Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Supper

"Do I dare
Disturb the Universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."
- T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

I'm determined to jot down a fun little synchronicity I experienced today before Wednesday fades away.

Life here in Austin remains busy but exciting and fun. When I finally got a chance to do a little bit of writing today I found myself deeply considering Wednesday and the meaning behind it. An extremely interesting (though lengthy) interview with Robert Anton Wilson I heard recently put my mind on this path of considering the archetypal meanings behind our days of the week. In his discussion, which I will summarize more completely in a future post, he attempts to connect the 8-circuit model of consciousness to the days of the week. Wednesday represents the 3rd circuit, the level of communication, which is usually referred  to as the semantic circuit. It is by semantics, the organization of our vast symbols and data of language, that I am able to communicate with, for instance, Lao Tzu who wrote the Tao Te Ching 2,500 years ago.

Wednesday is the day of communication, in Latin languages this is more obvious. Wednesday in Spanish is miércoles, in French it's Mercredi, Italian mercoledi---all named after Mercury, the messenger with winged sandals.

On another note, I've been engaged in reading an essay by Joyce scholar Eric Rosenbloom (a perfectly Joycean surname) breaking down the incredible array of meanings contained within the little story of the prankquean in Finnegans Wake (p. 21-23). He abbreviates prankquean with "PQ" throughout the essay and, among the many layers of meaning in that part of the story, is the prankquean as the Egyptian goddess Nut or Nuit whose "body arched over the earth" forming the sky. This is a well-known image and in fact it's on the cover of a book I just completed (and will review soon), The Illuminati Papers by Robert Anton Wilson.

The sky goddess swallows the sun each night and after it travels through her body it is released in the morning (pooped out? I'm not sure) where it then floats along her body back to her mouth to be swallowed again. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which figures deeply into Finnegans Wake, "the deceased soul was to join the sun on its journey." Rosenbloom notes that later Egyptians conceived the sky as a vast ocean, with the journey of the deceased taking place inside of a boat. (This perfectly reminds me of the cover image on Stanislav Grof's excellent book, The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness and the Mystery of Death.)

This is going somewhere. I promise.

In the Wake story of which Rosenbloom speaks, the prankquean kidnaps a set of twins ("jiminies" or gemini, also the twins Isis and Osiris) from the castle of Jarl van Hoother (a dream-distorted version of the Earl of Howth), and runs off with them. Joyce then gives us this image:
"The prankquean was to hold her dummyship and the jiminies was to keep the peacewave and van Hoother was to git the wind up." (FW, p. 23)
Rosenbloom presents the picture thusly:
"The boat of the soul floats on the waters of PQ, a jiminy at the tiller and a jiminy at the prow, its sail filled by the breath of Jarl van Hoother."
In a footnote, he points out that this same image appears in a book by 16th-century philosopher Giordano Bruno (an Oriental-minded heretic burned at the stake by the church and later revered by Joyce):

The gemini twins are here represented by the flames on the either side of the ship's mast. The name of the book in which this appears? The Ash Wednesday Supper.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Look Around (Wonder)

"Time is only floating in your mind" - Stevie Wonder

"Everything we see is inside our own heads" - Buckminster Fuller

"The 4th dimension is time,
it goes inside the mind
when the chakras energize
up through the back of your spine"
- The Rza

"there is a future in every past that is present" - James Joyce (Finnegans Wake p. 496)

Unfortunately, I do not have much TIME to write but I do want to mention a few things. I enjoyed a nice, delicious Thanksgiving Day last Thursday (featuring two separate vegan feasts, actually), during which time it struck me that in the last 5 years I've eaten a Thanksgiving meal in 4 different cities (New York, London, San Diego, Austin in that order).

Yesterday I unloaded a stack of about 10 unwanted books at a used bookstore to begin the process of down-sizing to prepare for an upcoming move to a different apartment. This will mark the 5th time I've moved in the last 4 years. Prior to that I spent the first 22 years of my life living in the same bedroom, let alone the same address.

