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Friday, February 18, 2022

Rasa on the new RAW book

Rasa, who runs the RAW Trust and the trust's publishing imprint, Hilaritas Press, on behalf of RAW's daughter, Christina Pearson, worked closely on the new Robert Anton Wilson book, Natural Law Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw, with the book's editor, Chad Nelson. Rasa agreed to take a couple of questions from me about the new book.

See also my interview with Chad Nelson and the comments from the book's cover artist, Scott McPherson. 

How did the contents of NATURAL LAW Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw evolve as you worked with Chad on the book? What do you think of the book in its final, published form?

Rasa: A couple years ago I started thinking about expanding RAW’s short book, Natural Law, Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy, with essays that I thought might fit the book's theme. Given that the occasion of RAW writing this long essay was in a Libertarian forum, I thought to search for words from RAW that might be in a similar vein. I found a lot of material. RAW once said in an interview that he wrote “thousands” of articles. That may be true. I found a lot of cool stuff: an interview RAW conducted with Doris Lessing, published in New Age Journal in 1983; an interview of RAW, titled "Illuminating Discord," in New Libertarian Notes/Weekly 39, 1976; quite a few articles by RAW in A Way Out, the School of Living magazine RAW edited. Paul Krassner, a couple years before he passed away, told me that I was welcome to use any of the articles RAW wrote for The Realist, so I started collecting those. I found a few good articles from The Berkeley Barb newspaper. RAW archivist Martin Wagner was helpful in getting a lot of stuff together, but at some point, one of the other Hilaritas Press projects started to jell, so I put Natural Law to the side, until I had the thought to ask Chad Nelson if he might like to spearhead the project. Chad had been communicating with the RAW Trust and Hilaritas Press for several years… offering to help, suggesting some cool ideas. Chad was thrilled with the idea, and so I passed on all of the stuff I collected, and he went through it all, and began collecting even more material. 

I decided at that point to reread Natural Law, and both Chad and I agreed that the essay was less about politics and more about Model Agnosticism. Chad then started looking at all the essays with that thought in mind, separating them into two piles. He thinned down the Model Agnosticism pile to what we ended up using in the book. I read through all of Chad’s selections, really enjoying them, and wondering only what order to use in arranging them in the book. Chronological order ended up making the most sense, for the most part. We were using writings from 1959, 77, 78, 84, 87, 88, 90, 99, but, deciding to change the final work in the collection, Chad had the great idea of including a piece of fiction from 1972.

As for what I think of the book, well, it’s hard to be completely objective, but I was very impressed with Chad’s selections, and reading through the whole book once it was assembled, it just felt really solid to me – info-rich and very entertaining. 

What were you attempting with the latest Scott McPherson cover? It seems like a break from previous covers, and Scott has said he was trying to reach out for a wider audience for RAW's books.

Rasa: I wasn’t attempting anything with Scott’s cover for Natural Law. Christina and I are totally thrilled with the ideas Scott creates, mostly without a lot of prior input from us. With the first couple of book covers that Scott did for Hilaritas Press, he would send us a number of very different ideas for the cover of each book. We would usually ask him to use parts of one cover, and parts of another, as we sometimes really liked the fonts he chose on one, but preferred the background art from another proof. We immediately saw that Scott had a brilliant understanding of how to translate RAW’s work into a great graphic representation. And so with later covers, he had a good idea of what we liked enough that he was usually making one design, and sending us a few versions with slightly different colors and fonts. I think it was only with The Starseed Signals that Scott and I went back and forth a number of times with different cover ideas, each of us offering evolving thoughts. We were both thinking to have Bob and Tim on the cover somehow, but we we’re never quite happy with each new iteration. Finally, Scott put Tim inside of Bob’s crystal pyramid, and that just looked perfect. 

With Natural Law, Scott’s cover was a complete surprise, and a delight, when it arrived. I got immediately the reference to “Who is the master who makes the grass green,” probably in part because I chose that paragraph from the book for part of the text on the book’s back cover. I thought it was a wonderful, very bright, clean and inviting cover design. I think all of Scott’s cover design’s draw the reader in in different ways. This one seems very light and innocent, inviting you into a pleasant soothing image, and then you read the title – I think that creates a very pleasant moment of cognitive dissonance as a smile begins to appear on your face… “don’t put what, where?” 

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