Sunday, May 31, 2020
RAW 'worst' book? Fans weigh in!
[My initial posting on the new release of The New Inquisition prompted an unusual discussion of what Robert Anton Wilson's worst book is. I'll repost Supergee's comment that began the discussion, post excerpts of other comments and then weigh in myself -- the Management.]
Supergee: To me this is RAW’s worst book: hectoring, clanking with pig irony, unselective in its examples, giving aid & comfort to those who say that when Dr. Fauci discusses viruses, that’s just his eddication talking. But it finishes with a marvelous discussion of how we perceive.
Eric Wagner: I love this book. Bob loved science, but he wanted to apply the scientific method to science itself.
Iain Spence: Once again Hilaritas Press have managed to collapse the price of an old RAW title down to 12 pounds. Some people were coughing up 30+ quid for old dog eared copies of these in the UK. Thank you once again to the dedicated team.
I think Mr Wilson had a bee in his bonnet about the worst excesses of scientific materialism rather than science itself. So it seems like he gets a bit carried away in this volume? I'm intrigued by the comments here...and I'm looking forward to reading it.
Inigo Montoya: I don't think it is his worst book. Among the nonfiction, both Coincidance and Email to the Universe are worse, a mishmash of b-grade and c-grade stuff. (And Moore's intro to the former is dreadful in my view -- and it is clear he never read Korzybski, or if he did, he didn't understand what he was reading. That's the only way I can explain the line "Count Alfred Korzybski’s work implies that almost all human experience is linguistic in its nature..." Whaa? Anyway...)
Among his nonfiction, the Cosmic Trigger books, Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology are his best, I'd say. I would rank this book after those, but above the Coincidance and Email... I think the first chapter is terrific -- it's RAW in all his agnostic glory. The book gets tedious though as it goes on... and RAW piles up example after example (often not persuasive) a la some kind of modern Charles Fort... but I find I skim over those and still find little RAW gems throughout... The tone it's also a bit shrill for him, which may contribute to the negative vibe around the book.
I think the book ends well, the chapter Creative Agnosticism is strong.
I have the New Falcon edition... and I have just bought the Hilaritas edition. I will reread it and see if I think differently on a second reading.
Rarebit Fiend: @Inigo- I love Coincidance- The Finnegans Wake material is worth the entire book. I do agree that "email to the universe" is a bit of a patch up job and would have rather RAW have completed "Tale of the Tribe."
I am incredibly prejudiced to favor Alan Moore and enjoyed the introduction. However Moore definitely has his own intellectual biases and agendas- however RAW's interpretations of information could be heavily influenced by his own expectations. For all our agnosticism we all still have definite biases.
1. It seems to me that in any discussion of Robert Anton Wilson's "worst book," the obvious front runner would be The Sex Magicians, which was published as a pornographic book. I have never seen it listed anywhere in Wilson's own official list of his works, and Hilaritas Press has not announced plans to republish it, so it seems to me it's never been considered part of the canon, even though it was published under Wilson's name.
2. I'm still reading The New Inquisition, but I thought the first chapter of the book was indeed very good, as Inigo Montoya says. It's as good as any nonfiction RAW ever wrote. I did not like one sentence referencing Carl Sagan and there seems to be a consensus portions of the book may be a bit weaker.
But I have to respectfully beg to differ with Inigo on Coincidance and Email to the Universe, which I thought were both very strong collections (and Hilaritas has beefed up the latter by adding a long interview with RAW, otherwise unavailable.) Both of these books have some of my favorite RAW essays and the overall quality to me seemed strong. It is true they don't really have a unified theme, although there is a lot of unified Joyce material in Coincidance.
The only RAW book which has disappointed me so far is TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Certainly entertaining and worth a read, but not really as strong as any other book I've read so far. I'm pretty sure Eric disagrees with me on this, but I would have expected RAW writing about the war on drugs to write a better book.
3. Iain Spence raises another point, and it's something Hilaritas Press deserves a lot of credit for, so I want to amplify it. Robert Anton Wilson fans in Great Britain have found it's very difficult and expensive to obtain many titles in Robert Anton Wilson's back catalog. Hilaritas of course is publishing definitive editions for everyone, but they are also making it possible for our British friends, who have done so much to keep Wilson's legacy alive, to obtain these titles easily and at a reasonable price, and to aid Wilson's family, to boot.