By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
This chapter opens with a quote from Finnegans Wake: “It* is not just a riot of blots and blurs and dislocated jottings linked by spurts of speed…it only looks as like it as damn it.” Bob adds this note: “* Presumably the input (software) or the brain (hardware). Or both (pg. 215).” Part of me says, no, Joyce would likely not use this vocabulary. On the other hand, Joyce might like the way Bob uses the material from Finnegans Wake. Part of me enters the orthodox Joycean headspace and pooh-pooh Bob’s creative use of Joyce material. Another part of me recalls that a lot of contemporary Joyce criticism echoes ideas that Bob published before anyone else. Of course, orthodox Joyceans rarely give Bob any credit.
Someone said of Alexander Pope’s Homer translations, “It’s a very pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” (Ezra Pound shorted this to “Very pretty, not Homer.”) Rereading Masks of the Illuminati over the past forty years, I have sometimes thought of this when considering Wilson’s treatment of figures like Joyce and Pound and their works. The first time I read Masks in 1982 I knew very little about Joyce and Pound and had never read either of them. Then my Wilson obsession led me to read Pound and Joyce (and develop Joyce and Pound obsessions as well), and rereading Masks I sometimes found myself thinking, “Very pretty, not Joyce” and/or “Very pretty, not Pound.” Then I lived a bit more as a Cosmic Schmuck, and I read a lot more, and then rereading Masks I found myself thinking, “Well, maybe. These seem like valid insights into these two mysterious men and their works.”
(It looks like the fellow in the picture on page 216 found a quarter or two.)
On pages 219-220 Bob says, “Assuming you are reading this in your own home, look around the room. Note that everything in your field of vision – furniture, paintings or posters on the walls, stereo set or absence of same, rugs, TV or not TV, etc. – is, in a sense, your creation or co-creation.” I find myself reading this in a community college classroom surrounded my computer, books, papers, and the James Joyce tote I got at the 2011 North American James Joyce Conference. I also have a 1988 ticket designed by Steve and Vicky Snow to a Robert Anton Wilson talk which I use as a bookmark.
 That “is” the question.