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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

More on whether RAW did the Jaguar interview of William Burroughs

A 1969 issue of Jaguar magazine, from the Internet Archive. 

There seems to be some discussion about whether the interviewer from Jaguar magazine, mentioned in yesterday's post, is really Robert Anton Wilson, so let's stay on that topic a moment.

Michael Johnson writes (comment at yesterday's blog post): "IIRC, Mike Gathers and I parsed very closely the interviewer for Jaguar ( RAW either had just started working at Playboy or was shortly to begin his 5 year stint there), trying to figure out of it was RAW or not. We both thought it probably was him, based on the nature of the Qs and the style. The "right where you are sitting now" was persuasive."

I was struck by the "right where you are sitting now" quote I highlighted yesterday, too, of course, and note that RAW's book Right Where You Are Sitting Now is dedicated to Burroughs and Philip K. Dick.

Jesse Walker writes, "1. The *Jaguar* interview includes this exchange:

<for 15 years, and have been off them
for 7 years now. Would you explain
how you got addicted?

BUR: Addiction is a disease of exposure.
By and large people become
addicts who are exposed to it. Doctors
and nurses, for instance, have a high
addiction rate. People who I knew at
the time were taking it. I took a shot
of morphine, liked it, and eventually
became addicted.>>

2. The *Fact* profile of Burroughs includes this exchange:

<addicted. “Addic­tion is a disease of exposure,” he replied. “By and
large people become addicts who are ex­posed to it—doctors and nurses,
for instance. People I knew at the time were using it. I took a shot,
liked it, and eventually became an addict.”>>

Clearly the same conversation, even if it's transcribed a little

3. The *Fact* profile is attributed to "Ronald Weston." We know that
Wilson used this pseudonym. He told me this directly.

4. We know that RAW wrote for both *Fact* and *Jaguar*."

Me again: Jaguar was a "men's magazine" for the time. I don't have a cover image for the January 1966 issue the Burroughs article appeared in, so I've illustrated this with a cover of a 1969 issue. Probably not a magazine you'd leave laying on your coffee table to impress friends or family members, but did the editors of such magazines get to run articles on esoteric topics that interested them, because the articles were largely beside the point in selling the magazine? 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson interviews William Burroughs

William Burroughs. Creative Commons photo by Chuck Patch. 

On Twitter, Jesse Walker highlights one of the important discoveries of Martin Wagner's Cosmic Trigger Companion (which I wrote about the other day): An interview with William Burroughs by Robert Anton Wilson.

Here is a section which would seem to have had a big influence on RAW:

(After RAW has asked about Burroughs cut-up techniques)

Burroughs: "I think if a writer is not endeavoring to expand and alter consciousness in himself and in his readers, he is not doing much of anything. It is precisely words, word lines, lines of word and image and associations connected with these word and image lines in the brain, that keep you in present time, right where you are sitting now." 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Many JFK files will stay secret for years

Burial of John Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. (Public domain photo from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.)

The JFK assassination is a major theme of Illuminatus!, but in "real life," the murder also a prominent feature of government weirdness. It's been more than 50 years since the assassination, but some of the files are still years away from being released (because of "national security") if they are ever released at all. Don't you feel more secure, knowing that the U.S. government hides information from you for decades?

Jesse Walker has an article about all this in Reason magazine. Many additional files were released Thursday, but many remain secret, Walker explains.

Jesse writes, "This isn't just of interest to conspiracy theorists and conspiracy debunkers. The assassination was central to the history of the American '60s, and there are plenty of details around it that haven't been filled in. And even if you don't care much about the assassination, you should want the government to have at least enough respect for transparency to stop hoarding information about an event that happened nearly 55 years ago."

In a synchronicity, I spent Thursday covering a Bobby Kennedy Jr. visit to my newspaper in Sandusky, Ohio (he was helping Dennis Kucinich's campaign for governor). The JFK files didn't come up.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What are the 'missing' RAW books?

An unconsummated Bride. Link. 

Over his long writing career, Robert Anton Wilson began or at least announced books that never appeared. I've chatted a little bit with Martin Wagner recently about this.

By my count, there are at least five publicly acknowledged  books, and I am not confident that they are the only ones.

(1) The World Turned Upside Down. In my mass market paperback of Nature's God, published by Roc, there is a note at the end about this next book in the Historical Illuminatus! series, "coming soon." There were actually five books planned in the series, but only three were published.

