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

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I have just finished AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ROBERT ANTON WILSON by Eric Wagner and wanted to take a moment to share a few impressions.

First of all, I should say the book is invaluable to a serious fan of RAW. New copies are still available as an inexpensive trade paperback from New Falcon, and all of the usual Internet book ordering sites.

I guess the reason I didn't read it before is because there is so much primary source material available, I wasn't ready to advance to the secondary sources. I am still trying to go through all of Wilson's nonfiction books and interviews on Internet sites such as Robert Anton Wilson fans.

But Wagner has worked hard in INSIDERS GUIDE to provide insight and pointers to where to go for further research. The book approaches Wilson in a variety of different ways. The book included a lexicon of characters and terms, an annotated bibliography, exclusive interviews, and photographs from Wagner's travels around the world to learn more about Wilson's ideas.

For me, the most useful parts of the book were Wilson's essays on THE HOMING PIGEONS and MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI (finely-observed literary criticism), the lexicon, a discussion of the influence of the kabbalah on ILLUMINATUS! and an annotated chapter on books that influenced Wilson.

I did feel the book could have been better edited. It would have been useful if an editor had second-guessed a few of Wagner's decisions, such as using Burroughs' cut-up technique to scramble Wilson's nine basic winner and loser scripts, which makes it impossible to discern what Wilson actually wrote. (I thought it was sweet, though, that he put in a poem about his wife.) As other reviewers have noted, a number of proper names in the book are misspelled. It doesn't hurt the utility of the book -- it's not difficult to figure out for example that when Wagner writes "H.L. Menken," he means "H.L. Mencken" -- but the spellings ought to be cleaned up if there is a second edition.


Eric Wagner said...

Thanks for the kind words. New Falcon has a new edition coming out, but I could not revise the main text, unfortunately. However, Bobby Campbell has done some dynamite illustrations, and I wrote a new afterword.

Bobby Campbell said...

I had a blast scribbling up them there pictures! You can tell I think very highly of Eric because I redrew the Tempio Malatesta rather than reusing the one I drew for RAW's bookplate.