Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 65, Illuminatus online reading group


Publicity photo of Marilyn Monroe. "The only other detail," she went on calmly, "was arranging a convincing suicide." Page 714

(This week: "And later in the Bugatti," page 697, to page 715, "That was when I really lost identity with the Ringmaster.")

"All categories collapsed, including the all-important distinction ... between science fiction and serious literature," page 714.

If there ever were a novel that sought to collapse the categories and erase the "all-important distinction," it would seem to be Illuminatus!

Even now, it's a distinction that is maintained by the gatekeepers. "Literary" writers who appropriate the tropes of science fiction, such as Margaret Atwood, still often feel compelled to explain that they don't write science fiction. The New York Times' book review section regularly reviews mysteries, but even though it can now be read on tiny computers that everyone carries around in their pocket, it still does not regularly review science fiction.

The question of whether Illuminatus! "is" or "is not" a work of science fiction or fantasy still seems difficult to answer. It was published as part of Dell's science fiction line. The only literary award it ever won, the Prometheus Award, is an award for science fiction.  It has clear elements of the fantastic, such as a giant yellow submarine, eldritch creatures out of Lovecraft and a Hollywood actress transformed into a goddess by magic.  Let's face it -- it still gets very little attention from serious literary critics. The people trying to keep the work alive are mostly a bunch of weirdoes.

Yet at the same time, it fits uneasily into the genre category. It incorporates avante-garde literary techniques such as the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs. It has more debts to the "James Joyce mythos" than any genre novel ought to. Even after being substantially cut, it is longer, weirder and more complex than any science fiction novel ought to be. It is dense with literary allusion, not just to genre writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, but to "serious" writers such as James Joyce and William Faulkner. Even in 2015, as the Hugo Awards controversy shows, many people believe that science fiction is a genre of adventure stories, told in straightforward prose. The authors published their novel without serving the traditional apprenticeship of being repeatedly published in the science fiction magazines.

It "is" a science fiction novel and a literary novel, a large piece of prose that transforms into Stella one moment and Mavis the next.

Some notes:


A rendering of Yog Sototh. 

Yog Sototh, page 699, one of H.P. Lovecraft's creatures, who comes to the festival after being freed by the bombing of the Pentagon.

Pages 707-714, the "reality is what you can get away with" section: There is more about magic in the appendix that probably sheds light on this. I'm hoping Oz weighs in.

"As he fell forward, his hands became hooves, antlers sprouted from his head," the wrath of Artemis, e.g. Diana; "She was rising out of the waves, proud of her nudity," page 713, Aphrodite; "wandering the long Nile, weeping, seeking fragments of his lost body," page 713, Osiris and Isis.

(Next week: "Raise you five," said Waterhouse, throwing down another five-ton note," page 715, to page 729, "Don't you remember any of the last ten minutes?" said Hagbard.)

85 comments:

Eric Wagner said...

Tom, I like your phrase the "James Joyce mythos" - Cthulhu in Dublin. ("You can be anything you want this time around.")

I like the little "Give peace a chance" at the bottom of page 703.

Pg. 704: perhaps all of _Illuminates!_ takes place in Disney World. That would explain a lot.

Pg. 705: the discussion of Leviathan reminds me of Moby Dick.

Pg. 709: I had forgotten Marilyn's initiation takes place in Naples - shades of _The Earth Will Shake_.

Eric Wagner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JCG said...

In last week's reading, Hagbard explained that he contacted 'the Five' Illuminati Primi directly, and since he had 'the real secrets of magic' and they only had distortions, they elected him and the Saures as successors. Who were the previous members of the 'High Order of the A. A.'?

To my mind: Mama Sutra, Daley Lama, Mal-the younger, ???, ???



'The conditioning works better than magic' p.711
A psychologization of magick or vice versa? The answer concerns the nature of reality, which is the flow of consciousness energy. The tripper is a manifestation of that energy (Orgone, astral light, etc.), and thus can be manipulated, totally, as the woman's transformation into ERIS makes clear.