At the bookstore I almost bought a couple of really cool-looking books that intrigued me, but decided at the last minute it didn't make sense to bring more books home when I'm trying to purge belongings. On the topic of TIME, though, the books bear mentioning. They were both part of the excellent Introducing... series published by Totem Books, a collection of paperbacks with illustrations and basic introductory overviews for a whole variety of topics. I can highly recommend the James Joyce, Friedrich Nietzsche, and The Universe editions and if there's anyone else you're interested in learning about (famous minds, but also concepts or historical periods are covered), this series of books is perhaps the best thing to look for. Anyway, the books were Introducing Relativity and Introducing Quantum Theory (for a total of $12), I will hopefully grab them at some point in the future when I get to settle down in a new place.

In between our two Thanksgiving feasts last week, my girlfriend and I sort of randomly made our way over to the movies to see whatever was playing at that time. The film we saw was Martin Scorsese's new 3-D excursion Hugo. The young protagonist Hugo works as a clockmaker (or timekeeper) in the Montparnasse train station in 1920s Paris. Honestly, we had to leave the film early because of time constraints but it was an okay film. Visually beautiful but a bit slow-moving. The reason I bring it up is because of a brief but very noticeable cameo by none other than JAMES JOYCE himself. And, of course, after all the work I did on my big essay this year comparing Joyce and Salvador Dali (noting that there is no record of them ever having met), the scene shows James Joyce and Salvador Dali sharing a table at a café in the train station. It's one of the first scenes in the film.

This morning I received word from the editors of the James Joyce Quarterly that they will have an answer for me within the next two weeks about whether or not they will accept my Joyce-Dali paper to be published in their journal. Very hopeful, very excited.

And now, to tie a knot on this synchronistic little post, here is a famous picture of a train crash at the aforementioned Montparnasse train station in Paris in 1895:

And here is a famous Surrealist painting called Time Transfixed by René Magritte.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gza/Genius Harvard Lecture

The Gza aka The Genius, one of the core members of the Wu-Tang Clan (he, Rza, and ODB are all cousins and had been running around as the All In Together Now crew prior to the Wu birth) will be delivering a lecture at Harvard University next Thursday December 1st. It's open to the public, I wish I could go up there and witness it.

Gza is getting up there in age these days and I've rashly complained about his sleepy flow and delivery on his last disappointing (for me) album but he still remains one of the premier intellectual lyric crafters on the planet. His Liquid Swords and Beneath the Surface albums are personal classics and he was always one of my top 3 favorite emcees in the 9-member Wu-Tang Clan.

He's always good for giving forth fascinating thoughts on the universe, chess, poetry, water, etc in interviews and discussions so I imagine this Harvard lecture will be something pretty monumental. A few years back, an art magazine in Germany did a full issue on The Gza/Genius called "Weapons of Math Destruction" that was superb and I ended up purchasing this magazine straight from Berlin and still have it (in my Staten Island bookshelf, actually). When I go back up to New York for Christmas this year I'll be sure to retrieve that little booklet and inscribe some quotes from it here.

For now, here are a few exemplary Gza tracks beyond the commonplace favorites on Liquid Swords (an album that Rolling Stone magazine listed as one of the "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die").

"I fashion the first tool
from the elements the earth use
and built it to a complex
network of communications"

Many people forget or just don't even know the profundity of this man's mind and the minds he molded. The Rza (one of the greatest teachers in my life) was mentally civilized and enlightened originally by his older cousin Gza (real name Gary Grice). Gza also mentored and brought into the globe's musical atmosphere two other of my favorite artists/lyricists/thinkers in Killah Priest and Masta Killa. (It's worth noting that the frequency of the word Killah in Wu-Tang names is, as Killah Priest has explained in the past, not simply a different or creative way to spell "killer" but a reference to killing the negative thoughts in one's own and in listeners' minds, the "-ah" suffix combining Allah with the slang Killa; the point is to rebuild oneself into a knowledge of one's own godliness, the Arm-Leg-Leg-Arm-Head so beautifully captured by Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.)

"Form metaphorical parables that fertilize the Earth
wicked n****s come trying to burglarize the turf!"

"Uncompleted missions/ throw in ya best known compositions
you couldn't add it up/ if you mastered addition
Where I come from/ gettin' visual's habitual"

Gza sparsely appeared on the Clan's third album, The W but he delivered a few incredible verses. Observe:

To top it all off, here is a film clip with Rza, Gza and their good friend Bill Murray:

Watch Delirium - Gza, Rza & Bill Murray in Comedy  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

This 5-minute clip pretty summarily presents what I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the video first but also here is the list of what is shown, in order of appearance:

1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grab Your Gas Masks

A group of college students were holding a peaceful protest at the University of California Davis to rally against recent tuition hikes as well as the acts of police brutality that had occurred at other University of California campuses earlier in the week. Apparently, they had linked arms and set up a blockade to protect tents that they had set up for the protest.

