Thursday, 4 December 2014

Review of 131 by Julian Cope

131: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel by Julian Cope. £14.99

The marvellous Julian Cope has written a novel! And it has:

A spectacularly vile Bad Guy cult leader. A road trip through Sardinia (131 is the number of Sardinia's only highway). A guide and driver, beautiful and wise, who delivers classic rock-n-roll cars. A protagonist we are introduced to as he is shitting his pants on an aeroplane.

The first few pages tell us we are in the hands of a first-person narrator with all the tick marks for rock-n-roll excess: a burned-out druggie rock-star / football hooligan called Rock Section. Sixteen years before, at a big footie match, Rock and his hooligan mates were imprisoned, and some raped, by the bad guy's cult, resulting in one suicide and (at least) one mental collapse. So Rock is visiting Sardinia to force himself into a final confrontation with the bizarre motivations of the evil gang who did this.

As if this isn't enough, there is entire other layer to the plot, taking place around 10,000 years ago, when there was still a land bridge between the British Isles and mainland Europe, a young heir to the throne of Old Tüpp travelling through a  landscape of twisted language, elder gods and sacrificial imperatives.

This novel displays an extraordinarily deep and bizarre mix of spheres of knowledge: rock-n-roll, drugs, megaliths, prehistory and the old gods are areas I expected Mr Cope to have good knowledge of, but football hooligan antics and soft drinks addictions came as a surprise. This richness generates a texture which is somewhere around Gravity's Rainbow meets Avant Pulp.

I liked the book a lot. It was a compulsive read, and has some very likeable features. For instance, the Bad Guy, Barry Hertzog, bases his cultic ideas on the xtianity of C S Lewis. It does rather seem that Cope and I are of a single mind when it comes to this man's work: pure evil.  

The book is nicely made, a solid paperback, and you get maps at each end: Sardinia with important sites at the front, and a mad, hallucinated Ancient Western Europe at the back.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Review of Svengali: Secrets of Influence, by Romulus

Svengali: Secrets  of Influence, by Romulus, pub. 139pp. Available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Svengali-Secrets-Influence-Romulus-ebook/dp/B00JTH8AD4.

This is a book about the magic of charisma and influence. Starting from the central idea that there are four basic ‘Svengali’ archetypes, it consists of a section on each of these four, in which the author records conversations with two or three exceptional exemplars of each type. It ends with a section summarizing the techniques that Romulus learned from his interlocutors.

The first section is called The Black Book: The Book of Power, and features Don Juan Del Domino as the archetype of this kind of power, the kind which dominates.
The second is The White Book: The Book of Healing, and focuses on the powers of Rasputin. The third, The Golden Book: The Book of Wealth, uses the exemplar of Hassan-i-Sabbah, and the fourth is The Red Book: The Book of Attraction, attributed to Salome.

This is a very lively and readable book, with a touch of the magical travelogue, taking us through an almost James Bond universe in which citizens of the world meet to speak of magical secrets over port and cigars in lavish houses with collections of great art. It is a book that leads you subtly, by telling stories. What I have said so far could give the impression that it is a ramble, but it is not. It is concise and full of ideas which anyone interested in the ways of power would do well to heed. This kind of style, when done well, is superior to bare theory and conclusions, because it is a living narrative that engages the reader’s imagination, making us believe that these feats are possible.

In the final section, the Exercises, the techniques mentioned in each Book get remixed so they are associated directly with each of the four archetypal types. There is a lot of material here, some of which I shall investigate in due course. Romulus’s selection and presentation of some the techniques shows clearly the process of ‘NLP strategies’ emerging out of much older magics, such as the use of verbless sentences to trigger internal states.

One thing that occurred to me: is this book’s underlying scheme that of the Four Elements?
Hassan-i-Sabbah – Wealth – Earth
Rasputin – Healing – Water
Don Juan del Domino – Power – Fire
Salome – Attraction (Influence) – Air

I checked with Romulus and no, the scheme is adapted from Vajrayana Buddhism and the four practical activities of the Bodhisattva:
 
·Black is Earth (Wrathful Practice),
·White is Air (Pacificatory and Healing Practices),
·Gold is Fire (Wealth and Increase Work),
·Red is Water (Attraction Subjugation  Practice)

What are the downsides of the book?
I think it’s fair to say that he is reaching a little with the Salome material, compared to the techniques in the other three sections, but this is not surprising – after all, Romulus is a man, and this is very much ‘women’s secrets’. Overall, it has to be said that the quality of magical information divulged is very high.
The only other thing – I gather the next edition will have been proof read, which it very badly needs. Isn’t PoD great, new editions follow any time they are needed!

In conclusion: Buy this book and read it, if you are at all interested in charisma and influence, in the wiring under the board of personal power, something we can all recognize, though few can project it.