As I said in the last books post, reading the JAMs’ Illuminatus-inspired attempt made me want to read the real thing again. Seems I read it about every four years or so, based on the fact that I wrote about it last in 2014.
It doesn’t lose any of its charm. I suppose I’d have to say, if we judge by number of rereads, that this must be my favourite book of all time.
If you haven’t read it, it’s probably because there’s a conspiracy to stop you doing so. Kick out the jams and go get it. Hail Eris!
This book could have been written for me. Seriously, during the first part it felt like it was targeted right at me.
I am, as you probably know, a fan and repeat reader of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. As clearly are Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, or the KLF, as they used to be known. This book is — what, a spoof of, a homage to? — Illuminatus. Explicitly modelled on it, referring back to it constantly.
Plus there are lots of Beatles references, and I’ve been into them for even longer. Then among the characters are Alan Moore, who (in this corner of the multiverse) is a member — along with Cauty and Drummond — of Extreme Noise Terror. Our world’s version of that band did collaborate with the KLF, but as far as I can tell they had no connection with Moore.
So don’t expect to get too much accurate information about popular culture out of this. Plenty of references, though. Other characters include Michelle O’Bama, M’Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono (two versions), Lady Penelope, and her chauffeur/hitman Aloysius Parker.
It’s a lot of fun. The downside is that it’s not very well written, at least as far as the dialogue is concerned. Most notable is the complete absence of contractions. Which is fine for an odd thing, or maybe to give one character a particular voice, but when no-one uses them, it all gets a little strange.
The story is fun, though, and I finished it and immediately started rereading Illuminatus yet again, so there’s that.
If you’re a fan of the Illuminatus trilogy, or the works of Robert Anton Wilson in general, the idea that Trump’s speech is like the last words of Dutch Schulz is particularly amusing.
A rereading, of course; in fact, this is probably something like the sixth time I’ve read this. I keep coming back to it. And why not? There’s music, magic, musings, sex, drugs, and conspiracies. Lots and lots of conspiracies.
It felt very on trend, as the trendy types say, to be reading it in 2014. We are at a time when the idea of the Illuminati is not just well known, but is discussed, or at least panicked about, among our nation’s schoolkids. Apparently lots of modern music stars — people like Rihanna, for example — are noted (by paranoid types) for being pawns of (or part of) the “actual” Illuminati.
The clues include any use of triangular imagery in their videos. You get the idea.
The people who believe in that sort of thing are just the types this great trilogy was written for. No, about. No: for.
Robert Anton Wilson has died. I read the Illuminatus! trilogy while I was in university, and have re-read it several times since then, as well as reading a lot of his other books. No-one could spin a conspiracy theory like RAW, or debunk one so convincingly. Plus he told a great tale, and unravelled seven levels of meaning in a single sentence of Joyce.
The last post on his blog has many comments saying goodbye, and mainly wishing him well on his onward journey. I don’t believe there is any onward journey, but it would be nice to think there was. My favourite of the comments I read was from an anonymous commenter, and reads:
Goodbye, you magnificent bastard. You join the ranks of Bill Hicks, Frank Zappa, and Hunter S. Thompson: for decades frustrated malcontents like me will be saying, “You know who we really need now?” and thinking of you.
Can’t argue with that.
Hail Eris! And 23 skidoo.
1. The title of his post, by the way, is from another of RAW’s blog posts.