Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Natural Law online reading group, Week Two, the title essay

 A committee of five presents the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (John Trumbull painting). 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So says the Declaration of Independence, which evokes natural law (i.e. in the previous paragraph it mentions "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God.") Natural law posits that there are "values intrinsic to human nature," as this Wikipedia article explains. These notions are what Robert Anton Wilson is taking on in his essay. 

I wonder if my American readers think it is "natural" to drive on the right side of the road, and my British readers think it is "natural" to drive on the left side? Here is something interesting: "In the UK and Australia, people tend to turn left when entering a building. In the US, they turn right. It’s important to remember if you’re booking a trade show booth." (Source, third item). 

A few annotations: 

Loompanics, Page 3. Boy, did this publisher push the envelope. "According to Gia Cosindas, Amazon.com, eBay, and Google refused to allow Loompanics to advertise on their sites, since some of the books' content violates their editorial guidelines. Specifically, Google wrote, "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain 'the promotion of violence [and] drugs or drug paraphernalia."

New Libertarian, Page 3. The Samuel E. Konkin III magazine. For back issues, including the "Natural Law debate" issue, Vol. IV, No. 13, that Wilson cites, go here.  And I quite liked The Fractal Man, J. Neil Schuman's novel about Konkin.

Samuel Konkin III

"politics remains such a depressing paleolithic and murderous spectacle," page 9. See also Gene Healy on how politics makes everyone dumber. 

For a New Liberty, Page 10. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard, an anarcho-capitalist tract, was a big part of the libertarian surge in the 1970s. I had a hardcover copy, when I discovered libertarianism while in college from Illuminatus! and other sources, and it was very influential. I would guess that many serious libertarians have read it; I'd be surprised, for example, if Jesse Walker or Chad Nelson said they had not read it. Rothbard, by the way, was a strong peacenik, like RAW (he was a big influence on the late Justin Raimondo, the founder of Antiwar.com), and that allows many of us to overlook his other sins. (In fact, Raimondo wrote a book about Rothbard.)

"all three at once," Page 17. This business about "the hide of the Easter Bunny" is really funny; did you catch that RAW also is making a joke about the doctrine of the Trinity? 

Simon Newcomb, Page 22 -- Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) was an accomplished mathematician and a very smart guy, but just as RAW mentions, he did argue that airplanes are not possible. (The Wikipedia article, buttressed by footnote 23, says that "When Newcomb heard about the Wrights' flight in 1908, he was quick to accept it," so in Wilson's terms he behaved like a scientist, not as a dogmatist: When he received new evidence he accepted that he was wrong. (I cannot resist repeating the famous saying of Arthur C. Clarke: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Simon Newcomb

"Doubt everything. Find your own light." Page 23. This seems like a rather free translation. In What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, the last words are given as, "Transient are conditioned things. Try to accomplish your aim with diligence." The Fake Buddha Quotes website also wonders where this version of the the Buddha's last words came from. 

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Page 53. One of Robert Heinlein's most famous novels, published in 1966,  is a favorite of science fiction fans (it won the Best Novel Hugo) but also is a favorite of libertarians (it was the first novel to win the the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, from the Libertarian Futurist Society, in a tie with Atlas Shrugged (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Fahrenheit 451 had to wait another year). I read it as a teenager and am overdue to read it again; Tyler Cowen re-read it in 2017 and found that despite his low expectations " it nonetheless holds up very well and in fact has aged gracefully."

Arthur Hlavaty, Page 56. The prominent science fiction fan and critic, read  his fanzines! And here are some top quotes, and here is a useful biography. Arthur also founded The Golden APA, which had both Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea as members, see my interesting interview with him about it. 

Arthur Hlavaty

"I am writing in defense of personal choice here (if you haven't guessed that already); I merely object to having personal choices proclaimed as new religious revelations which we all must share or be damned," Page 57. RAW's version of libertarianism, and also another comment on what he sees as the irony of debating natural law with libertarians. 

John 8:7, Page 63, the "admirable remark" which Wilson says "ought to be burned into the backside of every moralist, with a branding iron," is (in one translation), " So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

psittacine, Page 68, birds of the parrot family.

Next week: More on the Natural Law essay, featuring guest blogger Chad Nelson. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Robert Anton Wilson's conspiracy class

I've been mentioning Prop Anon a lot in these blog posts recently. There's a reason for that. He's been posting a great deal of material about Robert Anton Wilson, now that he's finished his upcoming biography of Wilson. 

