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An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson Paperback – December 1, 2004
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"A book about the hidden symbols and other jokes and profundities in my Immortal Works. A masterpiece." --Robert Anton Wilson, author of Cosmic Trigger
About the Author
Eric Wagner was born in 1962 in Washington, D.C., to two former NSA computer programmers. Eric and his family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in November, 1967. In 1982 he began reading Robert Anton Wilson's books, and in 1986 the two began corresponding. In the years since Eric began reading Wilson, he has traveled from Ingolstadt, Bavaria, to Aswan, Egypt, from Country Kerry, Ireland, to Honolulu, Hawaii, attempting to understand the ideas behind Wilson's works. Eric has worked as a computer programmer, operator and micro-coder, a musician, a poet, a technical writer, a dancer, a film historian and a teacher.
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So it's no surprise that I picked up the Insider's Guide. I won't rehash what the other reviewers said since they cover much of what is good or bad about the book.
My take is this: the author is not merely entranced with RAW, he wants to be RAW. He has affected many of RAW's catchphrases, comments and writing style and they appear regularly through the book. If I though the joke would make sense, I'd add an ironic 'heh heh heh' as the author does but unless you've read RAW and read this book, the joke simply doesn't work without explanation.
But it all comes off as forced, as if the author is trying far too hard to sound like his hero. As the old saying goes "He has the notes, but lacks the tune." It made the book feel stilted and poorly written.
And frankly, having read most of RAW's output, I can't say that the Insider's Guide added much to understanding it. I suppose it is a decent enough introduction to many of RAW's pet ideas (E-prime, Korbyzki, the 8-circuit model) but, honestly, RAW did enough of a job regurgitating his ideas over and over and over and over again, he didn't need someone else to cover it another time too.
I suppose the detailed cabalistic analysis of Illuminatus was interesting. In my opinion, it missed the real structure of the book (which only recently became apparent to me on my roughly 20th reading of the book. Hint: If you want to understand Illuminatus, read Prometheus Rising and look for parallels). Of course, there may be other hidden structures that we've all missed.
Working on many levels simultaneously - like just a Wilsonian novel, ("Masks of the Illuminati", "Schrodinger Cat" and his famous Trilogy with Robert Shea, all being dealt-with extensively within), i must say that this is a masterful achievement, and accomplished by a masterful hand who knows his stuff very well - for instance, he writing in such a graceful manner, I'm near-certain Bob would've be proud of (he happens to provide an "introduction" of sorts to the book too).
Just judging the chapter which provides an alphabetical lexicographic reference on it's own, and this book would be valuable enough - but it's width and scope does not end here, for moreover, "An Insiders Guide to RAW" is filled to the brim with mind-expanding things; for example - essays dealing with *implicit* connections with numerical secrets of the kabbalah and Bob's novels (made *explicit* here, as far as i know, for the very first time), inside-investigations of a whole gamut of literary reverberations with other writers like Falkner, Joyce and Pound (who Wagner is most able to flesh out the parallels and serve as tour-guide) ~ along with private interviews conducted with Bob, (containing some very seriously funny questions i wish i could have come up with myself), an illuminating Illuminatus! time-line (all that jumping around in space-time, being mapped out in a way i didn't know was possible), as well as lots and lots of leads and references to follow (which you will love, if you, like me, like that sort of thing).
Well, i don't want to give too much away. I myself know that reading this and returning once-again to Wilson's novels, will have assisted me greatly in noticing how many n-dimensions i had missed the first few time's round; as well as expanding my general knowledge of a few "disparate" fields, like quantum mechanics, classical music and the magicakal practices of Aleister Crowley. A must have for anyone wanting to expand horizons - for now that Bob is relatively gone from the world, this book's right up their with the next best thing. Let's hope Eric does a follow up!