Saturday, October 21, 2017

A note on RAW and Ulysses

Sketch from pinned Tweet at the Linda Joyce Franks Twitter account. A self portrait

James Joyce fans who also read RAW are likely to know that Wilson's  Coincidance: A Head Test (new edition out soon from Hilaritas Press) includes four meaty essays that discuss Joyce's Finnegans Wake. When I did my recent interview with Znore of the Groupname for Grapejuice blog, he referenced that. "It's a shame that those essays have not been seriously considered by the academics," he told me.

But I wanted to point out that one of those Coincidance Joyce essays, "Death and Absence in Joyce," devotes most of its attention to Ulysses and makes many good points. If you are taking RAW's advice to read Ulysses 40 times, the piece is worth your attention.

Eric Wagner in his RAW tome suggests that readers new to Joyce should start with RAW's novel Masks of the Illuminati and Joyce's children's book, The Cat and the Devil. 

My edition of Eric's book even has cover art by a Joyce -- the visual artist Linda Joyce Franks. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Re-reading 'Lord of the Rings'

Although most of the books I read are ones I've never read before, I do have the habit of re-reading books that I consider classics, or at least particularly enjoy. I've read Illuminatus! several times and other RAW books more than once. I re-read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun about a year ago. And now I'm re-reading Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. (As I write this, I'm nearing halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring.)

There are references to The Lord of the Rings in Illuminatus! For example, Epicene Wildeblood, describing a review he is preparing for a book that sounds very much like Illuminatus!, proudly trots out the insults in the text, including, "If the Lord of the Rings is a fairy tale for adults, sophisticated readers will quickly recognize this monumental miscarriage as a fairy tale for paranoids."

Both "trilogies" are in fact a single literary work, published in three volumes for economic reasons. Both can be described as works of fantasy. Both have appendices. I'm just guessing, but I wonder if Wilson and Shea worked in references to Tolkien because they hoped Illuminatus! would become an instant classic on the order of The Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Waging Peace from the Inkbattle House: Finnegans Wake in the Shadow of War'

A natural followup to yesterday's review of an important antiwar book, Scott Horton's Fool's Errand, is the recent Peter Quadrino blog posting/essay, "Waging Peace from the Inkbattle House: Finnegans Wake in the Shadow of War." The essay posted on the blog is actually the full version of the presentation PQ made at a Joyce conference.

As we seem to be in a time of endless war, as highlighted by Horton's book, with the possibility of worse to come, PQ's discussion of the composition of Finnegans Wake on the eve of World War II seems timely.

As is usual with PQ, he pays careful attention to the text:

Shem the Penman, emblematic of the author of the Wake, composes “o peace a farce” (FW 14), a piece of farcical art that is a force for peace, leading us to wonder “Is the Pen Mightier Than the Sword?” (FW 306) Hiding up in his “inkbattle house” (FW 176), Shem cunningly attacks the powers of “awethorrorty” (FW 516) with his comedic art ...

Some of what PQ writes has echoes of what I've seen in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson:

The Wake’s anthropological view of warfare and militarism is always scatological, invoked right from the first page with “penisolate war” (FW 3), The Peninsular War where Wellington and Napoleon first clashed. Warfare in Finnegans Wake is reduced to a pissing contest (hence, Waterloo), having to do with the nether regions, characteristic of anal-territorial animal aggression implied by using excrement as territorial marker. As Timothy Leary liked to say, “The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.” Or as the Wake puts it, “All’s fair on all fours.” (FW 295)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Read Scott Horton's new book on Afghanistan

If you lean at all toward an antiwar position -- if you are at least open to the idea that the U.S. should not fight endless Asian land wars -- you need to read Scott Horton's new book, Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan.  I happen to agree with Horton's position, but it's also a well-researched, interesting book, a lively and interesting read.

Here are some of the things you'll learn if you read Horton's book:

• There is nothing particularly Islamic about suicide bombers. It's a tactic used by combatants who have no other means to inflict serious casualties. (Horton does not mention this, but the history of World War II in the Pacific illustrates the point. The Japanese resorted to kamikaze attacks after their navy was at the bottom of the ocean.)

• The U.S. is no closer to defeating the Taliban now than it ever was.

• The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war the U.S. has fought.

• The U.S. could have fought a limited war to get rid of Osama bin Laden and his allies, getting out of Afghanistan within a few months.