(2) Lion of Light, unfinished or unpublished book about Aleister Crowley that Martin reminded me of.  Here is a post about that book. 

(3) Starseed Signals. This is the book that Adam Gorightly has been trying to bring out. Adam is apparently still waiting on his publisher to bring it out.

(4) Tale of the Tribe. The book about the Internet that is outlined at the end of TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution.

(5) Bride of Illuminatus! The sequel to Illuminatus!, apparently abandoned after the death of Robert Shea. A bit more here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rasa's license plate

If you see this car with a California license plate, it's Richard Rasa, metaprogramming director for the Robert Anton Wilson Trust (which includes the job of editorial director for Hilaritas Press.) That's his new plate!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

If we're sending people for drugs, who should go?

Scott Sumner (Mercatus Center photo)

I really like this paragraph from Scott Sumner, who says we should quit putting people in prison for drugs, and has some choice words about who winds up getting sent:

"If we were actually going to use the 'addiction' criterion for who we avoid sending to prison, it would make far more sense to imprison the yuppie cocaine users, and give pass to the poor inner city kids desperate to get money by selling drugs. Of course I'm not recommending this policy, but it would at least take the violence out of the drug trade, and hence be less bad than current policy. Instead, affluent drug users go to 'rehab' clinics and poor drug sellers go to prison."

More contrarian opinions here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Cosmic Trigger Companion launches

Big news from Austria: Martin Wagner has outdone himself in his work of Robert Anton Wilson scholarship by publishing the A Cosmic Trigger Companion website, an annotation of one of RAW's most famous books, Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. In the course of the book, Wilson refers to various documents and art objects — and Martin posts them, so you can  read them, or view a movie clip of what RAW is referring to, or see the cover of a science fiction magazine, etc. A great example of how the Internet can be used to promote scholarship.

If you are reading or re-reading Cosmic Trigger, see also our Cosmic Trigger reading group archive (scroll down on the right side of the page), led by the estimable Charles Faris.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Getting high with H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft not only referenced marijuana in his fiction, he may have been the origin of 4:20 as code for smoking pot. Or so argues this piece at Cannabis Culture, "420, Lovecraft, Crowley, and Hashish connections!" by Chris Bennett, which finds the 4:20 reference in a Lovecraft story entitled "In the Walls of Erix."

Then there's this sentence: "There is the rumor that Lovecraft’s wife, Sonia Greene, had a 'friendship' with the British magician Aleister Crowley and information was exchanged between them."

Bennett is the author of a new book, Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal Herbs and the Occult.

Hat tip: Charles Faris.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

The war on some drugs spurs more deaths

Jeffrey Singer

A few weeks ago, I heard a podcast on the war on drugs with a Cato Institute policy expert named Jeffrey Singer, who pointed out that while authorities have stressed pressuring doctors to reduce pain pill prescriptions, drug overdose deaths have continued to go up. (The instinct to deal with social problems with crackdowns and punishment apparently runs deep.) Singer argues that the approach to the overdose epidemic should emphasize harm reduction and treatment, not punishment. Yes, the Cato Institute is libertarian, but it's not just libertarians who make that argument.

I was intrigued by Singer because the situation he described -- authorities patting themselves on the back over few pain pill prescriptions while overdose deaths soar -- is exactly what's been happening in Ohio for the last few years. So I wanted to write a story. The problem was, that in this case, I didn't want to tell "both sides." I wanted to emphasize a point of view that gets little attention.

To my surprise, my editors liked my story idea. They wanted to run it in the Sunday paper, our flagship edition. And in fact they ran my article, "Expert: Ohio Drug Approach Not Working," above the fold on page one. Given that RAW talked a lot about the "War on some drugs," I thought sombunall of you might want to read it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Daisy Erie Campbell announces tour dates

Daisy Eris Campbell has announced tour dates for her one-woman show about coming to terms with her famous father's legacy (i.e., Ken Campbell, who mounted a theatrical production of Illuminatus!)