One of his latest projects is that he's been posting material from Wilson's Maybe Logic Academy class on conspiracies. Access the postings at Prop's Chapel Perilous website

Saturday, December 3, 2022

What's up with the Illuminatus! TV show?

There's been no news on the effort to turn Illuminatus! into a TV series since the attempt was announced in 2019, and now one of the people who was working on it has a new job.

Hunter Gorinson has been named president and publisher of Oni Press/Lion Forge, apparently an indie comics outfit in Portland, Oregon, more here.  He had been listed as an executive producer for the planned Illuminatus! adaptation, as you can see from the other link.

Does anyone have any updates on the Illuminatus! TV show? I've heard notbing since 2019.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Rasa's inspiration?

The above photo was posted by Rasa on Facebook; it shows Mount Shasta, near where Rasa lives. Can we speculate that one of the inspirations for the great job Rasa does running Hilaritas Press is that he lives in a beautiful part of the country? (One of the albums from Rasa's music group is a live album from Mount Shasta.) 

Rasa lives in Weed, California, named of course for local pioneer Abner Weed. 

After I mentioned to Rasa that I was reposting the above photo in my blog, he sent me a bonus photo below, for the readers of RAWIllumination.net, showing a view of Mount Shasta from his living room window. This is a World Exclusive not published anywhere else!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

'There is no governor anywhere'



Chad Nelson's introduction to Natural Law begins with this quote from RAW character Hugh Crane (from Schroedinger's Cat but also the story "I Opening" from Natural Law): "There is no governor anywhere: you are all absolutely free."

The quote can be traced back to the Taoist Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, who supposedly said,  "There is no governor anywhere."  I am unable to supply any context for the remark; perhaps there is a Taoist scholar (or RAW scholar) among us who can help? 

Robert Shea's anarchist zine, No Governor, took its title from the Zhuangzi statement. In the first issue of No Governor, the statement is given as "There is no governor present anywhere," and it is attributed to Chuang Tzu, an alternate spelling. 

PDF copies of No Governor are available via this blog; see the "Robert Shea resources" section on the right side of this website. 

Here is a quote derived from from the second Cat book, The Trick Top Hat: “There is no governor anywhere; you are all absolutely free. There is no restraint that cannot be escaped. We are all absolutely free. If everybody could go into dhyana at will, nobody could be controlled — by fear of prison, by fear of whips or electroshock, by fear of death, even. All existing society is based on keeping those fears alive, to control the masses. Ten people who know would be more dangerous than a million armed anarchists.”

I don't have the text of the omnibus edition of Cat; in my copy of The Trick Top Hat, one of the three original paperbacks, much of this is on page 196. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Where's the Greg Bear obit?

Greg Bear

Robert Anton Wilson took science fiction seriously and had high praise for the science fiction authors he respected. See this interview, for example, where Wilson said, "The novels that get praised in the NY Review of Books aren't worth reading. Ninety-seven percent of science fiction is adolescent rubbish, but good science fiction is the best (and only) literature of our times," and praised Ursula K. LeGuin and Robert Heinlein.

It seems like the battle to give science fiction a decent amount of respect is still being fought. Science fiction great Greg Bear died on Nov. 19, but there's been no obit for him in the New York Times. Instead, the Times runs obits such as "Melody Miller, Trusted Aide to the Kennedys, Dies at 77" and "Jason David Frank, Who Starred in ‘Power Rangers’ Franchise, Dies at 49." 

I don't understand the Times' criteria for obits. The obituaries are often the best pieces in the paper, but the criteria baffles me. The paper did run a nice obituary for Robert Anton Wilson. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

'Natural Law' online reading group, Week One

Welcome to the online reading group for Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw, published by Hilaritas Press. It is written by Robert Anton Wilson; the anthology is edited by Chad Nelson. 

The original long essay, Natural Law: Or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy, was published as a short book in 1987 by Loompanics Unlimited.  The Hilaritas Press book Natural Law: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw reprints the original essay but adds 12 additional pieces: nine essays, an interview and a work of short fiction. All 12 additions were selected by Chad Nelson. 

In this reading group, we are covering the Hilaritas Press book. The format is the same as other online reading groups on this website: There will be a blog post, written by me or by a guest blogger, and everyone else is invited to post in the comments. The comments for this blog are moderated, as otherwise Google is apparently happy to let in all sorts of vile spam, but as a rule I approve legitimate comments.