'Eris can be... somewhat adjusted' p.712
The modern notions of decorum which is mentioned refers to what, exactly? Eris not being so commanding?


it is difficult avoiding cliches when weighing in on the distinction between SF and 'serious lit'. I think the most sober approach to the distinction resides in the recognition of the two as overlapping 'literary cultures' and not making definitive claims based on content.
The lit culture of SF is based on Fandom and its attendant social bonds, in-house mediums, institutions, etc. Whereas serious lit. is a bulwark defended by academics, publishers, and, to a lesser extent, self-consciously non-serious lit. Ultimately, how does Illuminatus! fit into this schema? It is one of the exceptions. It has all the components of serious literature, yet was embraced by (fringe elements in) the SF community.

fuzzbuddy said...

Pg. 707 Anyone here read The Three Faces of Eve? I might give it a go sometime.
pg. 708 references to Hagbard's heroin business. Linked with The Cult of the Black Mother and or B.U.G.G.E.R?
pg. 709 Eichmann and Calley - former Narcs converted by Hagbard.
pg. 711 mention of Orgone, one of the few references to Wilhelm Reich in the book. Same with Bucky Fuller (I wonder if he ever had a longer storyline that got cut?)
pg. 711 "far gone in matriarchy" reminds me of a book RAW referenced alot on his online courses - Saharasia by James DeMeo (who is referenced in Prometheus Rising I think for his orgone research).

fuzzbuddy said...

I can't remember The Earth Will Shake so well. But what in this book leads to the impression the actress is Marilyn Monroe? Is it the mention of a huge star actress and "suicide" ? I don't think that name is ever mentioned specifically but I get the impression RAW had a great fondness for her.

fuzzbuddy said...

Marilyn and the Joyce mythos :P
http://goo.gl/3BTQhz

Eric Wagner said...

pg. 712 - "venerandam" - from Pound's Canto I. Arlen Wilson translated this as "she who must be obeyed". In Pound it refers to Aphrodite.

Pg. 714 - "ancient glittering eyes" alludes to Yeats'"Lapis Lazuli".

I have provisionally assumed the Marilyn Monroe identity. I don't remember if I ever talked with Bob about it.

fuzzbuddy said...

Thanks Eric. I think it is supposed to be Marilyn Monroe, but find it interesting to think how I've arrived at that idea. Whether its purely from reading the book, talking about it, as well as outside sources.

Oz Fritz said...

The experiment that between Hagbard and the unnamed Hollywood actress that begins on p.709 appears to be an invocation of Eris using A.'. A.'. inspired techniques. It can also be viewed as an experiment in metaprogramming.

p.709 - "They rented a villa in Naples..." Crowley and his paramour at the time rented a villa in Naples to write his book "Magick" aka Book 4.

The debates between Sade and Masoch semm to be designed to get the Lady out of habitual patterns of thinking using the 0 = 2 method where every idea gets exactly matched by its opposite so that they cancel out.

p.710 - "... balance a saucer of sulpheric acid on your head..." direct paraphrases one of Crowley's tests of pranayama skills.

I can comment more when I finish work tonight.

Oz Fritz said...

It should say, "directly paraphrases ..." in the previous comment.

The transformation of into Eris starting on p. 709 seems a creative application of A.'. A.'. techniques. Illuminatus! effectively demonstrates/suggests how to use Crowley's methods and for that it provides a valuable service as well as extending the Thelemic canon.

Eris, in this experiment, seems like a portal to something much larger. Hagbard starts by concentrating exclusively on drawing in Eris to the candidate, who sure seems like Marilyn Monroe, until "Books about matriarchy begin to supplement the films..." etc. (p.712) and it becomes obvious what he's aiming for.

p. 713 - "Is it always going to be like that - a white epileptic spasm and a hole in time?" - by many accounts an accurate description of those kinds of initial contact experiences.

"Remembering is just a matter of smoothing the transitions, he said. "Yes, you'll remember. And control it." - good qabala there, for instance "you'll remember" = 210 by adding the initials. I heard that John Lilly once said in conversation that transitions were the most difficult part of any major change - birth, death, into or out of psychedelic or meditational spaces etc.

p. 714 - "Holy Mother," George said hollowly." George sums things up quite clearly here and on p. 715 - "... the only other time I had the feminine viewpoint, I blocked it out of my memory" - this connects with what Hagbard said above i.e. remembering. This also = a qabala pun: re mem, to mem again. The path of Mem = key number 23 on the Tree of Lie and clearly correlates with the feminine viewpoint.

chas said...

Interestingly one of MM's first important roles was in All About Eve--

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