Monday, February 19, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Six

Cover of January 1964 issue of Playboy magazine, which included an interview with Vladimir Nabokov. 

This week: Commentary for Line 149 to Commentary to Line 181.

I read this particular section on my birthday, enjoying the sentences and the witticisms. There are so many good sentences in this book, and I particularly like this one: "I saw a world-famous old writer, bent under the incubus of literary honors and his own prolific mediocrity, arrive in a taxi out of the dim times of yore when Shade and he had been joint editors of a little review." (From the commentary to line 181).

Comments on some other bits:

Line 149 commentary: Kinbote seems to be repulsed by the sort of young women who delight most men and his artfully phrased repugnance is a recurring amusing motif in the novel: "A sleepy and sullen expression blurred whatever appeal her snub-nosed round face might have had for the local shepherds .... " Is it just me, or is the whole section about Garh an inversion of the old dirty jokes about the farmer's daughter?

Line 172, books and people: "Prof. Pnin....happily, Prof. Botkin..." Pnin is presumably a reference to Nabokov's novel, Pnin. Pay close attention to the references to Prof. Botkin.

Line 172, books and people: It seems to me that this is Nabokov speaking directly, under the guise of Shade -- the comments attributed to Shade sounds like the statements Nabokov made in his interview with Playboy magazine. 

A couple of bits from the interview:

Nabokov: I think my favorite fact about myself is that I have never been dismayed by a critic’s bilge or bile, and have never once in my life asked or thanked a reviewer for a review.

And also:

Nabokov: To return to my lecturing days: I automatically gave low marks when a student used the dreadful phrase “sincere and simple”—“Flaubert writes with a style which is always simple and sincere”—under the impression that this was the greatest compliment payable to prose or poetry. When I struck the phrase out, which I did with such rage in my pencil that it ripped the paper, the student complained that this was what teachers had always taught him: “Art is simple, art is sincere.” Someday I must trace this vulgar absurdity to its source. A schoolmarm in Ohio? A progressive ass in New York? Because, of course, art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex.

"Art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex." The credo behind his most "complex" and "deceitful" novel, Pale Fire?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'Community' according to the Eight Circuit model

Bobby Campbell's rendition of the character Annie Edison from Community 

I don't pay close attention to TV, so I'm not familiar with the Community TV show, although apparently it was a well-regarded situation comedy. 

Bobby Campbell obviously knows the show, however, and has posted an analysis of the show, relating the characters to the Eight Circuit model of consciousness. I don't know the show, but admire Bobby's mastery of the model.

 Actress Alison Brie, who played Annie Edison. Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Online discussion group news

As the online discussion of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire continues, I have dates to announce for the planned online discussion of Joseph Kerman's book, The Beethoven Quartets.

The Kerman discussion will be led by Jeopardy champ Eric Wagner (author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson) and will focus not just on Beethoven and Kerman's book but on Robert Anton Wilson's interest in Beethoven and how Beethoven's music connects to Wilson's work.

"I plan to write weekly pieces on the Kerman Beethoven book starting August 6, with the official group beginning August 13 and running eighteen weeks until December 10," Eric says.

About the Kerman book, Eric says, " I gave copies of this book to both Robert Anton Wilson and Rafi Zabor. I took a copy of it with me when I appeared on Jeopardy."

Wait, what? I asked Eric the obvious follow-up question.

" I won $10,001 and the home version of the game when I appeared Jeopardy November 30 and December 1, 1999, and I got to talk with Alec Trebek about E-Prime and Aleister Crowley on national television. My Double Jeopardy categories included "Shakespeare" and "Movie Quotes". When my wife in the audience saw the categories, she turned to her son and said, "We're going to Paris."

Eric trampling his opponents. And he didn't even get any Beethoven questions!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Psychedelic Press announces Issue No. 23

Psychedelic Press in the U.K. has published issue #23, the Discordianism issue, available soon, order it now if you don't want to miss getting a copy, details here.  Lots of contributors who are familiar names to readers of this blog, such as Adam Gorightly and Adrian Reynolds. Here is Adam's blog post. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Join the Illuminati!

It turns out the Illuminati have a website. Would I lie to you? It's right here.

The "About Us" section helpfully explains, "The Illuminati operates various departments and programs for the benefit of all people, in all places, from all generations. By protecting the interests of humanity as a whole, our organization has ensured the ongoing dominance of the human species over every other creature and predator on this planet."

