Tag Archives: michael valentine smith

The Gentle Degenerates

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gentle Degenerates, Volume III in the Vassi Collection, by Marco Vassi:

Marco Vassi's The Gentle Degenerates

 

Is this a novel in the form of a memoir, or a memoir packaged as a novel? The New York City setting, esoteric interests, drug use, and bisexuality of the nameless first-person narrator all tally with Marco Vassi’s biography. But the book is as tightly choreographed as any novel, with some shifts of narrative backwards and forewards in time, while each of the fourteen chapters includes one terrifically detailed sexual episode, along with introspective passages that are sometimes positively grueling.

Written in 1970, the text is unselfconsciously composed in the now-extinct dialect of groove. E.g. “I got to rapping her old man and dug they were at a place where they could use a third to catalyze their mix” (60). The language alone makes the book a period piece, although it was clearly written with an acute sense of its contemporaneity.

Vassi’s narrator sees some sort of revolution as imminent, and himself in the vanguard as a mystic and sexual explorer, and there is a certain innocence to his sexual promiscuity. But he is also a harsh judge of himself and others. He mocks himself for playing at being Michael Valentine Smith (73), and his vigorous anathema against the Esalen Institute is full of bracing insight (174-176). Ultimately, the book delivers just the tone implied in the title: a mix of humane care and sorrowful condemnation. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Survivor

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Survivor: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk:

Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor from W W Norton & Company

 

Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, and Survivor is his second novel. The wit, sagacity, and implacable unlikelihoods of Fight Club are all still in full force in Survivor, which counts down from page 289 to 1 with blinding speed. And like Fight Club, the later book seems quite dedicated, in its nihilistic po-mo way, to the premise that “Unto thee shall be granted joy and health and wealth and wisdom when thou art no longer thou.”

I have read critics refer to Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land as a “satire.” It’s not; it’s a romance. Survivor is in fact the satire that Stranger isn’t. Stranger’s Michael Valentine Smith was the survivor of a shipwreck on Mars, “rescued” to face his ultimate martyrdom as the prophet of the Church of All Worlds. Survivor’s Tender Branson was “rescued” from a suicide cult based in Nebraska. And it is his voice that tells the entire story, through the medium of a crashing airplane’s flight recorder.

This book is an unimpeded flight—a terminal descent—to the punchline of the Universal Joke. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.