Author Archives: John Griogair Bell

About John Griogair Bell

My name is John. I'm the enigmatic super villain, known only, to some, as the Librarian.

And the Ass Saw the Angel

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave.

Cave And The Ass Saw The Angel

I’ve encountered few narrators more unreliable than Euchrid Eucrow, the principal voice of And the Ass Saw the Angel. He’s a congenital mute who is able to recount his first minutes of life at the age of 28. He claims divine inspiration far more often than he indicates the manner of its onset. He is unschooled and untraveled, yet he exhibits a wide and erudite diction, not to mention a striking ear for poetry; but if you can suspend your disbelief for that much, he is a treat to read–trenchant, funny, and ugly-beautiful. 

Plot-wise, there’s not much to commend here. Euchrid tells his whole life story, and the circumstances of his death are gradually illuminated by it. An omniscient third-person narrator provides a meager diet of supplementary details from outside Euchrid’s knowledge. The book’s epilogue is an obvious necessity, just covering the last open patch on the canvas that the story occupies. 

The religious themes of the book are provocative and intense. God is behind everything, and theologies of different depths are offered by the opportunist preacher Abie Poe, the Ukulite sect that founded and runs the town, and Euchrid himself. There are a handful of mystical experiences, although meteorological phenomena are God’s loudest voice.

This novel will not be engaging for those who avoid the blasphemous, the sordid, the violent, the vulgar, the decrepit, the delusional, or the degenerate. It breeds maggots and stinks of cheap liquor. It hates a lot, although it loves just enough to bring fuel to that hatred.

Zarathustra’s Dionysian Modernism

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Zarathustra’s Dionysian Modernism by Robert Gooding-Williams.

Gooding-Williams Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism

Gooding-Williams offers an extremely thorough and considered reading of Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. As the title indicates, he favors a modernist understanding that stresses an effort to innovate and progress beyond received intellectual and moral frameworks. He confronts and contradicts Paul de Man’s perlocutionary pessimism in the body of his text, while also providing extensive annotations that position Gooding-Williams’s conclusions relative to a vast field of secondary literature.

Throughout his analyses, Gooding-Williams emphasizes the ambivalence and doubt involved with Zarathustra’s aspirations (and thus Nietzsche’s ambitions). He offers the stutter as a key attribute of the text, with incomplete repetitions halting desired advances. And yet he brings out the persistently future-oriented aspect of Zarathustra’s project, along with Nietzsche’s desire to interrupt the repetition of an exhausted Platonic-Christian value system.

The analysis of the doctrine of eternal recurrence makes up a substantial portion of the study. Gooding-Williams helpfully proposes to distinguish among the different forms of recurrence as approached in the context of the “Three Metamorphoses” sketched at the outset of Zarathustra: thus the Camel’s idea of recurrence differs from that of the Lion, which is not the same as the Child’s idea of eternal recurrence. I found a similar disaggregation of the concept of “redemption” to be somewhat less clear–his jargon of redemption1, redemption2, etc. tended to get in the way of his meaning.

Overall, Zarathustra’s Dionysian Modernism provides an insightful and highly coherent approach to this monumental work of imaginative philosophy.

Call for submissions to Magick, Music, and Ritual for 2020

Today I am announcing the 2020 call for submissions for Magick, Music and Ritual 15, the next anthology album of tracks by artists inspired by or who incorporate ritual and magick in their work. These anthology albums help promote artists to the audience of the Hermetic Library and beyond. These albums raise awareness about the connection between ritual, music and magick. And, they are a mass of awesome fun.

Magick, Music and Ritual 15 will be the 2020 release from the Anthology Project. The deadline for submissions to the 2020 anthology album is September 30th, 2020. Be sure to stay tuned to the blog, social media, and the pages for the Hermetic Library anthology project for reminders and updates along the way.

Hermetic Library Call for Submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual

 

Deadline for submissions is September 30th, 20120. Release is planned around the anniversary of the Hermetic Library’s birth on Dec 3rd, 1996.

Be sure to read through the terms and conditions for artist submissions to an anthology album (which includes some new and more specific information about acceptable file formats), and after that if you have any questions, comments or wish to contribute to this project; contact the librarian.

There are three new things to consider this year that are different than previous calls for submissions. First, this year I am asking for at least two tracks from each participant; one for the public issue Magick, Music and Ritual 15, and a second track for a private issue of This Is Not An Hermetic Library Anthology Album -2 for Patrons and Subscribers. Second, if I do not get enough participation this year, I will only release a private issue for Patrons and Subscribers with what submissions I do get. Third, if I am blessed with more submissions than necessary for a reasonable size anthology issue, I will be keeping the extra submissions for future releases, whereas previously I would use all suitable submissions, as many as possible, and not keep any in an ongoing reserve submissions pool for future issues.

Please consider joining Hermetic Library in promoting your work by contributing to this benefit anthology album project. All proceeds from album sales will support the library to help cover hosting costs, materials acquisitions, and other expenses.

