Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Neal Wilgus – The Illuminoids, Rikki Ducornet – The Stain, Joe R. Lansdale – Bad Chili

Posted by Mike on January 17, 2008

More library books…

I’ve been a Robert Anton Wilson enthusiast since I read the Illuminatus trilogy in my early 20s and after you’ve read a few of his nonfiction books you get the idea he’s got kind of a personal canon that often includes others inspired by his writings or covering the same sort of material. Neal Wilgus’ The Illuminoids is one of those books, often quoted by Wilson as being the best book on the subject. But for the most part a book like this is one that I’d had on my curiosity list for so long, I’d forgotten why I was curious about it, and in many ways it’ll be the coda that closes my interest in Illuminati conspiracy theories and the like. Even though it’s fiction, I still find Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum to be the last word on this junk, Da Vinci Code or not.

Wilgus covers all the various Illuminati theories often casting them in a range from the conservative right wing “satanic” conspiracies all the way to the historians who usually consider this sort of thing no more important than a footnote. What struck me consistently throughout the book was just how thin and poor the evidence was for any of this stuff, with most of the evidence ending in cul-de-sacs and leaving the rest to the often out of control imagination.

The book is basically several sections including two different chronologies, one of them including events from the Illuminati trilogy, making it more of an oddity than useful. While I like the way the evidence was dealt with, this whole area of study seems to be a vacuum that sucks out every “what if” you could possibly imagine and leaves one with the idea that all the theoretical digression has left fact long behind. Wilgus does seem to be aware of how riduculous the extremist theories are, which is fortunate, but overall the book’s existence takes this subject more seriously than I possibly could. Secret societies exist, but to say they’re responsible for most of the major events in history is stretching things ways too far. Unfortunately while most would take that as speaking the obvious, these conspiracy theories never die.

Rikki Ducornet’s The Stain is the first of her elemental tetralogy (although if you count Phosphor in Dreamland as the akasha/spirit element it’s really five books) and deals with the earth element (the verson I read even had the alchemic symbol of earth on the spine). It’s about the birth of an illegitimate child with a birthmark (the stain) who freaks out her primitive community and is raised by a mother who puts her faith in a bizarre, hypersexual Gnostic religious figure called The Exorcist whose strange theories have convinced him to follow the Devil. In fact throughout the book there are  all sorts of new moral viewpoints into what is taken for granted, which all tie in fabulously to the idea of working through the earth element and the idea that the religious and ethical status quo isn’t what it seems. The prose, especially for a debut novel, is off the charts, obviously Angela Carter inspired and very steamy and sexually charged with everything from bodily functions to high philosophy redolent of flesh, blood and dirt. It really did warm me up for more Ducornet work and I’ll be going onto Entering Fire later in the year. Undoubtedly her later work is going to really impress.

Lansdale’s Bad Chili is the fourth Hap and Leonard book and another solid, entertaining suspense story as Hap tries to help Leonard track down his missing boyfriend who has apparently gotten mixed up with some bikers. The usual great, laconic Texan drawl is here with laughs on every page and while there are parts of this that feel like they’re retreading old ground, I noticed that Lansdale tended to twist the plot in certain areas away from where you thought they might be heading based on older books. As usual, the characters from the villains to Hap’s new girlfriend Brett are drawn nicely and it’s almost amazing to me, not much of a southern boy, just how varied Lansdale’s different Texans can be. So much of this series seems to revolve around the difficulty Hap has in using violence with Leonard being the voice saying why it’s necessary sometimes, although it’s not until the next book in the series that this starts to get a bit heavyhanded and repetitive. But any criticism aside, these books are easy and quick reads and always a lot of fun.

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6 Responses to “Neal Wilgus – The Illuminoids, Rikki Ducornet – The Stain, Joe R. Lansdale – Bad Chili”

  1. I’m afraid I avoid “easy and quick reads”–they’re like junk food for the mind, promoting fatty, lazy brains. Lansdale has been around forever and, to my mind, is far too productive and prolific. Better for me a writer who challenges readers with well-wrought prose and challenging themes and approaches to literature. I’m just finishing L.F. Celine’s CASTLE TO CASTLE; Celine was one of the nastiest people in 20th century literature but, man, could the guy WRITE…

  2. Anonymous said

    everything i do must be publicized?

  3. Mike said

    That’s certainly an odd question to ask anonymously. 🙂

  4. Raven said

    You shouldn’t read Umberto Eco. Sure he’s intelligent and eloquent and witty, like only a European can be, but regarding to the Illuminati topic, he ‘s a hater. One must classify him as that. Don’t read Eco.

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