You can join simply by giving them your email address; I thought it would be a little harder to get in. Screenshot above is from the email I got Tuesday.

I'm not sure how you figure out if it's the real Illuminati, but the group does have a press contact. 

Via an article in the Independent by David  Barnett about Freemasons.  Barnett wrote to the press contact for the Illuminati, asking, (among other quesions), "can you let me know if all that stuff in the Robert Anton Wilson/Robert Shea books was true?"

No answer, alas.

Incidentally, the Illuminati's publicist is on Twitter, but the account is protected. Can't be too careful when you're a spokeswoman for the world's most powerful group!

Hat tip: @advantardeodus on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Post: Eric Wagner reviews 'The Miranda Complex, Volume 3'

The Miranda Complex Volume 3 by Barry Smolin

Fausto Marcon recently posted on the Facebook group Robert Anton Wilson Fans, “who's the contemporary RAW? seriously, any other like him? Who's spreading the verb nowadays?” I would like to nominate Barry Smolin, whose The Miranda Complex Volume 3 I just finished. I devoured this 378 novel in four days, much as I had volumes one and two. I found the novel hilarious and true, even though the protagonist experienced infinitely more sex and drugs in high school than I did.

On page 51 the protagonist Lance Atlas quotes Samuel Beckett, “But habit is a great deadener.” (I wonder if Beckett learned this from Proust?) Smolin’s novel takes the day to day activities of an LA high school student in the 1977-1978 school year and uses them to paint a cosmic canvas which brings readers alive, hopefully awakening them from habitual fear.

Volume 1 quickly made reference to the Miranda from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Smolin brings that up again in Volume 3 when Lance reads the play in his senior English AP English class, acting out the role of Prince Ferdinand. I imagine Smolin based Lance on his own high school self much as Joyce based Stephen Dedalus on his own youth. (And yes, Lance also reads Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in that English class.) If young Lance also corresponds with the youthful prince in The Tempest, perhaps the adult novelist Smolin plays the role of Prospero. Later in the novel Lance listens to a recording of a speech by Prospero read by Jonathan Frid who played Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. I love how Smolin incorporates so many cultural references that resonate for me, from Dark Shadows to Proust and, of course, the Grateful Dead. A Dead concert on January 10, 1978, plays a pivotal role in the novel.

I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough. Please check it out

— Eric Wagner

Eric Wagner is a writer and teacher who lives in the Los Angeles area. He is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. See also Mr. Wagner's previous post on Barry Smolin. -- The Management. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week Five

This week we start by reading the commentary for line 130 and end by reading the commentary for line 143.

Line 130: As the New Zealander Brian Boyd remarks, the  discussion by Kinbote of the line in the poem "I never bounced a ball or swung a bat," in which the commentator remarks that he also was not good at soccer or cricket, is hilariously inept; an American poet would be referring to PQ's preoccupations, basketball and baseball. Kinbote cannot help making every passage about himself.  Contrast with Kinbote's fine discussion of lines 131-132 before he wanders again into his own concerns.

"The death of Oleg at fifteen, in a toboggan accident," the theme of the sudden death of all of Kinbote's close friends and relatives continues. But the trip through the passage that reminds Kinbote of Oleg is a kind of rebirth -- he is "born again" in the new world, and escapes the fate of the Romanovs after the Russian revolution.

I am curious what Oz will make of this section about a long underground passage. Boyd's book about the novel points to the repeated references to the color green, the number 1,888 mentioned twice, and the references to actress Iris Acht -- Acht is "eight" in German.

Line 137: A "lemniscate" is a figure eight curve (more here). See illustration, above, from Wikipedia, of the "Lemniscate of Bernouli." A bicycle's tires, as Shade's poem states, could leave a similar impression upon wet sand, so Kinbote's remark that the phrase "has no real meaning" is another failure by the commentator.

Next week: Commentary for line 149 to commentary for line 181.

