Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why 'Email to the Universe' is so good

Robert Anton Wilson's last book, 2005's Email to the Universe, is a very strong collection of essays and short pieces. It's a great exit.

The quality of the work might count as a bit of a surprise. The last novel, Nature's God, has many fine passages but is not his best work of fiction, and the penultimate book, 2002's TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, likewise is a fun read but not at the level of, say, the Cosmic Trigger books. Wilson had serious health issues the last years of a life, and although he heroically kept writing, his best work came earlier.

It seems likely that one reason why Email to the Universe is strong is because it drew from rawilsonfans.com, the site put together by the efforts of Mike Gathers.

Gathers explains, “RMJon [R. Michael Johnson] and I always assumed that Wilson got many of the essays for _eMail_ from the fans website, but that's just speculation our parts - although it scores pretty high on my MaybeLogic scale... Over half of the essays in the book were ones that we had converted from print to digital and put up on the website, a couple were already posted on the MLA site, and a couple more were ones I found out in the remote corners of the internet and linked into the fans site.”

He adds, “I built the fan site based on the old FAQAFUQ that Marc ’elmyr’ Lutter developed in collaboration with the regulars at alt.fan.rawilson back around 1999. Using that as a base, I added the “A/V lounge” section with several tracks from _The Chocolate Biscuit Consipracy_ found on Napster. Alt.fan.rawilson regulars Clore, Wagner, RMJon, and BS have all contributed paper copies of essays and/or digitizing articles collected here and there, and I’ve received contributions from a wide variety of folks who found the site and wanted to add to the collection. In 2009, Alterati/Hukilau graciously began hosting the site and I’ve fallen seriously behind on updates, but one of these days I will refresh the links and someday even give it a makeover so it doesn’t look like such a relic from the early 90s.”

9 comments:

Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

I do love _TSOG_, especially the final, Tale of the Tribe section.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I like the final section, too, and your lament in Latin is hilarious, but in general I thought the book was a little thin. It's not the first RAW book I'd press people to read.

Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

I can dig it, but I find the final section of TSOG pure gold. I've read it many times. I think I like it more than any of the Cosmic Trigger books, although I love those too.

Thanks for the kind words about the Great Pumpkin.

michael said...

I love E to the U, but I think, for Royal Academy and myself and a few others, that last section in TSOG about the proposed Great Work that he didn't live to write...it's so utterly tantalizing.

You both know, and many who read this blog know...that...and this is daunting: one or a few of us are going to have to do that work.

I have spent a ridiculous number of hours reading those authors' books, seeing movies relating to them and their subjects, re-reading closely passages in RAW's oeuvre that seem to relate to the proposed overall arc/thesis of that work...Graciously, many RAWphiles who took Tale and related MaybeLogic Academy courses sent me their class notes. How does Bruno relate to Internet? How does Shannon's 1948 paper tie in with Vico and...how we are going to transcend our Earthian problems? Joyce and Pound and McLuhan and Internet and...the paideuma? (Ez seemed to think strong poets - not his term, but Harold Bloom's - could tweak the paideuma. How do silence, exile and cunning fit in with the Tale, if at all? Do we think the Tale was ultimately one that would be told so we would know the "truth" about ourselves? That every man and woman is a star? A philosophical anthropology? A ripped-up roadmap to human sanity, of which we must puzzle-piece together in order to see how RAW thought and how "we" (initiates?) might all proceed?

I was reading a trans of Nicholas of Cusa not long ago. He advocated - seemingly for a small group of initiates? - a cultivation of learned ignorance, an "evermore subtle and insightful unknowing." The coincidence of opposites, a mathematical notion of infinity...pub in 1440! (Bruno burned: 1600) MAYBE he was on to something...I don't know.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

As Michael points out, the Tale of the Tribe section of TSOG outlines a "self-study" course that anyone can take the trouble to pursue, if they want to.

Royal Academy of Reality 1132 said...

I find it interesting how it may take a village to finish _Tale of the Tribe_. Since Bob started writing and talking about it, I've spent a lot of time pursuing various parts of it, especially Joyce and Pound. Dr. Johnson has pursued various parts of it, especially Vico and McLuhan, Fly Agaric has taken another set of approaches, etc.

We could attempt a more organized approach....

Bobby Campbell said...

I just did a new cover for "Email to Universe" Don't know when it'll be released (I think the old editions need to sell out entirely first, which can take some time...) but just between us: http://www.bobbycampbell.net/RAW_EMAIL.jpg

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Has the "Bobby Campbell edition" of "An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson" been released?

Bobby Campbell said...

I don't believe so. I sent the artwork off to the printers months ago, but think it's probably in the same limbo as the others (email, earth will shake, widow's son) waiting to sell out previous editions.