New entries for the online reading group will be posted weekly. Today's entry covers the material in the front of the book, before Robert Anton Wilson's words begin, including John Higgs' piece on Maybe Day and Chad's introduction.

A note on the available texts: As a rule Hilaritas Press books are published as trade paperbacks and as ebooks, but unfortunately in the case of Natural Law, there have been some stubborn glitches. There is still no Kindle, and when I bought an ePub from Barnes and Noble, the text was messed up when I tried to read it with the Nook app on my phone. Barnes and Noble wound up refunding my money; I was able to verify that the text works at the Barnes and Noble website, but I wanted to be able to read it on my smartphone. I cannot say whether the ebook works on an actual Nook ebook reader, or whether the book works on Kobo, etc. Rasa has promised me an update on the ebook situation when he has news, and I'll post any news promptly on this blog. For now, your best option may be the paperback. 

Here are a few annotations:

Cover: The cover is credited to Amoeba, i.e. Scott McPherson, who has done all of the covers for the Hilaritas Press editions of Robert Anton Wilson's work. The cover puns on the Zen koan, "Who is the master who makes the grass green?" mentioned in Wilson's writings, including in this passage in the Natural Law essay:

Every perception is a gamble, in which we see part, not all, (to see all requires omniscience) and “fill in” or project a convincing hologram out of minimal clues. We all intuitively know the obvious and correct answer to the Zen koan, “Who is the Master who makes the grass green?”

But the cover also is an attempt to make the book attractive to the general reader, as opposed to people who are already fans of Wilson; see this blog post for more information. 

After the title page and after the page with the usual publication information, such as the ISBN and copyright notice, there's a photo of Robert Anton Wilson, taken by Duncan Harvey in January 1986 at Chelsea Old Town Hall in London, England, when Wilson was in town for a talk.

The story behind the photo (and the other photos of Wilson taken by Mr. Harvey) is interesting; Mr. Harvey was on assignment for a magazine, but the magazine went out of business and Mr. Harvey was not paid; he was able to sell some of his work to Wilson's British agent.

In 2014, during the Cosmic Trigger play and festival in London, (i.e., the Daisy Campbell adaptation of Wilson's first Cosmic Trigger book, available as a book from Hilaritas,) Harvey handed writer John Higgs a thumb drive with a bunch of photos from that 1986 shoot, digitized from photos the photographer found in his attic; Higgs mentioned the incident in a blog post that included some of the photos, and the photo that John identified as his favorite is the one used in the book. 

John also emailed me at the time to give me access to the photos and suggested I interview Duncan Harvey, and I did, and you can read the interview and see more of the photos. 

A couple of pages later, we come to the "Warning: The Attorney General has determined that this book may be hazardous to your dogma" page, which echoes similar statements at the front of other Robert Anton Wilson books, such as TSOG.

Then we come to the first four lines of a poem by A.E. Housman, "The Laws of God, The Laws of Man," full poem here. (This is also the poem with the lines, "I, a stranger and afraid/In a world I never made.") The poem is appropriate to discussing the purported "natural law" that Wilson takes on in his essay, and the citation shows off Wilson's wide reading. And if you check out the whole poem, it fits well with Wilson's emphasis on intellectual freedom. Housman (1859-1936) was a famous poet and a noted scholar of the classics and professor of Latin. 

Next comes Chad Nelson's "Acknowledgements," which includes Victor Koman, a libertarian science fiction writer and the publisher of KoPubCo.com, which sells books by Koman and by Samuel Edward Konkin III, who put out the publication in which the "Natural Law" essay first appeared. See the website for a list of the issues of "New Libertarian" magazine which include articles by Wilson. The website also offers copies of Koman's Prometheus Award winning novels and a Christmas book for children, The Legend of Anarcho Claus,  that explains Agorism, the libertarian philosophy espoused by Konkin. 

After the Table of Contents, we get John Higgs' piece, "Happy Maybe Day," published in the Guardian newspaper on July 23, 2009. I think John does a masterful job of explaining model agnosticism without lapsing into jargon or cliches -- there's no reference, for example, to "reality tunnels." Notice how John subtly alludes to "the map is not the territory."

