Every now and again, we ask a local luminary to enumerate five pieces of literature, or “books,” which have deeply affected or influenced them at some point in their lives. It is our aim to introduce you to an artist, and to give you a sense of his or her tastes, while also providing you with a wealth of interesting literature to explore, in the hopes of raising our national and individual literacy levels to an all-time high.
Steve Venright is the author of several books of poetry in prose, including Straunge Wunder, The Sleepy Turbine, and the forthcoming Floors of Enduring Beauty. He was interviewed for MONDO’s “Artist of the Week” feature, posted on July 16th, 2007. This is what he has to offer for this week’s Top Five:
Here’s a quick Top Five list with the theme of “revelation” — works that in various ways have opened my eyes and charged my neural circuitry. It’s a non-poetry/non-fiction selection, if you don’t consider the fact that the best works of journalism are somehow poetic and that every autobiography, by the very nature of memory, is to some extent fictional. I’m off on a pastoral retreat and don’t have any of these books on hand, so it’s only their most striking and immediately memorable aspects that I will touch upon.
1. True Hallucinations by Terence McKenna [Harper Collins, 1993]
2. The Stoned Apocalypse by Marco Vassi [Trident Press, 1972]
3. Towers of Deception by Barry Zwicker [New Society Publishers, 2006]
4.The Immaculate Perception by Christopher Dewdney [House of Anansi Press, 1986]
5. Maya Cosmogenesis: 2012 by John Major Jenkins [Bear & Company, 1998]
True Hallucinations is an outlandish psychedelic travelogue, an extraordinary theoretical treatise on the nature of reality, an examination of everything from ethnobotany and shamanism to UFOs and the “transcendental object at the end of time”. McKenna’s trippy and lovable sense of humour, scholarly and experiential wisdom, and ability to tell the story of a bizarre adventure in a fascinating way make this a definite “desert island” selection. As Terence wrote in his inscription of my copy: “Onward to Hyperspace!”
The Stoned Apocalypse is a book that Nicky Drumbolis recommended to me years ago. Now I’m telling you: go find a copy of the 1973 paperback edition with the groovy Herman Hesse-meets-the-porn-division-of-Harlequin cover. “Are you a seeker?” a young Marco Vassi is asked early on in this rambunctious memoir. Well, if you are and you love the idea of an exalted and depraved romp through the orgies, drugs, and singular spiritual disciplines of the late 60s, this is the masterpiece for you. Vassi reflects (I’ll paraphrase) on one of the psychologists he encounters: “He never took acid — a fact I found peculiar in someone who claimed to be interested in the nature of the mind.” My favourite passage is his tremendously moving statement about modern man being a “frightened cloth robot”. (This is cheating, because it’s supposed to be a top five list, but after reading The Stoned Apocalypse, pick up a copy of William Kotzwinkle’s The Fan Man for a hilarious fictional follow-up to the transmutopian hippiedom of Vassi’s reminiscence.)
Towers of Deception is one of many brilliant recent books and anthologies (including Global Outlook’s 9/11: The Greatest Crime of All Time) seeking to dispel the monumental lies behind the official story of “9/11″. Zwicker — who was perhaps the first to tackle this subject on television, in a Vision TV special — focuses on media complicity in the telling of the big lie, and on the almost universal refusal of television stations and major newspapers to present facts other than those sanctioned and force-fed by the neo-con corporate machinery. Okay, that last bit sounds like the ranting of a “conspiracy theorist” — loathe that lazy dismissive simpleminded epithet — but I’m rushing and don’t have time to attempt to emulate Zwicker’s succinctly reasoned and exquisitely poised journalism. Fortunately, the theme of the book necessarily involves analyses of the events of that day in such a way as to leave little doubt that “inside job” is at least a distinct possibility, if not almost a certainty. This is a brave and significant book written with a lucidity and poignancy that should inspire a new generation of truth-seekers.
The Immaculate Perception is one of many Christopher Dewdney books I could single out for praise as a revelatory work, the titles of which alone are enough to expand consciousness by at least three centimetres: Fovea Centralis, Spring Trances in the Control Emerald Night, The Cenozoic Asylum, Predators of the Adoration…. This is an early example of Dewdney’s non-fiction, predating acclaimed works such as 2004’s Acquainted with the Night. Its form is a little different from standard non-fiction, being closer in ways to Dewdney’s own prose poetry: a sequence of fairly short “takes” on the biology and psychology of consciousness. This book is fun in the way that books on neurology for the layperson are fun, but it’s also charged with Dewdney’s numinous observational sensibility. And — like most truly visionary works — it can be really amusing too.
Maya Cosmogenesis: 2012 is primarily a book about Mayan and Aztec calendrics as they relate to our current temporal phase, here at the end of Baktun Thirteen. John Major Jenkins speaks with a voice that’s commendable in its scholarly expertise but also infused with a spiritual curiosity that gives this book its radiant appeal. This is not his most recent work but it may be a good place to start. It has informed other impressive titles that have also dealt with the end of the Maya calendar and our current world situation, among them Geoff Stray’s Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy — A Complete Guide to End-of-Time Predictions, and Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. And — bringing this back to the start — it has an introduction by the great Terence McKenna!