• If you serve in the U.S. armed forces, you are not likely to be "fighting for freedom." You will be fighting to subjugate people into the American empire.

• Many U.S. allies in Afghanistan sided with the Russians during the Soviet Union's invasion. The folks in Afghanistan who oppose foreign intervention as the "bad guys" in our eyes, just as they were the baddies as far as the Russians were concerned.

• Many of the people we are killing over there are not terrorists or enemy combatants.

• As badly as the Taliban treat women, they are actually better than many of the folks we support. The Taliban at least are less tolerant of rape than many of our allies.

Horton uncovers endless outrages. I could cite numerous passages in the book; here is one. After describing how the Obama administration in 2016 sought to bolster the Afghan government by purchasing Russian MI-25 attack helicopters from India (to get around U.S. sanctions against Russia), Horton writes,

"India's continued willingness to train and equip Afghan National Army forces in their fight against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network amounted to nothing less than a 'proxy war' between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, in the words of reporter Charles Tiefer, a proxy war in which the U.S. remains on both sides. All this virtually guarantees the Pakistani state will increase aid to their favored insurgent forces in response. The Americans could not be employing a more self-defeating strategy if sabotage was their actual goal."

Your tax dollars at work! Did you know that India was intervening in Afghanistan, with American encouragement? The book is full of such surprises.

I bought my copy of the book as a Kindle from Amazon for $9.99 — a fair price for a new book.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New review of 2023

In a pretty good-sized review of 2023: A Trilogy at the LA Review of Books, Ron Hogan begins with a good discussion of Robert Anton Wilson before moving on the subject at hand, the new work by KLF folks Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty.

I was hoping for a bottom line on whether I should actually read the book. The closest thing to that I could find in the review was "Indeed, 2023 is not, as a novel, terribly welcoming to readers who aren’t already familiar with the JAMs, and from a classical literary perspective it’s actually something of a mess — but that’s the point."

Thanks to Chris Mayer for writing to me to point out the review.

Monday, October 16, 2017

News from the UK

A brand new Cosmic Trigger Play Newsletter from Meesh (i.e., Michelle Olley) is full of news. You can read the whole thing yourself, but here are salient news points:

-- There will be a "ritual mass burn" of money, Oct. 23 in London, details in the flyer above; and at this link.  (Attending the event is free, but you are invited to bring cash to burn!)

-- A nonstop reading of the new novel The Sentence by Alistair Fruish, Oct. 27 in Northampton.

From the Fruish website: "The book is one long sentence entirely constructed of words of one syllable, with no punctuation. We have had very favourable comments from the handful of people who have read it so far. This is what John Higgs has said about it:

“Alistair Fruish’s monosyllabic vision is a trance-inducing ticket to an all too plausible near-future dystopia. It is a bleak, grinding, addictive joy that will restore your faith in writing. Absorbing, inspired and unlike anything you’ve ever read, The Sentence is a fully-formed celebration of the power contained in even the simplest of words.”

The reading will be conducted by Daisy Campbell, and Alan Moore is one the the readers (if the others are listed, I can't find them).  Tickets and other details here. Tickets are about 5 pounds; other readings of the book are planned. One hopes the book becomes available in the U.S., sooner rather than later; if I can get details I will update this post.

-- The dream of bringing the Cosmic Trigger play to the U.S apparently is not dead.

From the newsletter: "Safe to say, there is interest in getting the Cosmic Trigger play over to the states. Mycelial spores have been planted and connections made that, with enough love and will, could result in making this dream a reality. More on this soon..."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mozart's 'Magic Flute'

I have been to several Metropolitan Opera productions simulcast at movie theaters, but Saturday's production of The Magic Flute was perhaps the most vivid experience yet, with a production that employed puppets, costumes, lighting and other effects to produce a series of often startling scenes. (Blogger has suddenly lost the ability to upload photos today, but see the images and videos at the Metropolitan Opera's website. I have embedded an official Met video from YouTube.)

The Masonic elements of the opera seemed very strong; almost the entire second half is devoted to an initiation of the heroes. Robert Anton Wilson says the opera also has Illuminati ideas, and indeed there is much talk of enlightenment in the text and the use of light in the opera is itself symbolic.  There were many suggestive symbols throughout the opera; the "three ladies" carried around masks that looked oddly like aliens. Did anyone else see this?