The dates:

May 16th, 7pm - Boscoe Tent, Brighton Festival, Brighton
June 15th, 7.30pm - Ebenezer Presents, Aller, Somerset
June 23rd, 7.30pm - Kunst Gallery, Belper, Derbyshire
August 31st, 7.30pm - The British Library, London
September 9th, 5pm - The Hub, Leeds

For information on tickets and further details, please go here. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday links

"The Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon, ca. 150 AD. This stunning Roman temple, still very well preserved, is actually larger than the Parthenon of Athens." Source. 

Adam Gorightly's five Discordian rituals. 

Not from Illuminatus! The U.S. government once planned false flag attacks using Soviet aircraft. 

""We had recently become aware that Robert Anton Wilson was available to  speak. He was touring around, setting up speaking engagements in a  really cheap DIY operation — it wasn’t through an agency or anything like that. He was available to speak for $500" Source from Mondo 2000

More JFK files are supposed to be released soon. Jesse Walker article from October, but the deadline is April 26. Of course, the federal government always honors its own rules.

Alex Tabarrok on Facebook.

Why not use this approach to war? 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

New book on John Dee

Jason Louv of Ultraculture has a new book out, John Dee and the Empire of Angels: Enochian Magick and the Occult Roots of the Modern World.

Dee, an Elizabethan scientist and occultist, is mentioned numerous times in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger. 

The book has picked up some nice endorsements from the likes of Douglas Rushkoff and Mitch Horowitz.

Rushkoff: "John Dee is the original Elizabethan mage-scientist, who invented the British Empire and invested it with magical power. He is to Elizabeth what Merlin was to Arthur, except he was real. Here’s the original technology of weaponized memes, psyops, and empire building in a gripping, authoritative account of how and why we became an occult society.”

Horowitz: “Any biographical treatment of John Dee must be nothing less than epic--and Jason Louv has gloriously achieved this in John Dee and the Empire of Angels, a truly comprehensive, broad-spectrum, and lavishly beautiful historical study of the master magus and the counter-current of secret history Dee launched into the world, which has affected us all.”

On Twitter, Horowitz also wrote, "A truly epic work of historicism on John Dee from @jasonlouv. I cannot imagine it being surpassed. Part of the renaissance in occult letters."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What are your reading habits?

As this blog is be definition aimed at readers, I am will share some of my habits and invite you to share yours.

I tend to know 3-4 books in advance what I'm going to read, at least for fiction, although I sometimes will deviate from the immediate plan; I am currently reading the first Iain Banks "Culture" novel, Consider Phlebas (also occupied by a couple of nonfiction, one as an audiobook); next I will read the latest Ada Palmer, Will to Battle, which got put off because I was so busy with Prometheus Award fiction; then the new Richard Powers novel, The Overstory, and then (probably) the two Robert Shea "Saracen" books, Land of the Infidel and The Holy War.  I read The Fellowship of the Ring last year and want to continue re-reading The Lord of the Rings. I am looking forward to the new batch of Robert Anton Wilson books coming soon from Hilaritas.

Finding something to read is seldom an issue for me; it's more an issue of what I will squeeze in next. Still, I try to keep up with what's out there. I look at book reviews in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, in The Week magazine and other sources.

My habit is to become very interested in a writer and explore his or her work. For years, I've read each Richard Powers novel as it came out. I'm trying to keep up with Ada Palmer, who seems to me as the most interesting new SF writer. After two more books, I will run out of unread "Culture" books.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week 14

I recently finished Brian Boyd's Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery. Boyd, an English professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, arguably has no peer as a living Nabokov scholar and gives a close reading of the book. He convincing demonstrates that the book has clear references to works such as Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, Robert Browning's Pippa Passes, T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets and "The Waste Land," and other works. If you don't think reading an entire book of literary criticism can be entertaining, Boyd's book might change your mind.

In the bulk of the book, Boyd discusses the theory that I also have endorsed, that the actual author is V. Botkin, an offstage minor character, who invents both Charles Kinbote and the exiled Zemblan king and who commits suicide after writing his deranged commentary.

In the last part of the book, Boyd offers a further theory that the ghosts of John Shade and his daughter, Hazel -- shades of the Shades -- helped inspire the composition of the book. For those who think that it's an unlikely theory, Boyd discusses "The Vane Sisters", a short story which features an acrostic that has a message from two sisters who have died. (Nabokov had to point out the acrostic after The New Yorker magazine rejected the story.)

Incidentally, Brian Boyd knows who Robert Anton Wilson is, or at least has heard the name.

