Tag Archives: Literature

The Symbolist Poets

A parallel revolt against the traditional modes of expression took place in poetry under the leadership of the Symbolists, who strove for direct poetic experience unspoiled by intellectual elements. They sought to suggest rather than describe, to present the symbol rather than the state of the thing.

Arthur Rimbaud (1854 – 1891)

My Bohemian Life by Arthur Rimbaud

I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets;
My overcoat too was becoming ideal;
I travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal;
Oh dear me! what marvellous loves I dreamed of!

My only pair of breeches had a big whole in them.
– Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way.
My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear.
– My stars in the sky rustled softly.

And I listened to them, sitting on the road-sides
On those pleasant September evenings while I felt drops
Of dew on my forehead like vigorous wine;

And while, rhyming among the fantastical shadows,
I plucked like the strings of a lyre the elastics
Of my tattered boots, one foot close to my heart!

Symbolism as a literary movement came to the forefront in the work of Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98), Paul Verlaine (1844-96), and Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91). These poets were strongly influenced by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49), whose writings were introduced into France by his admirer, Baudelaire. They experimented in free verse forms that opened new territories to their art, achieving a language indefiniteness that had hitherto been the privilege of music alone.


Junkie is a semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs. First published in 1953 (Ace Books), it was Burroughs’ first published novel and has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s. The book has also been published under the name Junky.

The novel was considered unpublishable more than it was controversial. Burroughs began it largely at the request and insistence of Allen Ginsberg, who was impressed by Burroughs’s letter writing skill. Burroughs took up the task with very little enthusiasm. However, he did realize that being a published author was in the realm of possibility after his friend Jack Kerouac had his first novel published in 1950. William S. Burroughs began to compile his experiences as an addict and small-time heroin pusher in Greenwich Village.

This film features a passage from the book Junkie as read by the author, William S. Burroughs. His distinctive voice and his peculiar outlook on life is on full display in this reading from his book.

The Great Chain Of Being

The chain of being, or the great chain of being, is a Neoplatonic metaphor for the hierarchical nature, function, and organization of the universe. The concept, created by Plotinus (205?-270), was applied to literature, science, and philosophy, and dictated a series of linked stages from God, to Angel, to Man, to Animal, to Plant, to Dust. Popular from the Renaissance to the 19th century, it no doubt influenced the literature of Pope, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth, the philosophy of Leibniz and Spinoza, and the scientific views of Sir Isaac Newton.

The chain of being is composed of a great number of hierarchical links, from the most basic and foundational elements up through the very highest perfection, in other words, God, or the Prime Mover. God, and beneath him the angels, both existing wholly in spirit form, sit at the top of the chain. Earthly flesh is fallible and ever-changing: mutable. Spirit, however, is unchanging and permanent. This sense of permanence is crucial to understanding this conception of reality.

One does not abandon one’s place in the chain; it is not only unthinkable, but generally impossible. The hierarchy is a chain and not a ladder. (One exception might be in the realm of alchemy, where alchemists attempted to transmute base elements, such as lead, into higher elements, either silver, or more often, gold—the highest element.)

In the natural order, earth (rock) is at the bottom of the chain; these elements possess only the attribute of existence. Moving on up the chain, each succeeding link contains the positive attributes of the previous link, and adds (at least) one other. Rocks, as above, possess only existence; the next link up, plants, possess life and existence. Animals add not only motion, but appetite as well.

Man is a special instance in this conception. He is both mortal flesh, as those below him, and also spirit. In this dichotomy, the struggle between flesh and spirit becomes a moral one. The way of the spirit is higher, more noble; it brings one closer to God. The desires of the flesh drag one down. The Christian fall of Lucifer is especially terrible, because that angel is wholly spirit, who yet defies God, the ultimate perfection.

Know you know.

Are You SubGenius Material?

Are you SubGenius material? If so, there is a church for you, the Church of the SubGenius, founded in Dallas, Texas in 1981 by the Reverend Ivan Stang, a very clever satirist and promoter. The Church of the SubGenius is a group that vigorously satirizes conspiracy theories, UFOs, organized religions and popular culture in general.

