Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wilson's pantheon in THE HOMING PIGEONS

"The Bachs' Box," a chapter in SCHROEDINGER'S CAT: THE HOMING PIGEONS, has an amusing couple of paragraphs about the efforts of a group called the Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Society to manipulate the literary canon:

"Next, the W.F. Bach cabal financed a new literary journal, Passaic Review, which they advertised so widely that everybody with any pretense to being an intellectual had to read it.

"The Passaic Review heaped scorn and invective on the established literary idols of the time -- Simon Moon, the neo-surrealist novelist; Gerald Ford, the 'country and western' poet; Norman Mailer; Robert Heinlein; Tim Hildebrandt; and so on. They also denounced all of the alleged 'greats' of the first part of the century, like H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, T.S. Eliot and Robert Putney Drake.

"They established their one pantheon of 'great' writers, which included William Butler Yeats (an obscure Irish schoolteacher nobody had ever heard of), Olaf Stapledon, Arthur Flegenheimer and Jonathan Latimer."

Many of Wilson's allusions and jokes here require no explanation, but a few notes: Simon Moon and Robert Putney Drake are characters in ILLUMINATUS! Tim Hildebrandt (part of the "Brothers Hildebrandt") was an artist specializing in fantasy and science fiction. Arthur Flegenheimer was the birth name of gangster Dutch Schultz, whose famous last words while dying form part of the plot of ILLUMINATUS! Jonathan Latimer was an American writer who specialized in crime fiction and wrote novels and screenplays.

James Joyce is missing from Wilson's list because in THE HOMING PIGEONS he decides to become a priest rather than a novelist and winds up as the reformist Pope Stephen.

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