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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Martin Gardner and Robert Anton Wilson

Over at, Michael Johnson has started a thread about the late science writer Martin Gardner, who died this year, and what Robert Anton Wilson thought of him. Johnson reposts a tribute to Gardner by Howard Schneider, which includes this paragraph:

While Gardner could be very funny in print, I don't recall his ever
cracking a joke in any of my conversations with him. Nevertheless, he
had what I think of as a heartland earnestness (he was born and raised
in Oklahoma) that I found endearing. He once, very kindly, agreed to
read part of a novel I was working on. (He praised what I showed him,
which I'm still proud of.) To tease him, I situated one of the book's
more outre episodes in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where he was
then living. He wrote back and resolutely explained why Hendersonville
was the wrong site for the shenanigans I depicted because it was a
really nice, sophisticated place inhabited by many intelligent
Northerners. Another time, when I was chatting with Gardner on the
phone, I said that I had recently been present at a lecture by Robert
Anton Wilson (the writer and somewhat eccentric science and societal
pundit) and when I had asked a question and mentioned Gardner's name,
Wilson had drubbed him with some snarlingly bilious remarks. "He hates
me!" Gardner exclaimed, but he seemed more upset that I had to endure
Wilson's bad manners than with his petulant comments.

There follows a discussion by various Wilson scholars. "Psmith" writes, "I don't think Bob Wilson hated Gardner. Bob wrote positive comments about Gardner's intellectual puzzles. Bob disliked Gardner's advocacy of censorship and Gardner's unscientific attitudes towards Reich and
other unconvential thinkers."

The name of the novelist "Marvin Gardens" in the "Cat" trilogy seems pretty similar to Gardner's name.


Eric Wagner said...

Interesting comment about Marvin Gardins. I just watched the Jack Nickolson film "The King of Marvin Gardins."

Gardner Marvins in The Widow's Son definitely seems based on Gardner, just as Bob based Nagas on Carl Sagan.

michael said...

Anyone see Rbt Sheaffer put on as Prof "Sheissenhossen"? I see that as a more hyperbolic and acrid satire.