Described as a mutant derivation of Discordianism, the Church of the SubGenius is extremely popular with net crawlers and hackers as a rich source of bizarre images and references to “Bob” the divine drilling equipment salesman, the Stark Fist of Removal and the Benevolent Space Xists. SubGenius followers are very concerned with the acquisition of “slack.” Discordianism, by the way, is a modern religion based on the idea that chaos is just as important as order. For this reason, Discordianism, like the Church of the SubGenius, is considered to be a parody religion.

History of the Church of the SubGenius
The Church of the SubGenius claims to have been founded in the 1950s by J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, the greatest salesman of all-time. J.R. “Bob” Dobbs has the appearance of a Ward Cleaver type 1950s businessman smoking a pipe. “Bob” built his own homemade T.V. set which subsequently provided him with a vision of Jehovah-1 (JHVH-1). The Church of the SubGenius claims that “SubGenius” has nothing to do with intelligence, of a level below genius or otherwise. It seems to be an effort to disassociate itself with pretentiousness. Church members believe they are SubGenius because being a Genius isn’t very fun. Church writings also make reference to a self-proclaimed SuperGenius, Wile E. Coyote.

Basic Tenets of the Church of the SubGenius

J.R. “Bob” Dobbs
The central figurehead and the main symbol of the Church is the visage of the pipe smoking J.R. “Bob” Dobbs in a 1950s clip-art style. He is considered to be the best salesman of all-time. J.R. “Bob” Dobbs was killed in San Francisco in 1984 – possibly as a publicity stunt. He has risen from the dead and been killed several times since (more publicity stunts?).

The whole mystical aura around “Bob” Dobbs centers on his awesome briar wood smoking pipe. The sacred pipe is said to contain a mysterious substance known as “habafropzipulops” or “frop” which can contain either divine powers, hallucinogenic powers or mystical powers. According to the Church of the SubGenius, varying images of the pipe smoking “Bob” Dobbs can be seen on random objects everywhere and is considered to be an omen, or the images appear for no reason at all. The number 13,013 is the Number of “Bob” and is often called the Mark of Dobbs.

The Concept of Slack
The main belief of the Church of the SubGenius centers around the pursuit of “slack” which is the freedom, independence and original thought that occurs when one’s personal goals are achieved. The Church believes we were all born with slack (Original Slack) but it has since been stolen away by a “conspiracy of normal people.” Of course, the Church of the SubGenius promises deliverance from this unacceptable situation.

Members of the Church of the SubGenius who live in the same area are encouraged to join a group or club called a “clench.” Oddly enough, some of these clenches brand and market themselves as their own religion; a practice thoroughly embraced by the Church of the SubGenius. This practice is known in Church circles as a “schizm.”

A devival is a SubGenius gathering which often occurs in night clubs and involves stand-up comedy, preaching and rock bands. Attendees are encouraged to generously open their wallets at the swag tables during these events and give until it hurts. In fact, the Church of the SubGenius is an incorporated profit-making business and proudly states that it is the “only religion that is proud to pay its taxes.”

The Church of the SubGenius had been predicting the world would be destroyed on July 5, 1998 by an army of invading aliens known as the X-ists (short for “Men from Planet X”). Only members of the Church were expected to be saved from this SubGenius Apocalypse by being carried away on the spaceships of the Sex-Goddesses. This event is also referred to by the Church as “the rupture.” Although the earth was not destroyed on that day, some say that the event actually did occur in some allegorical or metaphysical manner. X-Day is celebrated every year as a holy day by the Church of the SubGenius.

The Church of the SubGenius is an organization for “mutants, blasphemers, disbelievers, rebels, outcasts, hackers, freethinkers,” and people who generally consider themselves outside the “mainstream” of society.

Notes From Marcel

These quotes by Marcel Duchamp are cited in Alexander Liberman’s 1997 book entitled The Artist In His Studio.

“Today the artist is free, free to die of hunger. An
artist should have no social obligations.”

“If he marries, has children, he very soon becomes a victim. He must earn money to feed his family. Only one person who does not have to be fed is easier than two or three.”

“To increase the number of people around an artist is a calamity.”

“An artist must be an egotist. He must be completely blind to other human beings – egocentric in the grand manner. It is unavoidable, one cannot create great things if he is only half-involved and in doubt.”   ~ Marcel Duchamp