Kenneth Hite (princeofcairo) wrote,
Kenneth Hite

And life and the Fields, and the huge and thoughtful night

Since the beginning of modern record keeping, I have gone 4-5 against Fields Book Store, pound for pound the finest occult bookstore in the English-speaking world. Next year, I shall win by forfeit -- Fields is shutting down their physical location after 81 years. After the end of February, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in San Francisco will be an upstart named City Lights. Fields will still sell books, but only through its website, which means I won't be able to justify blowing $100 there merely through the age-old mystery of physical propinquity.

But this year, Fields and I fought down to the wire. They got the aforementioned triple digit out of me, without even resorting to their Pantheacon booth (which they might not have had, and which we didn't have time to visit anyhow). But their victory was Pyrrhic indeed: it came through a 50%-off sale on their used books, a noble sacrifice to Thoth-Dionysos, in the manner of Decius Mus. "I promise you my death, if only I may conquer." And they will, and they did.

Many of those used books were perfectly ordinary; the kind you might find in any well-stocked and eccentric Bay Area bucherei: The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ung-Chih Restoration 1862-1874, by Mary Clabaugh Wright; Elements of Japanese Design, by John Dower; News From Tartary, by Peter Fleming; The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution, by Deborah Harkness; From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East, by William Dalrymple; even the Arkham House hardback of Mr. George and Other Odd Persons, by "Stephen Grendon" (actually a pseudonymous August Derleth).

Three used biographies, however, began to shade me toward eliptonic hues: The Dream King: Ludwig II of Bavaria, by Wilfrid Blunt; Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours, by Fredric Cheyette; Ann the Word: The Story of Ann Lee, Female Messiah, Mother of the Shakers, The Woman Clothed With the Sun, by Richard Francis.

And two of the used books were full-blown barking eliptonic goodness: 'Shakespeare' by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, by Mark Anderson (oh NO he wasn't) and -- hold on to your wigs and keys -- The Vengeful Djinn: Unveiling the Hidden Agenda of Genies, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and her almost-too-wonderfully-named co-author Philip J. Imbrogno. The title really sells it, but let me hammer home this book's astounding quality by quoting the first line from the back cover blurb: "If you fear one thing in life, fear the djinn." MIKE DROP. I get the sense that Philip J. Imbrogno took the rest of the day off after coming up with that line.

And I got one more book, a not-used book. A new book. (Well, 2008.) A full price book, because this contest, this affair, this glorious February Classic, deserved to go out as it came in: on the "Occult Nazis" shelf. I bought The Secret King: The Myth and Reality of Nazi Occultism, by Stephen Flowers and Michael Moynihan. It's primarily a biography of Himmler's pet drooling clairvoyant Karl-Maria Wiligut, but includes some translations of Wiligut's writings and an essay surprisingly (albeit mostly accurately) minimizing the claims for occultist influence on the Nazis. A million household uses, in other words.

But this was the last time I would move that ladder and climb those steps, past "Wicca and Magic," past "Left-Hand Path," stopping just short of "Crowley/Thelema." The last time I would think "If I fall and break my neck, mollpeartree will never forgive me for dying like a ninny trying to reach a 'Nazi Occultism' shelf." This was the last time that Fields would get to win.

4-6. Not a bad record, Fields. So long, and thanks for all the Nommo.
Tags: eliptony, fields book store
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