Did RAW sell out his muse?
In the comments for my Oct. 6 post, Jason Pilley responds to my description of Historical Illuminatus as a "trilogy." He writes, "It may seem to be a trilogy to you but personally I view it as a pentology which the author abandoned in order to chase cash.
"Which I think explains why the published excerpt from "Bride of Illuminatus!" is so awful: Wilson, for all I love him, for all his brilliance, sold out his muse. "
This has naturally generated some discussion, but I wanted to record some additional thoughts on the matter here:
1. I'm pretty sure that all Robert Anton Wilson fans must regret that he did not complete his planned five novels in the series.
2. Wilson began his career as a book author relatively late -- 1973's The Sex Magicians, his first book, came out when he was 41. Considering his tardy start, the 33 books he published seem like a pretty large number. Assuming reasonable diligence on the part of whomever his literary executor is, this number seems likely to grow.
3. It seems to me that Wilson was pretty loyal to his artistic vision. ILLUMINATUS! is an unusual work, and he fought hard to have it published as one book, rather than three, only giving in when his editor at Dell delivered an ultimatum. Whatever one thinks of Schroedinger's Cat, it seems to me like a pretty radical work, hardly written with an eye toward the bestseller list.
4. Although I am obviously a fan of RAW, I read his work in the same fashion that I read anyone else, i.e., I am not afraid to venture criticism if I think it is justified. For example, I have complained that works such as Prometheus Rising ought to be better sourced. So I hope I am not dismissed as a lackey if I say that the Historical Illuminatus books were really good novels and that Wilson knew they were good. I think it is a shame they didn't find a larger audience and get more attention, and I can't help but think Wilson must have been disappointed they didn't do better. Perhaps if the books had been bigger hits he would have felt more pressure to continue them.
5. Wilson's decision to leave Playboy magazine and to try to make it as a freelance writer brought hard times for his family. His family responsibilities could have influenced his decision to make money on the lecture circuit rather than concentrating on Historical Illuminatus. I know little about his personal finances, but I don't get the impression he had much money when he died in 2007.