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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Neil in Chicago on the early days of the Illuminatus! crowd

(This is a "promoted from the comments" blog post. It's a comment posted to my Fred Feldman interview, my interview  with the editor who worked on Illuminatus! Neil in Chicago didn't respond to my invitation to get in touch, so I don't know any more about him, or what he knows, than what I reproduce here. -- The Mgt.)

Neil_in_Chicago said...
I've had a version of the story of the cutting for so long that I'm not sure who (or how many) I got it from.
((In the early 1970s there was a social circle of anarchists on Chicago's North Side which, for lack of a name agreeable to everyone, was sort of called The Nameless Anarchist Horde. This included the Wilson family, and Bob Shea, and chronologically overlapped the writing of Illuminatus! Many of the people in the group, including some kittens, are in the book, and in subsequent things like Schroedinger's Cat.))
I'll call this note a memoir, because it's an honest recounting of my memory.
Illuminatus! was set in 1976 to give it a slightly future feel, so it's ironic that it didn't come out until late 1975. The way I remember the acquisition story is that some junior editor would read it and say WOW! We've gotta have this. And a senior editor would say what?? And the junior editor would burn out, because that's what they're there for, and the succeeding junior editor would say WOW!! etc.
So it took several years to get bought, and then it had 500 pages cut, and was cut into a "trilogy". There were stories about the cutting getting done; eventually, Shea and Wilson were pulling out pages at semi-random, which sort of fit into the Brion Gysin "cut up" style anyway. Originally, the appendices were the full alphabet.
Those cut pages were probably lost early on. I had heard that one of the Horde had them, but I asked him years later, and he said no.

Those two Japanese books of Shea's were Shike: Time of the Dragons and Shike: Last of the Ziinja. He wrote half a dozen historical novels, and I recommend them all.

Here's a typical bit of minuscule trivia. There was a street gang (much less toxic than the current sorts) called the Thorndale Jag Offs, who graffitied their TJO logo all the hell over the place. In the huge list of bands at the rock festival at the climax of Illuminatus!, they're in the list.
And for the synchronicity freaks – Shea once pointed out to me that the two great crises in Illuminatus! Were the secret one of anthrax leprosy pi and the open one of Fernando Poo. When 1976, the two great crises which fizzled were Angola and swine flu . . .
September 27, 2013 at 6:41 PM