Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lots of cuts were made to "Cat"

I've been re-reading the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy for my Maybe Logic Academy class. Our assignment is to read The Homing Pigeons First, followed by The Universe Next Door and The Trick Top Hat.

The assigned text for the class is the one-volume Dell edition first published in 1988.  It's my first encounter with that edition, which I had to check out of the library. When I re-read the trilogy a couple of years ago, I read the original novels, which I still have in my personal library.

A couple of days ago, after I finished re-reading The Homing Pigeons, I pulled my original Pocket Books edition off the bookshelf to compare it with the Dell version. I compared the last few pages of the two versions and saw there were significant cuts in the Dell.

When I re-read the trilogy a couple of years ago, I noticed that The Universe Next Door was my favorite of the three. As I began reading the Dell version, I was surprised at how much was left out in comparison with the original version, at least in the early part of the book.

If your only experience with The Universe Next Door is the Dell omnibus, for example, you may not know that the original version had an "Overture," two pages long, about a guy named Joe Malik writing a novel with a protagonist named Robert Anton Wilson.

And you'd miss other material.

For example, in the Dell version, the first chapter, "Don't Look Back," ends with the words, "The planet as a whole continued to drowse."

In the original Pocket Books version, that's followed by three paragraphs:

Nihilism had been invented in Russia in the nineteenth century. It was a philosophy based on materialism, skepticism and a fierce demand for social justice. Naturally, various deranged individuals quickly made it an excuse for violence, and Nihilism became a synonym for horror.

Anarchism was similar. It had been invented in France in the nineteenth century and was also based on materialism, skepticism and a fierce demand for social justice. It attracted the same types as Nihilism and also quickly acquired a bad reputation.

The Nihilist Anarchist Horde believed that they had chosen that name to refurbish the sane, sound side of Nihilism and Anarchism. Actually, they were kidding themselves. They really enjoyed having a name that scared the bejesus out of everybody.

Now, when I re-read the "Cat" trilogy a couple of years back, I did feel that some of the sex scenes could be cut without damaging the literary value of the work very much.  The attack on Dell in the second chapter of the original version of The Universe Next Door,  criticizing the publisher for making too many cuts to Illuminatus!, is tactfully removed from the Dell version, and I suppose that's no great loss. But it seems to me that many of the cuts in the Dell edition remove a great deal of detail and nuance.

The Dell version is still a pretty good work of literature, but I'd kind of like to see the original version brought back into print. I'd also like to know why the work was cut in the first place.


Jesse said...

My understanding is that they were cut for space. I agree that the uncut version is vastly better.

Eric Wagner said...


I liked your post. At first I preferred the original three volume version. Reading the one volume version for the class, I feel inclined to give Bob the benefit of the doubt. I don't feel the lack of the original material the way I did when I first read the one volume version back in the 80's.

I think Bob made the cuts to make a one volume edition cheaper to print, but I think he brought his full artistic imagination to bear trying to improve the novel as well.

I think of Joseph Kerman's discussion of Op. 130 in his book on the Beethoven Quartets. Kerman suggests that although Beethoven wrote the new ending due to economic pressure, Kerman thinks Beethoven felt dissatisfied at some level with the original ending. I find it interesting that so much of the cut material from the three volume version originated in the Sex Magicians, migrated to Illuminatus! and got cut, and mutated into SC and got cut again.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Well, I do think the cuts are skillfully done and nothing essential seems to have been left out (at least so far), but I have to say that while I thought some of the sex could be cut in the original version (as I said in my post), I do think that many readers would miss some of the other material.

Obviously, there was really no choice but to use the Dell edition in the course. That's the correct decision, because it's the only edition that is really readily available.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I wonder if perhaps with "Cat" (as opposed to "Illuminatus!) RAW was pleased that he got to make the cuts and revisions himself.

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