I wrote to him recently, noting that I could find only very expensive copies of his book about Nabokov's Ada and asking for an ebook edition. I mentioned my blog and the online reading group for Pale Fire and explained that I usually write about Robert Anton Wilson.

Professor Boyd pointed to me to where I could find an ebook of his Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness, and pointed out his free Ada website, which has very detailed annotations on the novel. He ended, "Enjoy, and keep blogging. I have very little time to read for pleasure but I'll keep my antenna alert for more on RAW."

Looking ahead to the next reading group: California author, English teacher, Jeopardy game show champ and RAW scholar Eric Wagner has volunteered to lead an online discussion group at this blog focusing on Joseph Kerman's classic study, The Beethoven Quartets. Expect discussion that will included Beethoven and the book, but also Robert Anton Wilson's deep interest in Beethoven.

"I plan to write weekly pieces on the Kerman Beethoven book starting August 6, with the official group beginning August 13 and running eighteen weeks until December 10," Eric says.

About the Kerman book, Eric says, "I gave copies of this book to both Robert Anton Wilson and Rafi Zabor. I took a copy of it with me when I appeared on Jeopardy."

Eric is the author of An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.

I expect to be able to check my copy of the Kerman book out of the excellent local library system I use, renewing it as necessary -- that's what I did with the Brian Boyd book -- but I'm putting the reminder up here to give the rest of you time to make necessary arrangements.

And what should we do beyond? The answer, I think, comes from Hilaritas Press, which has new editions coming out soon of the three "Historical Iluminatus" books and then will do the two Cosmic Trigger sequels. They would certainly be a good focus for online discussions.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A nod toward the Noid

The latest podcast from Studio 360 (a joint public radio/Slate show) opens with a 15-minute segment about the Dominos pizza Noid TV ad campaign in the 1980s. It was a popular ad campaign that had a cult following, but there's a sad footnote to it: A man named Kenneth Lamar Noid who suffered from mental illness viewed the ad campaign as a personal attack. He took two pizza employees hostage at a Georgia Dominos location, demanding money, pizza and a plane ride before surrendering to police. No one was hurt. Noid committed suicide several years later.

The Robert Anton Wilson connection: One of Noid's demands was a copy of The Widow's Son. The podcast mentions the title of the book but does not give the name of the author or any other further details.

BTW the podcast was pretty good and I plan to try other episodes. The podcast is available on iTunes and the usual podcasting apps.

Hat tip: Michael Johnson.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A few comments about Syria

Dennis Kucinich, announcing his campaign for governor of Ohio. (Photo I took covering the announcement.) The woman in blue is his wife, Elizabeth, who's from London.

With the recent military strike in Syria by the U.S. and its allies, it seems appropriate to say something here, given Robert Anton Wilson's long antiwar stance.

I've long been opposed to American military involvement in Asia, like everyone in the U.S. antiwar movement. But it seems like the new strikes are particularly dangerous. How would a war with Russia be in anyone's interest?

If I can try to find something positive in the current situation, I would like to point out that there are people who agree that President Trump's military action was illegal and unwise. They don't hold power, they go up against a bipartisan consensus, but they are there.

Dennis Kucinich, my former Congressman, is now running for governor of Ohio. He issued a statement today. It begins, "President Trump acted without congressional authorization in ordering a military attack against Syria tonight. This is a clear violation of the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 which makes it clear that only Congress has the power to declare war."

He also said, "The President’s confrontation with the Russian military based in Syria endangers American troops stationed there.  There is a danger of a much wider war with both Russia and Iran."

Full statement available here. 

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a nominal Republican, really more of a libertarian, had a good statement on Twitter: "These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House must reclaim congressional war powers as prescribed in Article I of the Constitution. @SpeakerRyan has completely abdicated one of his most important responsibilities." 4,320 retweets as of this morning, which means 4,319 that weren't me.

I could also have quoted Glenn Greenwald and other folks, mostly libertarians and progressives.

We need a viable antiwar movement in this country.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Maybe April 23 is a good day to immanentize the eschaton?

Fox News illustration for the end of the world. 

In an amusing echo of the April 23 references in Illuminatus! comes this Fox News story: "Biblical prophecy claims the Rapture is coming April 23, numerologist says."

"Is the Rapture finally here? One Christian numerologist says a biblical sign strongly suggests it.

