Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Making Wilson part of the canon

When I began reading Philip K. Dick's novels in the 1970s, I was a teenager. The first book I tried, The Man in the High Castle, turned me into a fan. I've read one Dick novel after another since then. I've enjoyed them all, although some are better than others. Many of Dick's novels were published as cheap mass market paperbacks, and when I was a young sf fan it was not readily apparent to me that Dick would become part of "American literature," lauded by critics and reprinted in the Library of America.

As much as I like Dick, when I discovered ILLUMINATUS! and RAW's subsequent works, I became convinced that RAW seemed at least as good and at least as important as Dick. Part of my motivation for putting so much time into this blog is my conviction that Wilson deserves to become better known as a writer, and more widely read. I am guessing that many of you will agree with me, even as you disagree with some of the opinions I have expressed here.

But how can that be accomplished? One idea I want to offer is that it would be cool if an obviously well-read author or critic with broad tastes -- someone like Neil Gaiman, say, or Michael Dirda or Ted Gioia -- could be "converted" into become a Robert Anton Wilson fan. Perhaps such a person could convince others to try Wilson.

In a modest way, I have begun putting my money where my mouth is. I recently purchased a new copy of ILLUMINATUS! from Amazon and sent it to one of my favorite critics (after asking first if it would be OK). Perhaps he will find time to read it. I'm not naming him because I promised not to pester him about reading it, and I don't want anyone else to pester him, either.

What are your ideas for making Wilson's work better known?


supergee said...

Michael Dirda has been saying for years that John Sladek belongs in the canon (which he's right about), and it hasn't helped.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


But wouldn't a few more readers be inclined to try Sladek's work because of what MIchael Dirda has said? My own guess is that every little bit might help.

BrentQ23 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Since discovering RAW a couple years ago I have been completely fascinated by his writing. It has inspired me to read more and of a wider range of authors and types of literature than I ever would've considered previously. He really has rekindled my love of reading and I can't help but sing his praises to anyone who will listen.

Especially in this age of information overload, dogma, and idiocy, Wilson's ideas and philosophy are more important than ever.

It's kind of beyond me why so few people nowdays have ever heard of the man. And it's astonishing his books aren't carried at most major book stores (at least not here in Canada).

I'm glad to hear you're actively in getting the word about RAW!

fuzzbuddy said...


Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

I find the issue of canonicity fascinating. I love this essay on the film canon by Paul Schrader - . I can't see Wilson entering the canon as conceived of by Harold Bloom. (Bob reviewed Bloom's _The Western Canon_. I enjoyed that book, based on Vico, which also inspired Schrader's essay.)

I think we can each nuture Bob's freak canonical status in our own ways. I think you've done a great job with this blog, Mike Johnson has done a great job with, Mike Gathers has built the wonderful, and Lance Bauscher has done his great films and the Maybe Logic Academy, etc.

If we choose, we can follow somebunall of Bob's suggestions. He frequently urged his readers to do the exercises in _Prometheus Rising_. (I much prefer the revised version of that text.) I still want to spend two years on page 109 of _email to the universe_.

Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

I talked with my science fiction class today about the notion of a science fiction canon. They came up with the following in three levels such as Schrader's film canon.

Gold level: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Dick.

Silver level: Verne and Wells.

Bronze level: Lovecraft, Bradbury and Adams.

I pretty much agree with them, although I wouldn't see Doug Adams as canonical, although I love his books.