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Monday, July 4, 2011


This blog isn't going to turn into the "Timothy Leary Show," but I recently noticed an item by Leary I liked and I want to mention it here.

Leary wrote the introduction for Cosmic Trigger I. It includes this passage:

There are two word which always define a great writer-philosopher:


Each civilization, we are told, produces at its high water mark one or more encyclopedic works which summarize the knowledge, technology, culture, philosophy of the epoch. Such books are like neurogenetic manuals which summarize and explain a primitive planetary culture to an Intelligence Agent from another world. Dante, Boccaccio, James Joyce, Hesse. As American civilization moves from its adolescence into the final territorial stages of technological centralization preceding Space Migration, it is beginning to produce such encyclopedia writings. For example, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, the Illuminatus trilogy of Wilson and Shea, and the book you hold in your hand.

Does anyone besides me think that Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson also belongs on the list?


Anonymous said...

Yes. Also Paul Di Filippo's Cyphers.

michael said...

I'll second Neal Stephenson...that whole barrage of historical novels too: awe-inspiring!

@supergee: thanks for reminding me I must get to Cyphers ASAP

When Leary was thrown into the Hole - solitary - someone smuggled in a copy of Gravity's Rainbow - recently published - and he read it, then read it again...can you IMAGINE reading that book in solitary confinement?

Eric Wagner said...

I think Leary raved about Pynchon and Gravity's Rainbow in every book he wrote after he read Gravity's Rainbow. I find this fascinating. I would like to really understand what he saw in GR. I love that book, but I'd like to see it through Tim's eyes.

The last time I heard Tim speak I asked he what he thought of Pynchon's Vineland. He didn't like the question. He said something like, "Oh, if you want to talk about personalities." He said he didn't think much of Vineland but that he liked the Tubal Detox theme of the novel.

Drew said...

what about infinite jest by david foster wallace. it is a stunning account of the effects of addiction. it is a massive book, with accompying endnotes running to a hundred pages.