Thursday, May 3, 2012

Perversion For Hungry Eyes

David Lindsay wrote about the world "being rotten with illusion from top to bottom... the most sacred and holy things ought not to be taken for granted, for if examined attentively, they will be found as hollow and empty as the rest... Behind this sham world lies the real, tremendous and awful Muspelworld, which knows neither will, nor Unity, nor Individuals; that is to say, an inconceivable world." 

I have a lot of time for Colin Wilson, the author of a mind-boggling variety of books (fiction and non-fiction). When I stumbled upon his earnest digest examining the obscure works of David Lindsay, I was compelled to read. Clearly, so was Wilson. In fact, Wilson's read a great deal more Lindsay than I have, my association with him limited to the truly troubling A Voyage to Arcturus and The Haunted Woman. Read several years ago, both left an imprint on me like a long journey one can't forget, a journey insisting on a replay. 

Wilson's approach to Lindsay comes from a certainty that the man was compromised, stifled by a blight he calls the reader over one's shoulder (or: self-consciousness of imminent publication). Writes Wilson: "It's a pity he was not more like Lawrence, who was too sure of himself to suffer from self-consciousness, and is subsequently never afraid to write as he would talk." 

Wilson's slim but meaty volume is a midnight love letter to the writer in which he praises, cajoles, and attempts to school him. Wilson conveys a strong sense of disappointment in Linsday, and attacks the writer's use of cliches, but concedes Lindsay "was not really a solitary visionary... He was expressing the spirit of the age..."

He includes the book with a wonderful quote from Einstein:

"One of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is to escape from everyday life, with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires."

This is such a wonderful book by about a strange, brilliant bookman. 

This is a Road Book in the Twain style. Road Movies are more common these days, but Road Books endure, nonetheless. I wanted this one to endure longer, so I read it slowly over a two week period, savoring its magical essence. 

It is magic. Magic like Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs is magic. As you read, you smile a lot. You nod. You smile. You take the book away from your eyes and hold it at arm's length to appreciate it. I did a lot of arm extending while adventuring with King of Citizen Bands.

It's about freaks on an odyssey, freaks searching for a better place to be, a place where they're free to be themselves. It's a bible for non-violent Outsiders.

There is The Dwarf who isn't, the King (of Citizen Bands), and a blind girl who trusts them both. Nathan Tyree, who writes in a clear and colorful style, loves these people. I think he'd defend them with his life. His affection for them is, in fact, what makes the journey so involving and inviting. It's not like the drama itself is bloody and lives are threatened and lost at every turn. No, the drama emerges from the Outsider status of the characters, their struggle for acceptance, their letting go of old ways.

I'm struggling to think of another book I've loved this much recently (present company excluded). 

I read Mr. Overby is Falling before King of Citizen Bands. It's taken me this long to write about it. 

Still, six months later, I can't shake its surprises.  

It's head-scratchingly difficult to discuss without giving up its secret. There is a big secret and it's a well earned one. 

'Mr. Overby', our protagonist, is not unlike the lead character in Bobcat Goldthwaite's God Bless America, a film I can recommend with reservations; I'll discuss the reservations at some other time, but they involve keeping your expectations at a realistic level.  Overby, unlike that film's protagonist, doesn't feel like he can do much about what's wrong with the world. He doesn't have the balls or the organizational abilities. Until they're handed to him.

That's enough about the plot. Mr. Overby is Falling, true to its title,  is a decent into hell, a hell most people will not be comfortable with. Some reviews (there are a few) have attacked the book for its content while circling its actual value as literature. 

In other works of this nature, the solution to the problem becomes a bigger problem. This doesn't go in that direction. It goes in a much darker one.

Using just seventy-nine pages to do it, Nathan Tyree rightly fucks you up with this book. God bless the guy.

If I could liken the tone of this book to that of any other writer's work, I'd have to say Bentley Little. Little's ultra-paranoid thrillers such as The Association, The Store, The Policy, and The Ignored share atoms with Mr. Overby

I envy anybody their first read.  

By nature, we're hopeful. That hope gets stomped out of us by experience, but, like a ball attached to an elastic band, we bounce back with hope renewed. Then, more stomping. 

Jonathan Carroll's After Silence is a fuckin' amazing book about a man whose hope gets stomped on and shattered. And, with that hope lying in pieces, he finds another reservoir. Yes, fueled by dreams and love (the two entwined in a fragile dance), he inches forward, propelled towards another stomping.

Sounds dark? It is.

Easily one of the most inventive living writers, Carroll never disappoints me. In a weird way, he's someone whose work I love dearly, so, even when I don't "like" him, I love him nevertheless.

In the indefatigable The Land of Laughs, he presented a snoozing dog talking in his sleep. With that introduction, I never left.   

Delany's wonderful sci-fi works are not as relevant to the "enjoyment" of The Tides of Lust (originally: Equinox) as is Hogg, his most disturbing novel. Still, if you appreciate his love of language and his stubborn adherence to theme, you'll take much from this controversial, pornographic, and banned-in-some-countries work.

It describes the adventures (sexual and otherwise) of a diverse group of people, its leading protagonist being a black sea captain and his dog Niger (one 'n'). Its banning and subsequent revisions (mostly to address the age of some characters) resulted in its initial publisher (Savoy) being jailed. The '73 edition (pictured) contains the original text and copyright notice.

Delany, who writes vigorously and has no truck with gender distinctions, lets loose with a volley of uncompromising sexual excess that is never less than metaphorically relevant to its themes of corrupt authority and sadomasochistic powerplay. 

Truly an extraordinary work.

Also well worth reading is Delany's book on writing itself:

Another Savoy beaut in which Charles Platt invokes sexual anarchy via a sci-fi/horror premise. A gas loosed on Southern England has unexpected consequences for those affected. They become rapid fuckers of everything and everyone imaginable, and no body part or bodily fluid is excluded in a spirited free-for-all that feels wonderfully fresh.

Today's wild and unpredictable world of internet pornography seems closest to what Platt predicted. Back in 1970, when the book first appeared, it probably felt like a natural extension of both the free love movement and the growing permissiveness of popular culture.

Ironically, today, despite the existence of a Wild West underground internet culture, the book would surely shock common sensibilities a great deal more. Fanned by witchfinder generals of both underaged and unconventional sex, our sexual culture, though shoved at us in PG-rated bubbles via commercial trojan horses, is, at the same time, being demonized by anybody with a microphone and and a dubious political agenda.

The book is a riotous good time, an example of unfettered literary freedom, a freedom so well exercised, in fact, that author Platt later revised some passages, dismissing his original scribblings as symptoms of reckless youth.

As horror, social statement, and porn at gut level, this is a goddamned masterpiece, a Fuck You, Charlie! to hypocrisy .      

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