 

Check out all the previously released anthology albums, help spread the word about the Hermetic Library anthology project, and let those you think may be interested know about this new opportunity to participate.

 

Cover Artwork and Design

If you would like to make a proposal for the artwork and design of this anthology, please get in touch! Take a gander at all the other covers and consider joining the illustrious artists who have participated with their work on those anthologies.

Patron and Subscriber-Only EP

This year, in addition to the public issue, I will be creating a Patron and Subscriber-only EP as a special additional perk for those people who are ongoing Patrons of Hermetic Library on Patreon or have subscribed to Hermetic Library on Bandcamp. This will be alternate tracks on an exclusive album that will be released in addition to the anthology.

Bonus Download Submissions

If you are creating something else, and would like to be included in the anthology download as a bonus, let me know. I’m open to bonus artwork, essay, articles and … well, anything that can be included in a digital download!

Become a Patron or Subscriber

The best ways to add anthology releases and this upcoming Hermetic Library album to your personal music collection is to become an ongoing Patron at Patreon or Subscriber at Bandcamp. Patrons and Subscribers will each be offered a gratis download code for each new release while they are active in addition to other patronage rewards they may receive, and that ends up being the most cost effective way to get these albums. New Patrons and Subscribers get immediate access to a back catalog release, which means a full album when they sign up, and another when the new anthology is released. Consider becoming a Patron today!

Max looks up the dark passage. “Tell Max what is there.” “I can’t. Or, I could, but you wouldn’t understand yet. You have to want to know. You have to make the choice yourself.”

Blake Crouch, Summer Frost

Hermetic quote Crouch Summer Frost choice

The Arcanum

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler.

Wheeler The Arcanum

The Arcanum is an occult thriller centered on historical personalities, and set in New York City, 1919. The team of protagonists are brought out of retirement following the assassination of the adept who had first organized them. The heroes themselves are portrayed with varying levels of fidelity to historical detail: Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, Marie Laveau, and H.P. Lovecraft. 

Of the four, Lovecraft gets the roughest handling from author Wheeler: the rationalist skeptic is represented as a credulous “demonologist.” This portrayal is in contrast with real HPL, who expressed his perspective in a letter to Robert E. Howard: “All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don’t regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.” (1932) Or his blunt remark in even earlier correspondence: “The Judaeo-Christian mythology is NOT TRUE.”

In fact, the occultism of The Arcanum is very non-Lovecraftian; it is centered on a quasi-Biblical sort of Nephilim mythology of the sort often found in comic books or horror movies. Add a dash of Ghostbusters: the “Eltdown Shard” contraption that serves as a convenient demon-detector operated by HPL is made of steampunk fail: it is steam-powered and transistorized, and spits out little Matrix-like glyphs and symbols. The demons and angels which are so central to the story are haplessly corporeal creatures with no real whiff of externality about them. 

Naturally, a tale of the occult set in 1919 New York includes a few appearances by Aleister Crowley. The Beast isn’t exactly treated sympathetically, but he’s not really a cardinal villain either. To the extent that he is relevant, he actually helps the heroes. Wheeler makes Crowley tremendously intelligent and inscrutable, and the only misplaced details are the repetitive description of his “bulging eyes,” and people addressing him familiarly as “Aleister” (rather than “AC”).

This book is the first novel of an experienced screenwriter, and it certainly shows. Nothing in Wheeler’s text could not be done more efficiently and effectively on a screen. That applies especially to the train-centered chase episode near the book’s end! All of the supernatural elements are described as if to provide specs for effects engineers. Still, keeping to such conventions certainly makes the narrative accessible and fast-paced.

A Book of Surrealist Games

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Book of Surrealist Games compiled by Alastair Brotchie, edited by Mel Gooding.

Brotchie Gooding A Book of Surrealist Games

“[T]he game became a system, a method of research, a means of exaltation and stimulus, a mine, a treasure-trove and finally, perhaps, a drug.” –Simone Collinet (144)

In this very little volume, editor Mel Gooding describes and compiler Alastair Brotchie demonstrates the centrality of games to the Surrealist enterprise. An inventory of ludic methods indicate how texts, images, discursive events, and other objects are produced through the application of automatism, chance, and the absorption of individual efforts into transpersonal aggregates. 

The fourth of the four sections consists primarily of source notes and commentaries, and even includes a list of the “known” Surrealist games which are not represented among the recipes and samples in the collection. There are two useful bibliographies: one an abridgement of Kurt Seligman’s 1943 bibliography of Surrealist works (133), the other Brotchie’s own pointers for “Further Reading in English.” (164) In the very end of the volume, seven pages are occupied by “The Little Surrealist Dictionary.” 

A Book of Surrealist Games is admirably designed, with a built-in bookplate on the inside front cover, many black-and-white reproductions of Surrealist visual works, and portraits of key 20th-century Surrealists. The game instructions are in most cases perfectly lucid, and ready for practical application.