Archive for June, 2023

Review: High Weirdness

Saturday, June 24th, 2023

I heard the author, Erik Davis, interviewed on Desert Oracle Radio and realized I’d want to read this if I ever saw a copy. The Los Angeles Public Library eventually acquired an electronic copy, and away we go.

Now the question becomes, “does anyone else need to read this?” That’s seems like a thornier proposition. High Weirdness is a scholarly look at some of the writings and experiences of the McKenna brothers, Robert Anton Wilson, and Phillip K. Dick. Davis is approaching these from a position somewhere between curious skeptic, literary critic, and biographer. To me it looks like he’s trying to explore the way these outsiders expressed themselves in the middle of turbulent lives. There’s a lot of mysticism, black humor, and recreational chemistry involved that leads the subjects of Weirdness to produce the kind of off kilter writing that seems to hint at a universe run by divinities with unknowable senses of humor. I’m consistently amazed by the sorts of belief systems people use to navigate the world and enjoy thinking too hard about trivialities, so I quite enjoyed this.

But back to the question of anyone else enjoying it. If you’d plow through a well-footnoted tome and get a chuckle out of discovering that the author cited work that seems to constrain the founding of Discordianism to one of two bowling alleys in Whittier, I’d have a look at this. That’s a small set of people.

Review: Interior States

Saturday, June 24th, 2023

I generally enjoy this sort of collection of short contemporary essays. They can give you a snapshot of a time and a writer. The writer of these, Meghan O’Gieblyn, tries to give a sense of place as well, but I feel like she’s hampered by these being published in mostly larger East Coast publications.

When she is taking her readers to a place, it’s generally the upper midwest, a place I have some experience with and affection for. I liked her views of the places and found her perspective as a person returning to them interesting.

Other essays are primarily about issues of the day. She wisely selected essays about the kinds of issues where the details change but the themes are constant across times. She approached these with a good mix of heart and head that I generally liked. I lead toward the head myself, but some of these felt a bit removed.

Her writing is always clear and often evocative, but I was never knocked back in my chair. Again, a reasonable tone for essays about Internal States.