What isn't shown in the video is that after the line of students was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, officers tried to separate them using batons, and when students attempted to cover their face with clothing, "police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood." That quote is from a powerful open letter written by one of the school's professors to the school chancellor demanding her resignation.

Earlier in the week in New York, after police raided the encampment at Zuccotti Park, they disposed of some 5,000 books from the library that had been set up. There is no greater sign of the dire situation we're in than when authorities confiscate and destroy BOOKS, documents of knowledge. There are, in fact, few things that could rile me up more than that. Police forcing pepper spray down the throats of peaceful college students is one of those things.

An 84-year-old woman was pepper-sprayed in the face during a protest in Seattle this week. A priest was pepper-sprayed as well. A couple weeks ago, an Iraq War veteran nearly died when a tear gas canister was fired directly at his face. (By contrast, take a quick listen to this speech from President Obama earlier this year demanding that the Egyptian authorities "refrain from violence against any peaceful protesters." If you find the absurdity of his hypocrisy completely unbelievable, then you might need to take a look at all the Goldman Sachs employees currently in the Obama Administration. This is not a new phenomenon. )

If it hasn't sunk in yet, consider also that among the protesters on Thursday in New York City was a large group of children carrying signs and singing. There was also a retired Philadelphia police captain among the protesters and he was arrested in full police uniform.

I'm not sure there is an another image quite as striking as that. Perhaps only this one sums things up better:

If somehow, someway you still do not understand the magnitude of what is going on or why it is happening, take a look at this New York Times article about the 100 million Americans that are now in poverty or on the brink of it.

As scary as things may seem, it is certainly an exciting time to be alive.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Four Books Reviewed

"The critic...tells of his mind's adventures among masterpieces"
- Anatole France

A tetrad of loosely interrelated books has been occupying my moments of free time the last couple of months and now that I'm just about finished reading all of them, I'd like to share my thoughts on all four.
Prometheus Rising 
by Robert Anton Wilson

The legend known among fans and followers as RAW first began to interest me a couple of years ago when I discovered the Maybe Logic blog and all the rich brain food that's been roasting over there. I was led to the site through messing around with Google, searching for combos of names like Joseph Campbell and James Joyce until eventually I stumbled upon this incredible audio interview in which Robert Anton Wilson discusses Finnegans Wake and Campbell's Skeleton Key. The raspy voice and thick Brooklyn accent pouring out infinite multifaceted knowledge was very appealing (I grew up listening to mostly Brooklyn/Staten Island accents) but it wasn't until this summer that I finally started looking into Wilson's body of work. The first book I picked up was his collection of essays entitled Coincidance which features a good chunk of Joyce analysis unlike anything you'll find elsewhere, along with some humorously written conspiracy pieces and brain exercises.

I found his writing style so engaging and captivating that I put some of his other books on my future reading list and eventually picked up the highly-regarded Prometheus Rising. The book has been such a great read that RAW has rapidly shot up into my list of favorites and lately I can't get enough of his writings, interviews, and YouTube lectures. The book is primarily a study of the evolution of human consciousness and how most human beings advance only to a certain level (barely half way up the ladder) and remain there all their lives, condemned to view the universe through a narrow "reality tunnel." Using psychology, biology, neurology, mythology, history, and plenty of other elements, Wilson weaves an engaging and entertaining analysis of Timothy Leary's eight-circuit model of consciousness in an attempt to shake the reader's perspective of reality and allow us to elevate to higher levels of consciousness. Each chapter includes exercises at the end to help break out of our imprinted "circuits" or systems of receiving and reacting to the world.

His main goal is to make us think, to shake us free from the shackles of preconceived notions that are constructed during our upbringing and experiences. The end-of-the-chapter exercises often consist of things like "if you're liberal, subscribe to a conservative magazine for a few months" or "if you're straight, pretend you're gay for a week" and so on; the point, of course, is not to turn liberals into conservatives and make straight folks gay but to allow us to understand that we (and everyone else) sees the world through their own conditioned reality tunnel. It is not all about seeing things the way others do, though, a main point made in the book is also the fact that we convince ourselves that we can't change, can't excel, can't elevate. My favorite exercise thus far is "convince yourself that you can exceed all your previous hopes and ambitions."

