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Thursday, January 11, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Anton Wilson

Author/ stand-up philosopher/ former Playboy Associate Editor (wink), Robert Anton Wilson shuffled off our mortal coil today, January 11, 2007. (What, no 23?) It was during his years at Playboy, answering the paranoia-laden mail sent to Heff’s naughty little mag, that he and Robert Shea first pondered, “What if all the conspiracies were true?” The book that grew from this idea, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, became an “underground classic” that’s continued to attract fertile young minds for 30 years, and from which a stage play, a comic book and that new movie The Number 23 were born.

I love Wilson the author. The man’s conversational writing style, especially in his “non-fiction” work, was always compelling, fascinating, dense and understandable. Wilson made reading about and understanding quantum physics, Joyce or psychology seem possible and fun — and that is a miracle.

I highly recommend The Illuminatus! and Schrödinger’s Cat trilogies, Quantum Psychology, Prometheus Rising and Coincidance. Each one opened my mind in new and unexpected ways. My personal favorites, however, are the three Cosmic Trigger books. Part memoirs, part science books, part ramblings of a lunatic on drugs; filled with arcane but brilliant concepts like the “reality tunnel” and “chapel perilous” and “Mescalito” [cough]; Cosmic Trigger spoke to me at a time in my life when nothing was getting through. They helped a very sad, angry and confused young man remember that life is a joyous carnival funhouse to be savored rather than feared.

Although I never met the man, I'm convinced that I’ll miss Robert Anton Wilson.