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Monday, July 20, 2015

Charles Faris on Illuminatus!

[Charles Faris, a health counselor, yoga teacher and writer in the Boston area, sent me this "Illuminatus! Week" contribution over the weekend. Charles has sent me a number of emails and often has participated in the comments. -- The Management.]

Charles Faris

Joining in close to the mid-point of the discussion in October of 2014. I found myself in a bit of a pickle—how to catch up and get on the same page (literally and figuratively) as the rest of the group. Ultimately I decided to do the weekly readings and also begin reading from the beginning, taking in the weekly group-speak as I went along. As if that sort of immersion was not enough, and since the cover art for my first week in the group was the Astounding Stories issue featuring Lovecraft’s "At the Mountains of Madness," I figured I may as well throw some H.P. into the mix as well.

The results were quite satisfying. Synchronicities piled up like dead bodies at an Antarctic base camp. Everything I was reading pointed to everything else I was reading and every building I passed seemed to hold within it some unutterable horror, or at least a heavy dose of mystery. The Atlantis material and the ritual scenes in particular seemed ripe and poignant, as my reading of scenes in Book 1 would dovetail with the current group readings—the same general story told from 2 or 3 perspectives at the same time, I found myself reading "The Shadow over Innsmouth" at the same time that I was reading George Dorn’s Mad Dog Texas horror show, the Markoff Chaney sections popped up just as I was digging into The Sex Magicians, etc.

By the time I caught up to page 348, where I had begun in synchrony with the group, I was having too much fun to stop, so I ended up re-reading most of Book 2 while catching up to the real-time reading of the group. Everything came together at the start of Book 3, which was a bit of a let down—reading Illuminatus! as a double reflected hall of mirrors cut-up was much more enlightening than reading it as published! Then again, perhaps it was just that the pace of the group was necessarily slower than I needed to stay deeply engaged, although I suspect it was at least a mix of the two.

The most surprising thing about this reading is that between the crazy method I was using and the wonderful insights of the group I was able to pull more out of Illuminatus! this time around that in all of my previous readings put together, and I was particularly astounded to notice the extent to which RAW’s first big burst (for me this is Illuminatus! through Prometheus Rising), which I had read at the time as an evolving thought-line, seemed to be fully formed by the time he was finished with Illuminatus!, perhaps allowing for a bit more heart development though the completion of Cosmic Trigger.

Perhaps my 3 biggest takeaways from this reading experience are that there is great power group reading, that there are many ways to read a book (or books!) in order to really GET what the author(s) has imbedded in the pages, and that with Illuminatus! the two Bobs have created a 20th century I Ching, ready to be dipped into at any moment for insight, revelation, and a good belly laugh!

Thanks Tom, for setting this up, and thanks to everyone who participated, visibly or not, for fleshing it out. Fnord.


Eric Wagner said...

Terrific piece. I loved the Lovecraft connections.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent summary of the Great ReRead. They've all been enjoyable.

Oz Fritz said...

Nice one!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Studying the Lovecraftian elements of the work seems just as valid an approach to me as any other approach.

fuzzbuddy said...

Well put Charles, I like "20th century I Ching".

chas said...

Thanks Eric, Arthur, Oz, and Bobby for the comments, and thanks Tom for the forum. It is a joy to be a part of this "sane" little bit of the web.