"David Meade tells the U.K.'s Daily Express newspaper that on April 23, the sun and moon will be in Virgo, as will Jupiter, which represents the Messiah."

The first paragraph of Illuminatus! places April 1 as the date when the nuclear powers come close to war, and says that the paragraph was written on April 23.

On second thought, with the new Syrian crisis, and the threat of U.S.-Russia confrontation in Syria, maybe this stuff isn't so funny, after all.

Hat tip, "Hagbard Celine," @amoebadesign on Twitter. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Martin Wagner's Cosmic project

Martin Wagner, who maintains an important site in Austria for his Robert Anton Wilson research (German version here, but also see his English version) has an important new project: A collection of documents that annotate Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger book.

More soon when this launches.

Follow Martin's archive on Twitter. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

RAW inspired antiwar music video

I don't really know much the above other than what I saw on Twitter this morning, so I'll quote the Tweet (from CosmicTriggerthePlay): "Kopyright Liberation Fnord? RAW-inspired video/trailer from the re-mix album out May 23rd, with work inspired by the JAM's 2023 from the 400. This track is by Mark Love/Merk... scratch video by Andy Gell, vocals @OliverSenton as Bob!"

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week 13

Next week, in the final entry, I want to talk about Brian Boyd's book, Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery, which I have just finished. But this week, I want to mention another book, The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, by Andrea Pitzer, an interesting book which I read in January.

I am not sure why Nabokov's history would be "secret," but Pitzer's point is that Nabokov's biography is largely reflected in his fiction.

Andrea Pitzer 

There are many references to mirrors and reflections in Pale Fire, which is a case in point, and in fact there is a chapter on Pale Fire in Pitzer's book.

The killing of John Shade at the end of Pale Fire may be read in at least two ways: (1) Gradus, the assassin from Zembla, attempts to kill King Charles or (2) Jack Grey, the American escapee from the insane asylum, is attempting to kill Judge Goldsworth, who had him put away, and mistakenly kills Shade, who resembles the judge.

In any case, a man his shot dead in the course of an attempted killing of another person, and Pitzer's book describes in detail the fatal shooting of Nabokov's father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, He was shot to death in 1922 in Berlin by assassins who were attempting to kill someone else (who they failed to even wound.)

Pitzer's book has other instances of how Nabokov's life is reflected in his fiction. For example, Nabokov's wife was Jewish, and anti-Semitism and prejudice in general is a theme that recurs in Nabokov.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chaos in Britain, and a new book

Ben Graham, from his Twitter account.

Historia Discordia has a guest post by Brenton Clutterbuck, "Chaos in the UK: From the KLF to Reclaim the Streets." It's a history of chaos and Discordianism in Great Britain, told in the form of an interview with Ben Graham, author of A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas’s Psychedelic Music, from the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond (Zero Books, 2015).

Much of Ben Graham's work looks like something that would interest sombunall of you, so go here for his website, which includes poetry and journalism, including an interview with Bill Drummond.

Mr. Clutterbuck in a sense buries the lede in his piece -- at the very end, he reveals that his book, Chasing Eris, documenting his worldwide trip to learn more about Discordianism, will be released in May (or thereabouts). (Mr. Clutterbuck went from Australia to much of the U.S. and then on to Britain, although he rightly decided I was too boring to visit, so I've never met him.) I'll have more news on the book as it becomes available.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

An early RAW article on hallucinogens

The peyote cactus (Public domain photo). 

Yet another Martin Wagner discovery: "Of Transcendental Beauty and Crawling Horror," describing some of Robert Anton Wilson's early experiences with marijuana, peyote and belladonna. He wrote it as "Ronald Weston" for the first issue of "Fact" magazine in 1964.

The peyote experiences were new to me. The frightening encounter with belladonna appears to be the same incident depicted in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" in Email to the Universe.

At the end, RAW writes that he has decided to give up messing with hallucinogens and leave them to the experts. There is no mention of Timothy Leary in the piece.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Robert Anton Wilson on 'The Prisoner'

The building at 1 Buckingham Place in London used as Number Six's home in 'The Prisoner.'

Martin Wagner, busy as ever, has uncovered another interesting "lost" RAW article: "The Prisoner’s Dilemma," about the Prisoner TV show. 

