleister Crowley, I, Crowley depicts the years he spent in America, where he first met Leah, and the occurrences of the Abbey at Cefalu, concluding with Raoul’s death there.

It has been nearly sixty years since Aleister Crowley’s death, fifty at the time of the first publication of this book. A controversial figure in his time, he remains so today. In Crowley’s voice, Wilson writes: “The comic contradictions degenerators’ various ‘takes’ on my character are simply the price paid for individuality, and can be safely ignored by seekers after truth”.

One can sympathize with this view, though in fact the presentation of his character, life and writings are often heavily filtered by both his detractors and advocates alike; and depending on the final image desired, details are carefully selected to support these views. Fortunately, Wilson spares us such vulgarities, and attempts to capture Crowley’s spirit and style, and he is almost successful – a high compliment.

Wilson demonstrates his extensive knowledge of Crowley’s life, works, attitudes and mannerisms, as well as the contradictory nature of the Beast himself in exploring his inner workings.

The chapter headings follow the trumps of Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck, and numerous footnotes and illustrations serve to further inform the text.

Irreverent and often funny, I, Crowley is a wonderful read; recommended.

Review: Lovecraft Lexicon, by Anthony B Pearsall

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The Lovecraft Lexicon: A Reader's Guide to Persons, Places and Things in the Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, by Anthony B. Pearsall New Falcon Publications, 1561841293, 472 pp. (incl. appendix), 2005Lovecraft invented so many creatures and places, for a new reader approaching his works for the first time, keeping them straight could seem overwhelming. The Lovecraft Lexicon aims to aid the reader by providing a useful guide to his creations: people, places, things, and, of course, Things. It's a neat idea, and it works. Read More

Review: An Insider’s Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, by Eric Wagner

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An Insider’s Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, by Eric Wagner
New Falcon Publications, 156184165X, 237 pp. (incl. appendices and bibliography), 2005

One would have thought the only insider to Bob’s head would be Wilson himself, and yet Eric Wanger has corresponded with RAW over the past twenty years, first via snail mail, and later by e-mail. After twenty years of communication he must have some insight into Wilson’s inner workings, and his efforts aren’t half bad from this outsider’s perspective. Wilson must agree, as he’s written a preface, introduction and overture for the book, though while he may have helped with the infomercial, I think it’s mostly Wagner’s work.

The text also includes a list of the books by RAW, including the Maybe Logic DVDs, an interview, and a lexicon explaining the symbolism behind some of Wilson’s material, though curiously there’s no mention of Greg Hill, co-founder of Discordianism. Actually, Wilson’s exact relationship to Discordianism is never discussed in depth, despite it being a major subject and theme (directly and indirectly) in many of his works.

But perhaps the most useful chapter is Appendix Samekh, in which he goes through the Illuminatus! trilogy in its ten parts and describes the many kabbalistic correspondences and obscure references, seemingly resulting in one massive rolling ball of coincidence and magick and the Illuminatus! timeline.

Unfortunately the book is severely repetitive, for example, the critter story told at least twice (not to mention I’d read it before this book), and William Burroughs cut-ups are explained at least three separate times. In fact, one passage is quoted twice in the same essay.

As Wagner points out, reading Wilson leads to other writers, through reference and obvious influence on his works, ‘[his] style derives directly from Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Raymond Chindler, H.L. Menken, William S. Burroughs, Benjamin Tucker, and Elephant Doody Comix, in approximately that order of importance’. In fact, Wilson gave a list of ten recommended books in a 1996 magazine, later with supplements, and Wagner has gone through them, giving commentary on his reading experience.

There are other irrelevant bits that seem thrown in for no apparent reason, such as vacations and family photos from Wager’s trips to Dublin, Amsterdam, Egypt, etc. For example, there’s one photograph of a man standing in front of a dark wall with a sign reading ‘James Joyce Pub’, evidently taken in Zürich, with the caption ‘Great picture of my dad…’ on page 213. Sure it is Eric, I just don’t quite get what it has to do with Robert Anton Wilson.

So is it an insider’s guide? Well, while there are some useful and interesting bits to be found within its pages, for it appears mostly to be a somewhat disjointed account of Wagner’s unique appreciation and admiration of the man, rambling and repetitive as it is.

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