Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson on The Widow's Son

[This is excerpted from an interview many of you have never read, from an interview of Wilson conducted by writer Lewis Shiner in Austin, Texas, on April 28, 1988. I will reprint the entire interview very soon.]

Were you a Lovecraft fan before you got into Illuminatus?

I was a Lovecraft fan since I was about 12. I think it was when I was 12 I heard "The Dunwich Horror" with Ronald Coleman as the narrator. It impressed the hell out of me. I started looking for Lovecraft and I couldn't find any Lovecraft books, but I found a few short stories by him in anthologies. Then when I was 14 I found a whole book of Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth. So Lovecraft has been a passion with me most of my life. I like the way he uses techniques that make you think, "Gee, maybe this isn't fiction." That fascinates me, because doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it.

Surrealism fascinates me, too. The first Surrealist show, people had to come in through a garden where there was a taxicab, and it was raining inside the taxicab but not outside. When the audience — or victims — got past that, the first thing they saw in the building was a big sign that Andre Breton had hung up that said, "Dada is not dead! Watch your overcoat!" At that point the distinction between art and life had been completely obliterated. I aim for that in all my books.

I like happenings, I like that game I was telling you about earlier. I like to blur the distinctions, because most of what we think is perception is actually projection anyway. I like to make people more aware that they are creating the reality they inhabit. Lovecraft taught me a lot about how to do that, in a literary way.

My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

--- and how much you made up may have been true.

I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.