It's an extremely eye-opening book and really changes the way I look at humanity (and I'm still not even finished reading it). I can't recommend the book highly enough and I will definitely be devoting another blog post to expanding on its material in the near future. For now, if you're interested in getting a taste of what the book is all about, go check out this roughly one-hour lecture in which he summarizes virtually the entire thing. Wilson's work is quickly sucking me in like a blackhole so you can expect plenty more posts about it in the future.

War and Peace in the Global Village
by Marshall McLuhan

Along with Robert Anton Wilson, McLuhan has become someone whose work I can't get enough of lately. After reading a couple of books summarizing his life and philosophies, I finally decided to pick up a few original books by the man himself. I've got The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media waiting on the shelf and I devoured War and Peace in the Global Village over the last few weeks. It looked to be the most appealing of the three books I received, with illustrations and photos on every page, plus Finnegans Wake quotes on just about every page (he provides a fascinating little breakdown of the ten one-hundred-lettered thunder claps that appear in the Wake), and a small stature, small enough to squeeze in one's back pocket. I got an original 1968 edition but it looks barely touched.

The first thing that struck me about it is that I could easily see why McLuhan was often a hated figure among his contemporaries in the 60s and 70s. His style of writing is strange, meandering and very difficult to follow (he calls this style "probing"). Rarely does he write two paragraphs without resorting to quoting some other author, often at absurd lengths (two or three pages). He also doesn't ever explain his ideas in clear terms, usually making opaque assertions and trying to back them up with big quotes or seemingly unrelated allusions. It's obvious he had a very unusual mental structure.

A few flashes of bright insight show that he was also quite clearly a genius. The book is broken up into about 5 sections, some very long and some very short. He opens by circulating around his famous vision of the modern technological world as a Global Village. This was in the late 60s, long before the rise of the internet and smartphones but he was so on point, it's unbelievable. McLuhan speaks of all technology as extensions of the human body. So the telescope is an extension of the eye, the wheel an extension of the foot, etc and this leads to computers and digital devices as an extension of the human nervous system. The entire planet is now covered in an invisible nervous system that connects everybody together so that an event that occurs in New York City is instantly felt in Hawaii, Japan, and the remote reaches of the Russian Tundra.

He goes on for far too long in this first section, starting out by detailing how the advances of technology over the last 2,500 years specialized military and warfare while facilitating the growth of empires (he gets things a bit twisted in the process) and moving to a discussion of the proliferation of psychedelic drugs among young people in the 60s, arguing that it was a response to the rise of technology, comparing the effect of TV and computers to a "high" state that must be replicated or dilated through the use of drugs. He also makes a much more salient point on this last subject (and this starts to bring in what I see as McLuhan's main theme) which is that as humanity moves from the fragmented industrial age to the revival of the tribal atmosphere in a digital global village, the ritual becomes much more important and prevalent among the new generations, and here he quotes drug users lauding the ritual aspect of communal drug use.

It is in the next sections that the book finally gets engaging and truly fascinating as he first talks about "War as Education" and then "Education as War." The former has to do with the rapid advances in knowledge and technology during times of war, the latter with our culture's way of imprinting old and out-dated ideas onto our youth. This discussion of education actually perfectly aligned with what Robert Anton Wilson was saying in Prometheus Rising. As McLuhan writes:
"In the information age it is obviously possible to decimate populations by the dissemination of information and gimmickry...It is simple information technology being used by one community to reshape another. It is this type of aggression that we exert on our own youngsters in what we call 'education.' We simply impose upon them patterns that we find convenient to ourselves and consistent with available technologies. Such customs and usages, of course, are always past-oriented and the new technologies are necessarily excluded from the educational establishments until the elders have relinquished power."
Wilson talked about this exact same thing in his elaboration of the so-called "semantic" circuit or level of consciousness:
"Cynics, satirists, and 'mystics' [McLuhan can be considered something of a satirical mystic, actually] have told us over and over that 'reason is a whore,' i.e. that the semantic circuit is notoriously vulnerable to manipulation by the older, more primitive circuits."
Further exploration of the similarities between RAW and McLuhan will be forthcoming in a separate blogpost, but for now I will stick to the script. Overall, War and Peace in the Global Village is a fascinating and often frustrating book; it's visually pleasing and there are plenty of great insights but for a tiny book it can get boring quickly.