And then we get Chad Nelson's introduction, which also discusses model agnosticism and which explains the criteria he used in choosing the pieces for the book that supplement the title essay: "While the additional entries in this volume represent, for me, the best of Wilson's aggravated case of agnosticism and tie in nicely with Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy, I realize that they are also simply some of my personal favorites which I am grateful will now see the light of day, thanks to the good folks at Hilaritas Press," he writes. 

Next week will be the first of two blog entries on the Natural Law essay. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Rob Brezsny cites RAW

Rob Brezsny (Creative Commons photo by Paul Schraub)

A recent newsletter by celebrity astrologer Rob Brezsny, "Might Our Dilemmas Be Blessings?," cites RAW as inspiration for its message.

The RAW quote: "We should feel excited about the problems we confront and our ability to deal with them. Solving problems is one of the highest and most sensual of all our brain functions."

The Brezsny column argues, "Acquiring problems is a fundamental human need. It's as crucial to your well-being as getting food, air, water, sleep, and love. You define yourself—indeed, you make yourself—through the puzzling dilemmas you attract and solve."

Hat tip, Charles Faris.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Cat Vincent is ill, and angry

Cat Vincent on Twitter

I haven't noticed much activity from prominent British magician and RAW fan Cat Vincent lately, and when I read his latest news, I found out why: He's been ill since early in the pandemic, and likely has  Long Covid, although as he explains, he can't be sure because he wasn't tested when he first became ill:

Although I didn’t lose my sense of smell, a couple of weeks in I decided my other symptoms were close enough to this weird new disease known as SARS-COVID-19 to justify spending a delightful day playing NHS phone-chess, being passed from 111 to the COVID hotline to my surgery and back, only to be told that a diabetic with a chronic inflammatory disorder in his fifties wasn’t considered high risk enough to test for the disease because I hadn’t knowingly had contact with anyone who’d been out of the country recently.

Refusing him a test given his condition makes no sense; I wonder sometimes if many medical folk have become overwhelmed and just don't have the energy to treat every case with urgency. (My 89-year-old mother, fortunately fully boosted, recently fought off a bout with COVID; I didn't think her doctor moved quickly enough to deal with it.)

Cat has had to deal with a lot and he's upset and feels many people he considered friends have let him down. He wants everyone to mask up and stay caught up on the boosters. Read the whole thing. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Prop Anon reads from RAW's 'lost' Crowley essay


As I mentioned in a September blog post, Martin Wagner recently determined that Harvard University's library has an unpublished 72-page essay by Robert Anton Wilson about Aleister Crowley. In that September blog post, I wrote, "The essay is entitled 'Do What Thou Wilt,' and it is unclear what relationship it has to Lion of Light, the book-length piece on Crowley that RAW planned to publish. Rasa at the RAW Trust/Hilaritas Press has been notified and is pursuing the matter."

Prop Anon, author of an upcoming RAW biography, contacted the library and was able to obtain a copy of the essay. In the video above, he reads from the essay. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Hilaritas podcast on Claude Shannon released


The Hilaritas Press podcast returns with an episode on Claude Shannon, known as the "father of information theory," I was particularly looking forward to this podcast and will listen to it soon. Mike Gathers interviews  Shannon biographers Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman, authors of A Mind at Play. As usual, the official site for the podcast has useful links and notes some of the places where the podcast may be heard. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Review: Apuleius Charlton on Alan Moore's 'Illuminations'

Illuminations: Stories. Alan Moore. Bloomsbury Publishing. 

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

I can remember reading “A Hypothetical Lizard” the first time in my dorm room, lit only by the light of the screen as evening fell. I had found it somewhere online, perhaps from the Alan Moore Yahoo! group I was a member of at the time, perhaps a friend had found it and sent it to me. I wasn’t unused to reading prose from Moore, having recently finished Voice of the Fire, but at the time I was still much more used to his comics work and reading interviews where he complained (rightly) about the Watchmen film and every once in a while released a new tidbit about the forthcoming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century. There was something about his writing, even though this story was from a year before I was born, that was strikingly consistent: Alan Moore always speaks with his voice, no matter how it reaches you. Moore dwells often on the same themes, even if those themes are viewed from a prismatic perspective- what I found was at once familiar and unsettling. 