RAW praises the libertarianism he finds in the show and says it depicts modern brainwashing techniques. His insistence that the TV audience is ready for challenging programming seems prescient:

It was originally shown in this country in 1968, repeated in 1969, and is now back again (on public TV this time). In the San Francisco Bay Area, the revival has been so popular that The Prisoner is already scheduled for a fourth showing, this summer.

This is a rather remarkable success story, since virtually all the TV critics reacted to The Prisoner, in 1968, by praising it with faint damns and predicting that it would be a commercial failure because it was “over the heads” of the alleged morons who are supposed to be the only ones who ever look at The Tube.

Read the whole thing. 

More Martin Wagner news soon!

Follow Martin's RAW Archives on Twitter. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Classical music 'steals'

I have a hobby of looking for online bargains in classical music. I buy cheap MP3 albums on Amazon, which has an online player that allows me to stream them anywhere I happen to be (obviously, I can also download the files if I want to, but it often isn't necessary. In honor of Robert Anton Wilson's love of classical music, here are some of my recent discoveries:

Big Stravinsky Box — 99 cents for the Firebird (the ballet, not the suite), the Rite of Spring, the Symphony of Psalms, Petrouchka and much else.  The performance of The Soldier's Tale features French actress Madeline Milhaud, wife of the French composer. RAW liked Stravinsky.

Big Shostakovich Box — another 99 cent package from the Bach Guild. Worth it alone for the piano quintet, featuring the Beethoven Quartet and the composer himself on piano, but as with the Stravinsky package, lots of other works.

Richter, the Early Years — A 99 cents package of early recordings of my current favorite pianist, Sviatoslav Richter.  Beethoven, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel, etc.

Search "Bach Guild" in Amazon's digital music for other cheap packages of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Timothy Leary's birthday party

Creative Commons photo of Parker Posey by Gage Skidmore

Screenwriter and actor Tom Sierchio chances to meet actress Parker Posey and she writes down the address for a party on his hand. He goes to the party, and eventually figures out it's Timothy Leary's last birthday party. (He never meets Ms. Posey again, and it's not even clear Leary knew who Posey was.) An amusing memoir. Via R.U. Sirius on Twitter, who writes, "A legendary bash and I missed it. I was on deadline and it seemed important at the time."

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, week 12

Cover for first U.S. edition of Pale Fire

This week: Please finish reading the book, if you have time. But there will still be another couple of weeks of discussion.

So, what happened?

I lean toward the theory that the narrator is actually V. Botkin, the "American scholar of Russian descent" in the index, whose name, as the index records, can be turned around to make "kingbot," the maggot. In this reading, Botkin is crazy and imagines himself as both the exiled king of Zembla, and as a professor under the pseudonym Charles Kinbote. He writes the book and commits suicide afterward.

At the end, the narrator imagines writing a play that includes "a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire ... "

At the end of the book the narrator grudgingly refers to what really happened: Jack Grey escapes and attempts to kill the judge who put him away, Judge Goldsworth, in whose house the narrator is living; by mistake he takes Shade for Goldsworth.

This theory also fits his admiration for suicide expressed at the end of the book ("God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example of two other characters in this work.") One of those characters would be Hazel Shade, who in the index "deserves great respect, having preferred the beauty of death to the ugliness of life." (The other person who kills himself is the assassin, Jack Grey).

Nabokov said in an interview, that Pale Fire "is full of plums that I keep hoping somebody will find. For instance, the nasty commentator is not an ex-King of Zembla nor is he professor Kinbote. He is professor Botkin, or Botkine, a Russian and a madman."

For a rundown of various interpretations, see the Wikipedia article. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

R.A. Lafferty Fantastic Megapack

The R.A. Lafferty Fantastic Megapack is an anthology of his early stories, many if not most which were allowed to go out of print, available for just 99 cents for an ebook.

Despite the modest price, this is a really good anthology; Lafferty was never better as a short story writer than he was at the beginning, and many of these stories also are reprinted in the three core anthologies: Nine Hundred Grandmothers, Strange Doings and Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add? If you wonder what all the noise from the Lafferty cultists is all about, this is an affordable way to find out.

As a bonus for RAW fans, one of the stories, "Through Other Eyes," dramatizes a major them of Robert Anton Wilson: How we all create our own realities with our perceptions and nervous systems. (The story also is reprinted in Nine Hundred Grandmothers.)