The first two books reviewed here are ones that I've been reading as part of the preliminary process of preparing for the big study of Ulysses I am hoping to begin soon. Both Wilson and McLuhan are obsessed with Joyce and offer interpretations of his work unlike anything you'll find in regular Joyce critiques and analyses so I want to soak up whatever I can from them right now (while also familiarizing myself with their work). The two reviews below are of books that I'm reading more for fun and personal development.

Integral Life Practice
by multiple authors

This book is a kind of instruction manual or school textbook written by a bunch of people. It is a very clear and simple-to-understand exposition of Ken Wilber's Integral Theory and how to apply it to all aspects of life. Back in 2008, while visiting a graduate school in San Francisco I had gotten into a nice discussion with the clerk at the school bookstore. We were discussing Carl Jung, Stanislav Grof, Joseph Campbell and some of my other favorites when he brought up Ken Wilber and started gushing about how he's the best philosopher/writer/psychologist there is right now and his books are the greatest shit ever. Despite his proselytizing, I decided to push off reading Wilber's stuff for the future and picked up Richard Tarnas' latest book instead.

Four years later, I came across this Integral Life Practice book in a used bookstore and finally decided to give it a chance. It's not really written by Wilber; he wrote the introduction and oversaw the book's production but other than that, a group of devotees took his ideas and expanded on them in terms that a layman could understand.

The subtitle for the book is "A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening" and that just about sums it up. It's more vanilla consciousness-expanding tutorial than New Age, esoteric tome. The whole Integral theory is built from a simple foundation: a quadrant. In the upper left is the individual interior (feelings, emotions, consciousness), the upper right is the individual exterior (physical body and its actions), bottom left is the collective interior (culture, society, morals), and the bottom right is the collective exterior (the planet, the state, community). 

From the base of this very useful quadrant, the reader is taught how to achieve their highest potentiality in four fields: the shadow, the mind, the body, and the spirit. The inclusion of the shadow within the normal "mind, body, spirit" bunch seemed strange at first but the authors stress that it is important for us to confront and assimilate our psychological shadows first before progressing through advancement in other states. Each of the four fields (shadow, mind, body, spirit) include very simple tutorials and directions for practice, the so-called "shadow work" was actually very beneficial in my experience and I'm thankful to have come across such a thing. The other practices were also very rewarding.

It's easy to see what is so special about Wilber and his integral theory; it is a pretty damn admirable attempt at integrating the greatest wisdom and knowledge of all possible fields, presented in a relatively simple manner. The highest advances in psychology, nutrition, exercise, yoga, physics, spirituality, sociology and more are combined to formulate the elevation of humans to their highest potential. It's not too far off from Prometheus Rising in that sense, though with RAW the writing is much more entertaining and often daring. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone trying to elevate their consciousness, mind, body, etc. A consistent approach to carrying out its methods will undoubtedly reap huge benefits.

Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings
by Rob Brezsny

In a way, this book combines all three of the other ones. What a whacky and spectacular book this is...

This book sort of found me, I was at the house of one my girlfriend's co-workers and it was sitting innocently on the couch, unnoticed by anyone. It's a large book (thick but also tall) and the huge glowing mandala on the cover caught my eye. I flipped it open and found a mention of Joseph Campbell and thought "okay, it's got my attention." Wondering what else it might have to offer, I flipped through it a bit more and came across a mention of Finnegans Wake and then Robert Anton Wilson and I was officially hooked in. Bought it a few days later.

The message of the book is quite perfectly summed up in its title---the author argues that the entire universe is designed to shower you with blessings (if you can learn to see it that way). It sounds silly and, of course, it is kind of silly but through all kinds of whacky humor and stunning intelligence in this unusual book, the point is made quite strongly. The more I read RAW's work, the more I see this book as a descendant of it, but nevertheless it is still a special achievement. Once again, here is a book attempting to shake you out of your rigid bounds, to burst you free of your shackles.