“Familiar and unsettling” would be a fair way to describe my reaction to many of the stories in his recent collection, Illuminations

In “A Hypothetical Lizard” I found a small cosmos in the House Without Clocks that was exotic and erotic, a bit tempting and wholly tragic. But more to the point, we must congratulate Moore in hindsight for the trap he laid and cinched in the story; by providing us with a narrator who was trapped, Moore highlights the inert role of reader as we watch the inevitable unfold in his vignette of a beautiful hell. The complexities of Rawra Chin and Foral Yatt’s past is boiled down into lamb’s blood by an unnecessary reunion and a foolish reentwining- if nothing else, the story is an excellent argument to leave past relationships alone. The symmetry of revenge and ill-gotten inspiration is perfect. After reading the story for the third or fourth time when I purchased Illuminations, the suction of its resolution is surprising. There’s aching all over in the story; the yearning to understand, to enjoy and be enjoyed, to be recognized becomes something like a wildlife documentary. We root for the gazelle while understanding that the kill is the point of the scene, the thrill of it all; and that after all, a lion has to eat. But while the story is precise, it doesn’t strike one as particularly just. It just Is. And perhaps Som Som, our neurologically diverted porthole into this drama, has the best reactions when she utters some non sequitur about her own half-remembered life. 

After reading “A Hypothetical Lizard,” I looked up other stories set in Liavek, the shared world that Moore’s story takes place in, and was sad about how the couple I read (by other authors) didn’t live up. There is no reason for such disappointment to take place with Illuminations; as some stories appealed more to me than others, they are all brewed using the excellent mash that is Moore’s mind. 

The second and third stories in the collection were my favorites. Although both had been planned for earlier publication, and one actually had been published, this was my first time hearing about either. Alas, the loss of that Alan Moore Yahoo! group seems to have kept me out of the loop. For myself, “Not Even Legend” was the highlight of Illuminations, combining an emphasis on perspective and the possible nature of the supernatural that left me close to tears at certain points. (I am going to endeavor at this point not to give much away about the stories because; firstly, that would be an exhaustive and overly long review and secondly, Moore’s work speaks for itself quite clearly without my extrapolation.) “Not Even Legend,” written during the height of the quarantine efforts during the Pandemic, seems to suggest that perhaps more baffling than aliens, ghosts or entities we might as-of-yet be wholly unaware of, is ourselves to each other. The story, full of misapprehension and mistakes and ends, keeps Moore’s inevitability strongly in play from the beginning. Also, Moore’s proposed categories of “unknown unknowables” are deliciously imaginative. The second story, “Location, Location, Location” is either more or less straightforward than “Not Even Legend” (I can’t decide at this point) and just as hyper-disturbing/fascinating. Some of the themes and imagery will be familiar with anyone who reads Moore regularly—apocalypse, our teetering institutions and sarcastic literalism—but there’s something to say about reading an author obsessed with apocalypse writing about it as they and the world around them grow older. At the very least, “Location, Location, Location” helps Moore’s reputation as the foremost expert, living or dead, on English religious-eccentrics. 

Having been a subscriber of Moore’s lamented/celebrated Dodgem Logic, I had already read “Cold Reading '' many years ago on a December evening, when it should be read. I liked this story and remembered it pretty clearly; it follows in the great British ghost story tradition of M. R. James and Robert Aickman, but with some updates for those of us familiar with the skeptic-believer debate. It does lose something without being presented alongside a short comic about Lady Gaga serving cocaine and dildos to children on Christmas instead of bangers and mash. “The Improbably Complex High-Energy State '' is a story about Boltzmann brains and concerns Moore’s other favorite topic aside from apocalypse, creation. This story premiered in a new issue of New Worlds, which I was saddened to find out I had missed, but I feel the authors at Moorcock’s run of the magazine would have approved of it. And before we arrive at the big number of the performance review, we find the titular story “Illuminations.” Evidently, this was inspired by a disastrous seaside trip Alan Moore embarked on fifteen years ago, yet less time has passed since the story's inception and now than that inception and the holiday(s) that inspired Moore. “Illuminations,” if I understand, is a condemnation of nostalgia and seeking to recapture times gone by; perhaps memories, like relationships, are best left undisturbed. 

