Tag: literature

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.


Review: Cthuloid Dreams, by DJ Lawrence

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Cthuloid Dreams: A Collection of Occult Poetry, by DJ Lawrence
Chaosmagic.com, 115 pp., 2004

Inspired and influenced by the Discordianism, Lovecraft mythos and Setianism, DJ Lawrence has compiled a collection of poetry gathered over the years.

Often lyrical with delightful turns of phrase, Lawrence seems taken with decidedly darker themes, with titles such as ‘Bitter’, ‘Set’, ‘Death’, ‘Necronomicon’, and of course, the title-poem ‘Cthuloid Dreams’.

This is a neat collection of more than sixty short poems, whose evocative imagery would lend itself well to inclusion in darker themed rites.

Cthuloid Dreams
can be purchased exclusively from Chaosmagic.com’s online store.


Review: Kissing Darkness, by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and David Wayne Dunn

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Kissing Darkness: Love Poems, by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and David Wayne Dunn
RiverWood Books, 1883991838, 93 pp., 2003

In 1980 David Wayne Dunn first wrote to Carolyn Mary Kleefeld after reading her first book of book, Climate of the Mind, expressing his admiration. Over the next seventeen years, they continued their correspondence sharing poetry and gradually their more intimate experiences. The poems in this book were written between 1996 and 2002, which Dunn and Kleefeld wrote for each other.

This lover’s dialogue in poetry, Kissing Darkness, written over a five year period, expresses romantic and erotic ideals, conveyed in vivid metaphor.

The poetry in this collection is interspersed with beautiful illustrations, being Kleefeld’s bright and expressive series of paintings titled Immortal Letters and Dunn’s colour ink drawings.


Review: Aradia or The Gospel of the Witches, by Charles Godfrey Leland

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Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches, by Charles Godfrey, Leland, introduced by A.J. Drew
New Page Books, 160 pp., 2003

It is primarily in the Preface, Introduction, Commentaries, and “Final Word” that this edition differs from earlier copies. Basically, this is a reprint of Leland’s original publication.

Although many of the younger generation of Witches (and, I suspect, most of the Wiccans) will never have seen this book (or even heard of it), it is the second copy of it that I have owned. My first copy was produced by Hero Press with an introduction by Dr. Leo Louis Martello, well over a quarter of a century ago. At one time it was considered required reading for all students of the Craft. It forms the underpinning of much of the teaching and mythology of Strega (in fact, it was often the first exposure many of us had to that branch of the Craft).

The Witchcraft expounded in this small volume is not the White-light, politically correct Wicca of the modern world. Witches, in this volume, are encouraged to return good for good, but if someone slaps your face – punch his lights out! No meekness or mildness here.

Published originally in 1899 (that’s right folks, half a century before Gardner, Valiente, et. al.) it contains the essence of “The Charge of the Goddess,” which Doreen Valiente later reworked in Gardner’s Book of Shadows. It contains conjurations in both Italian and English, as well as commentaries throughout by Mr. Drew.


The Little Book of Vegan Poems, by Benjamin Zephaniah

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The Little Book of Vegan Poems, by Benjamin Zephaniah AK Press, 1902593332, 2000The Little Book of Vegan Poems, aimed at both children and adults, begins with a compilation of definitions from various dictionaries and encyclopedias before moving into the poetry. This little book has it all: veganism, animal rights, nature, limericks, hell, even vegan erotic poetry - some cute, some vaguely disturbing, many nonsensical, all eco-friendly, makes me wonder if this book was printed on recycled paper.There's a warning to meat eaters on the back and inside that the poetry might offend them, but the poem "Eat Your Words" ((p. 30)) pretty much sums it up with "And vegetarian poets / Make me nervous quite a lot."  Read More

Review: The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker

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The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker
HarperCollins, 0006472257, 1989, 1994

“Memory, prophecy and fantasy –
the past, the future and the
dreaming moment between –
are all one country,
living one immortal day.

To know this is Wisdom.

To use it is the Art. “

If you have never read Clive Barker before, prepare to be impressed. His books will be like none you have read before. It is hard to sum up his genre, it crosses from fantasy to horror to metaphysical wonderings. Each book, or series of books is different, yet they all share one thing, and that is Barker’s ability to create not just a new world of characters, but an entire system of beliefs and philosophies that create a story so deep you can almost believe it’s real.

This series (Books of the Art) is my personal favourite out of his books I have read so far. The ideas he puts forward in these novels are as well thought out and tenable as any contained in magickal treatise or religious text.

They concern The Art, while it is never really clarified as to what The Art is, Barker’s creativity and attention to every details convinces you it is real and attainable. These stories provide ideas about our world and race and that of worlds outside our own, of the way that life itself, our every essence of being relate to an overall scheme. Without wishing to ruin aspects of the story, it sets out a clear, and yet not so clear, paradigm of existence, with our world (the cosm) and an almost polar opposite (the meta-cosm) set opposing each other, separated by the dream sea ‘quiddity’ , the place where everything comes from. Our world and that outside our own both seem to be reflections of that which comes from quiddity and it is never perfectly clear what Barker is suggesting about the nature of reality, are we real and the enemy (Iad) in the meta-cosm mere creations of our minds or the other way around?

There are so many levels to this story, as people step up to take their rolls, people searching for The Art, people who know, people who don’t, people finding out, Barker sews together a million little threads seamlessly into one story.

In trying to write this review it became apparent to me how complex these two books are and how hard it is to sum up the plot. It is a series of books that just have to be read by anyone with any interest in different ways of thinking about how everything fits together.

Clive says he will start work on the long awaited book 3 of the art sometime soon, personally, I can’t wait.


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