Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Jorge Luis Boges – A Universal History of Infamy; Lon Milo Duquette – The Key to Solomon’s Key; Robert Silverberg “Getting to Know the Dragon”

Posted by Mike on June 19, 2006

I'm reading Borges' Collected Fictions, the Andrew Hurley translation, and The Universal History of Infamy is the first collection in the book, a relatively small one at 60 something pages. It cleverly melds history and conjecture to tell the story of a few infamous people from several cultures, I think the only one I'd heard of before was Billy the Kid. Great little stories, although it's nice to have the translator's story notes to fill things in, as Borges would often start with a small article and then embellish or recreate parts of the history. Entertaining, but I suspect minor Borges.

Duquette's new book is a grave disappointment and this comes from someone who has read his last 4 or 5 books and really got a lot from them. I'm not really sure what the purpose of it was except to follow on the heels of the popular Da Vinci Code as this goes over the same tedious Templar/Masonic speculation that Foucault's Pendulum was the final word on. One difference is that Duquette does maintain his rationality and is honest on what is history and what is legend, but it all seems to be a set up to introduce "the world's most dangeous secret" which is the kind of statement I mistrust by nature. We go over masonry and magic and then, apparently, it's all a ploy to introduce what is basically an abbreviated Goetia, that Solomon's big secret was the evocation of evil spirits. Now I understand Duquette's idea that the Goetia is a magical/psychological method of dealing with inner darkness and bringing it under control, but to introduce it in such a manner seems somwhat irresponsible despite his warnings. I would think that most well read in esoterica are going to find the obvious tie-in to Templar mythology to be unbearably shallow, while those who are in it for the conspiracy theories will be scratching their heads or running in terror, reading the last section of the book with the 72 Goetic seals. Hey, all you have to do is get some masking tape for the circle and triangle, some placards for the protective names, memorize three or four long invocations with several barbarous names, a few magical tools and you can evoke your own personal demons into the triangle! It seems utterly strange to recount these seals and procedures while suggesting the reader looks in another book for a banishing ritual. In summary, the book isn't by Duquette's normal publishing company (Weiser) which could mean his contract is up or maybe that they thought the book was as lousy as I did.

And finally, another Silverberg story from the "Roma Eterna" sequence that introduces Rome during another period of decadence when the Empire is mostly Greek. "Getting to Know the Dragon" recounts a historian's interest in an earlier Emperor who was the first to sail around the world, while trying to appease the current Emperor's son who wants to embark on an outrageous construction program. Like most of the sequence it's a solid entry even if the long historical sections can be fairly numbing at times.

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