It looks sort of like a big coloring book or the type of workbooks kids use in elementary school. There are mandalas and every other conceivable spiritual symbol flooding each page while Brezsny jots a handful of personal stories of creative awakening and spiritual liberation in a wonderfully humorous and intelligent manner. He's got a gift for writing and coming up with the funniest-yet-profoundest phrases, very often it seems like he's poking fun at himself and the book itself but he's delivering powerful messages at the same time. A perfect example is in the book's outlined objective on page 7: "To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss."

As funny as it can be sometimes, it's also a book that continually shocks me with how much intellect it contains. As I mentioned, there's discussion of Joyce, Campbell, and RAW but also Jung, Freud, Shakespeare, Dante, and pretty much everything else I've ever been even remotely interested in and then some. Besides the handful of personal stories that are shared, there are 15 chapters featuring great quotes on particular subjects (dreams, the shadow, the universe, etc), thought-provoking collections of (positive) world news & events, and so-called "Pronoia Therapy" which consists of exercises (888 of them altogether) in a similar sense to those presented in RAW's books, except much whackier. Similar to how Joyce's greatest books contain a sort of alchemy or black magic ritual under the surface, Brezsny loads this book up with all kinds of masonic, occult, religious, mythological symbols and twists their axioms to promote the pronoiac, positive aura in the reader. It's been a very nice panacea for me after all the deep study I did on the subject of paranoia for my Dali-Joyce paper, plus it really is a perfect antidote to the cynical, world-renouncing feeling one gets when reading or thinking about the numerous atrocities and abuses of power destroying the planet. It's perfect for those who desperately need to balance their minds from too much conspiracy (Illuminati, world government, evil oligarchy) material.

This is a book that I can't seem to ever stop reading, I imagine it will be in my pile of books for at least another 5 years. It's not quite inexhaustible but flipping it open to a random page any time always yields some bright light and sends me off on some rewarding path. Mounds and mounds of ponderous, positive, and productive stuff in here. To close, here's a selection from the book that quite perfectly ties all 4 of these reviewed books together while also aptly applying to the turmoil of our times.
As much as we might be dismayed at the actions of our political leaders, pronoia says that toppling any particular junta, clique or elite is irrelevant unless we overthrow the sour, puckered mass hallucination that is mistakenly called "reality"---including the part of that hallucination we foster in ourselves.

The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again and again, you might earn the right to help overthrow the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Envisioning the Wake

"No other human being in the history of the world, including Beethoven, has ever given every single piece of emotion and thought and feeling the way Joyce did. He dredged up every ounce of his soul, every cell, every gene."
                    - John Gardner on Finnegans Wake 

"We may come, touch and go, from atoms and ifs but we're presurely destined to be odd's without ends."
                    - Finnegans Wake, pg 455
Artist Stephen Crowe has been carrying out the ambitious and impressive task of illustrating James Joyce's Finnegans Wake one page at a time for almost two years now over at his blog Wake in Progress. I've drawn attention to his excellent work before and it's nice to see that he's getting more and more recognition for it. On Bloomsday earlier this year, his art was displayed at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris and recently some of his work was prominently featured in an art magazine called Her Royal Majesty. (The magazine's got a cool cover, too, shown on the right.)

Their website published a brief but interesting interview with Crowe, delving into the reasons behind the project and what his goals are with it. I highly recommend checking it out and there's a nice sampling of his art pieces there, too. Considering the quote at the very top of this post, it's amazing to contemplate the fact that, as Crowe declared in the interview, "Finnegans Wake might be the single most neglected book in history by a major writer." It's admirable that Crowe is undertaking this project to try and bring light to this classic book of the dark and the work he's been creating in the process has been extremely impressive. I look forward to whenever he might complete this enterprise so that perhaps a new edition of the Wake can be put together with Stephen's illustrations on each page. It's a book of nearly 700 pages, though, so it's gonna be a while.

If you've got any interest in Joyce, you must explore Stephen Crowe's blog devoted to arguably the greatest and most neglected artistic achievement in human history. He makes it about as understandable as that crazy book can be and provides not just illustrations but occasional essays, including this one on why Finnegans Wake is better than Ulysses (though I offered my own response to this assertion in the comments). He's also selling framed prints now, hopefully I'll grab one of those this holiday season.

Abandoned Library