One of the things I haven’t mentioned much here, but which I suppose might be interesting, is the a fascination I have always had with the cheesy supernatural-conspiracy literature that has always (until I moved to Korea) been widely and cheaply available to me.
I have never much been into things like those writings about The Illuminati, or the Masons, or the Rosicrucians; I’ve never cared much for anything in the style of JFK… but if you give me a Budd Hopkins book, or something by Whitley Strieber, or just about anything from Erich von Däniken — I know the last from experience — I’ll just curl up with it and an hour later I’ll be finished it, though the silly grin will still be there on my face. Not that I read them much after I grew up; it was usually a rare occurrence, once every few years. And until today, almost four years had passed since the urge came over me. But there it is.
I want the silly, ridiculous claims. I want the crackpot explanations. The freak logic and the nut injunctions. Aliens kidnapping people from outhouses and Chevrolets for secret anal probe experiments. Avian space creatures trance-channeling through the bodies of trance mediums on Earth. Alien invaders with the ability to levitate, stop time, communicate telepathically, and move from one alien body to another. Ancient wise beings with names like Seth speaking about reincarnation as a rudimentary model of the absolute reality, which is something more like simultaneous polycarnation. (Now, mind you, most of the channelers’ “spirit guides” were pretty boring, but Jane Roberts and her buddy Seth, they always put on a good show.)
I suspect that this guilty pleasure of mine — this crap that I still occasionally like to read — serves the same kind of function that comic books do for some other people I know. An Erich von Däniken book doesn’t really count as “reading”, but it’s entertaining enough that you’ll put aside your collected Shakespeare or the third book in a series you’re into, just because it won’t take long and the payoff is a dreadful, horrid little pleasure.
Don’t mistake me: I think these books are garbage. One one level, it horrifies me that they get printed, continually, and that they sell so well that they keep getting published. Probably it would be far better if everyone who reads (which is not everyone, after all) read better books than these on a routine basis. But I do not think I would like it if these books completely disappeared from the world.
Not because they’re the ridiculous scripture of the New Age; not because they’re a waste of precious paper — for even pulp paper such as that used in these books is precious; not because I would miss them personally, though I would. I just think they will be a fascinating insight into the imagary worlds, the inner lives of people in the twentieth century. People a hundred and fifty years from now would otherwise believe that we have no silly imagination, no folly by which we, too, believe in our own kinds of latter-day faeries and demons.
After all, it was Whitley Strieber himself who pointed out the parallel between faery-kidnapping tales and the stories of alien abductions. His explanation and mine may differ, but the parallel is still there. I just think that explaining the stories as having been misunderstood alien-contact experiences is a bit… I don’t know, maybe the word is arrogant? As if those silly medieval peasants knew nothing but we, ah, we have the final and complete answer. Besides which, if the aliens didn’t figure out what they wanted after a thousand years of anal probes, I seriously doubt they’d have figured out a way to keep us from seeing them over all these long years. That’s just silly.
No, what these stories — and these books — tell us about ourselves has everything to do with the fantasy world of our own fears, terrors, nightmares, and imagination. We’re not so different those medieval peasants at all, despite our fancy cars and modern clothing. Some things are, even now, exactly the same. Which, if you think about it, is both humbling and fascinating.
And so now, on a night when, for the first time in my life when I feel like reaching to my bookshelf for one of these nutball, weirdo books but cannot do so — for, of course, I brought none with me to Korea — I smile and think back on the ones I read in the past, and shrug.
Back to Ezra Pound, I guess — a nut in his own way, and in some ways, I’m beginning to suspect, just a very rarefied, literary-bulimic version of these other kooks, combined with a genius poet at no extra charge. Which reminds me, have you heard about the Cathars? Oh, much, much more coming soon under Ezra Poundings. (For the signed-in user, that is.)