Note: Readers are still posting comments to the earlier weeks of the online reading group. See for example, PQ's new comments for the first and second weeks (handy links at top right). The connection between Pale Fire and Blade Runner 2049 (comment to Week Two) was certainly news to me.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Online reading material

1. Martin Wagner has unearthed another Robert Anton Wilson article, "Werewolf Bridge," published in 1967. 

I liked this part:

Every tribe chooses to encourage certain games and discourage others. The head-hunting game is given great status and “religious” meaning in some tribes, and regarded as a worthless and evil pastime by other tribes. Some games are compulsory, like the witch-burning game in medieval Europe. Some games are not compulsory, but so popular that virtually everybody participates in them, like the Grand Opera game in Italy. Some games are discouraged, but not forbidden, like the pacifist game in America today. Some games are absolutely against the law, like the homosexuality game throughout Occidental civilization. Every game, then, exists somewhere on a scale between the sacred and profane. Those games which are most sacred become institutionalized into laws. Those games which are closest to this sacred end of the spectrum, but not completely sacred, are institutionalized as dogmatic mores and prejudices. Those games which are profane are left to the preference of the individual, who can play them or not, as he sees fit.

The eternal struggle between Authority and Liberty is a struggle for the desacralization of society.

2. "1,600 Occult Books Now Online, Thanks to the Ritman Library & Author Dan Brown."

3. Free book from the Cato Institute: The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America.  By Ted Galen Carpener. Via the Cato Institute Weekly Dispatch, an email bulletin worth subscribing to.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A physics note [UPDATED]

Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern looks like a good introduction to some of the physics concepts Robert Anton Wilson takes up in his books. And look who shows up in the index. Amazon won't let me see the passage in question, but I think it's about The Universe Next Door in Schroedinger's Cat.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker supplies the relevant passage, noting, "When Amazon's book search fails, Google Books will often pick up the slack."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Butterfly Language's new direction

Photo by Ahmed Saffu on Unsplash

The RAW fan who writes Butterfly Language, Val, has taken her blog in a new direction, emphasizing "life coaching" posts that are positive and attempt to empower and encourage the reader. The number of categories for posts have been reduced to just three -- "Life Coaching," "Metaphysics" and "Spirituality." There's no "About" section, although there is a "Contact."

I like the new direction. I enjoy getting away from the relentless bad news, and reading something that he helpful rather than a bringdown.

Here's a bit that I liked, from "Being Out of Step With the Times":

Take the Super Bowl. I can safely say that I feel…absolutely nothing about the Super Bowl. To be sure, there are aspects surrounding the pageantry and media tie-ins to it—the details of the Half Time show, the movie trailers—that are interesting to me in a cultural anthropology sort of way (as I believe that everything in the world is a “mirror” of everything else that’s going on).

But in general, I find a lot of these events and “cultural institutions” to be like remnants of a world that is quickly passing away. And that’s not a popular opinion to have. People don’t want to hear that. Many people want to hear that their cultural institutions, and the world that they are familiar with, are going to last forever. They don’t care if it’s not true.

But what is truth? I have my reality tunnel, others have theirs. In some real sense, it’s like we are living in different worlds; worlds that overlap here and there, but then settle back into their respective universes.

Speaking for myself, I deliberately skipped the Super Bowl, for the first time in many years. Here is why. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Historical Illuminatus up next from Hilaritas

Richard Rasa has a new post up at Facebook to publicize some exciting news: The three Historical Illuminatus! novels will be the next new publications from Hilaritas Press, the publishing arm of the Robert Anton Wilson Trust. I am particularly excited to see what Hilaritas will do with the first two, The Earth Will Shake and The Widow's Son.  Bobby Campbell is doing new art for the books, and I know that a lot of copyediting has been done (Gregory Arnott has been working on The Widow's Son.) 

In the meantime, as Rasa's new meme, above, illustrates, Hilaritas already has republished definitive editions of five core RAW books: Cosmic Trigger 1, Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology, Email to the Universe and Coincidance: A Head Test.  All are available in print and as ebooks.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Adam Gorightly news roundup

Adam Gorightly (photo from Historia Discordia website). 

California film actor and author Adam Gorightly is busy invading your reality in all sorts of popular communication mediums! A news roundup:

An article about his movie, The Hill and the Hole, based on a Fritz Leiber story! You can watch the official film trailer if you follow the link. The official website says only "coming in 2018."

"Sounds like they are making good progress on the film. They need to do a little filming in a couple months, to fix a couple of scenes. I think I might be involved in that. The rest now is post-production. They are still saying 2018 for release, so I'll keep you posted," Adam reports.

The film producers also plan to film a trailer for Adam's new UFO book. Check out a blog post by his coauthor, which links to a podcast. 

A recent posting on Adam's "Historia Discordia" blog about Eris Chardonnay.

Still no publication date announced for Starseed Signals, the "lost" Robert Anton Wilson book, but I will pass along any news when it becomes available.

Adam's official site. What a weirdo! Right up your alley if you read this blog.