At this point in the review, now we come to “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” the headline affair of the book, even if it didn’t make the title page. Like “Illuminations,” “Thunderman” is a recrimination against nostalgia, but instead of focusing on a disappointing vacation, it considers the industry and cultural phenomenon that is comics books. It is a fairly easy to decode roman a clef for the American comics industry, although I would have to be a bigger comics buff to recognize who everybody relates to in our “real” world. The main thrust of the plot concerns some editors and writers at American comics (a stand in for DC) in the mid-twenty-teens and aligns nicely with the societal breakdown that began its first seismic thrusts that are still shaking away at our foundations today. Here is Moore at his wittiest and most jaundiced; poignantly, it is dedicated to the recently departed Kevin O’Neill, another genius who was unfairly dealt with in an industry that while meant to build on the imagination, instead often devolved into crass commercialism. This is, I feel, in some ways a culmination of those many interviews I read with Moore castigating DC and Marvel back in the aughts. I felt primed, after a manner, by the biographical snippets at the beginning of each of the last six issues of The League (“Cheated Champions of Your Childhood!”), where O’Neill and Moore covered the tragic careers of British comic creators. Don’t act surprised, reader, in what you find herein. And now I must say, people, come for the invectives and anger; stay for the astounding display of Moore’s virtuoso writing skills. 

After Jerusalem, I didn’t think I was ever going to be as surprised and enthralled by Moore’s word-weaving, but he somehow pulled the trick off again. He surprises the reader with tales-within-tales replete with descriptions that are thought-provoking and hilarious. My favorite scene in the arabesque  that is “Thunderman” would have to be two men looking through their former editor-in-chief’s New York apartment- the sheer joy of seeing how many variations Moore could devise for “pornographic magazine” was thrilling. I kept expecting for him to run out of new ways to describe the same thing and he simply doesn’t. I felt breathless by the end of that scene and in many ways, it was from laughter. That’s one thing I’ve always felt like critics miss about Moore; even when he is taking a piss, he is truly, deeply, funny. Moore has done a couple of impromptu stand up routines in the past and I think he would have made an astounding comic; if only we could slip into that alternative dimension and read what he would have to say about that industry. 

The sticking point with “Thunderman” is that Moore is not only attacking the comics industry, but fandom and the medium itself. It is no secret that Moore, who I would argue is as great and important as Jack Kirby is to the medium, views comics with utter disdain. Out of his massive corpus of comics, he only acknowledges five of them in his “By The Same Author” page at the beginning of the book. Moore’s grievances are understandable, but some readers will feel attacked or feel as if something they love and consider important is being unfairly maligned. While I have very little loyalty to comics (to the point that I used to describe myself as “an Alan Moore fan, not a comics fan,”) I can see where this will strike some as pure bitterness. Indeed, it is nigh-amusing to think of someone who loves Watchmen or V for Vendetta, without having read or listened to Moore’s interviews, eagerly picking this up. It isn’t pretty. This possible roman a clef veers a little too close to hell. In the same reality-defying prose he used in Jerusalem, Moore serves us the teased pappardelle of our real selves spooned out with the bolognese of our bloody immaturity, seemingly forevermore. Don’t expect comfort here; here there be tigers. 

Rounding out the collection we have “American Light: An Appreciation” and “And, at the Last, Just to Be Done with Silence.” “American Light” was another favorite of mine, based on Melinda Gebbie’s recollections of San Francisco and the Beat scene which went much further than Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. This is a work akin to “The Crazy Wide Forever” from the much earlier The Black Dossier insomuch as we are seeing Moore’s expert imitation of Beat writing; it is also a much more mature piece of writing than what was called for in that delirious compendium. As I began the story/poem, I almost thought that it was just a device for Moore to write a complex poem and provide annotations so that the reader could understand just how great his poetic skills were. Then the story quickly formed in the tension between the poem and the footnotes; like the Beat scene, like America in the twentieth century, it is a story of selfishness, genius and those left in the wake. I highly recommend it. 

As I am so shamefully ignorant that I haven’t yet identified what event “And, at the Last, Just to Be Done with Silence” is about, I feel I have little qualification to write about it. But this is one of Alan Moore’s meditations on death and memory and is a fitting end piece to the collection. Like “American Light,” it did recall an early work of Moore’s, namely the chapter from Voice of the Fire:” “Confessions of a Mask.” Moore ends his work in silence. 

Yet, joyfully, we are assured that Alan Moore is still rich with ideas and projects for future works: his Long London sequence is still forthcoming and boy, I can’t wait to read what all it entails. Illuminations is as worthy of attention as anything Moore has previously published, and that is to say quite a lot. Sometimes I feel like a Worsley Porlock to his Joe Gold, but thank Whomever that Moore walks among us and wields his pen. Oh, the book is very sexual and you’ll be left slightly horny as you stare slack jawed into the starry abyss. Fall to!