Prop Anon has had to spend less time and energy on his music career so that he could work on the RAW bio. (Photo from prop-anon.com.)
On Twitter, @RAWSemantics poses a question: "Just dawned on me that @PropAnon's forthcoming book will be first ever #RobertAntonWilson biography published. How did it take so long (historically, I mean)? In any case, an auspicious event."
Robert Anton Wilson died in 2007, more than 16 years ago, as Prop (e.g. Gabriel Kennedy, the byline under which the upcoming biography will be published in February 2024) noted in his reply. (Of course, Eric Wagner wrote An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, which I purchased in two formats and carry around on my phone for ready access, but it's not a biography per se, more like a very well-informed reader's guide for people who want to know more about RAW's ideas. Note that if you buy Eric's book, you will want to buy the 2020 revised edition.)
Here are some suggested answers to the question Brian raises:
1. Doing a serious biography of someone is no easy task; it takes a lot of work if someone is going to step up to the plate. Prop has put about seven years of work into this book, largely putting aside other ventures important to him, such as his music career. He really deserves a lot of credit.
2. As much as we love him, RAW is not an author who sells a huge number of books. So it's not like publishers were beating the bushes for a biography.
3. While RAW is a cult author with a dedicated following, he's not somebody who commands a large following in academia. There's little incentive for an academic press to seek a book about him, or for a college professor to burnish his resume by writing such a book.
4. While many authors with a reasonable sense of self worth are careful to make sure their literary papers are preserved in a university library, Wilson (and Robert Shea) did a remarkably poor job of preserving their literary papers (manuscripts, correspondence with other authors and publishers and editors, etc.). Prop's job would have been a lot easier if he could have gone through a big collection of RAW papers at a university library.
When publication of the book comes closer, I plan to ask Prop about his research for the book.
I wish I had a book cover for the upcoming bio I could post, but it hasn't been released yet. Of course, you will see it here when it becomes available.
Addendum: When I raised point #4 on Twitter, Prop wrote, "And Tom, you are correct tho. Chasing down RAW archives from many different Special Collections Libraries took a lotta time.
"But also taking lots of Time was me Surviving while being without an apartment for 3 years and counting.
"I may have finished quicker if I had an apartment."
This seems to underscore my point that Prop deserves credit for not giving up until the task was completed. I ran across an interview with Peter Gabriel some time ago in which the singer said that an important part of success is persistence. And in fact RAW makes much the same point in Cosmic Trigger 2, one of my favorites of his books.
Update: My original headline for this post asked why the RAW biography took so long. I was referring to Brian's question, but Prop feels this is kind of a backhanded compliment. (I was trying to praise Prop's work ethic, not question it!) As I don't want to be misunderstood, I have changed my headline.