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.
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.)