February 25th, 2011


Blown Fields or Flowerful Closes

In the eternal struggle between myself and Fields Book Store -- pound for pound and title for title the best occult book store in the English-speaking world -- I win some and I lose some. This time, I lost some. I just walked into the punch, and never walked it off. I don't even remember putting up much of a fight: I actually bought a book off the "Occult Nazis" shelf, The Philosopher's Stone: Alchemy and the Secret Research for Exotic Matter, mostly because Joseph Farrell does exactly the right degree of distilling Nazi Occult madness, but also because it's potentially vampire lore if I gussy it up right. Even more defensible on vampiric grounds is sane-albeit-underargued medievalist Claude Lecoutaux' The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind, which argues (well, claims it argues) that the spectral dead were invented by the Church (or imported from classical tradition, I haven't read that far yet) to destroy pagan ancestor cults in Northern Europe. So yes, bought. Cha-ching.

The used book section gave up its traditional riches: sane books on The Voynich Manuscript, The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders, Edvard Munch: The Scream, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry, and Triumph of the Nomads: A History of Aboriginal Australia.

Plus, although as I mentioned my memories are foggy on the subject, I picked up some fringier sorts of books, many of them also overstock: The End of Eden: The Comet That Changed Civilization featuring the reliably unreliable Graham Philips (a thinking man's Brad Steiger) on the Great Comet of 1486 BC and its Rays Of Anger, a copy of the pseudonymous Rosicrucian chrestomathy known as The Comte De Gabalis, Mitch Horowitz' engaging overview Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation, and speaking of Occult Nazis Or Near As Dammit, "Edred"'s guide to Rune Might including runic yoga and runic yodels. For reals, yo.

Don't ask me where I got the heroism to withstand a copy of the new reprint of Kenneth Grant's unified field of UFOs, Crowley, and Lovecraft Outside the Circles of Time, but I did. That's right, I saved $65 by not buying that book. Which I immediately turned around and spent at Fields' cannily stocked booth at Pantheacon -- but I dare anyone to cavil at John Dee's Occultism (from the SUNY in its splendour) and Shakespeare's Secret Booke: Deciphering Magical and Rosicrucian Codes by David Ovason, the American version of Graham Philips. Okay, you can maybe cavil at that last one. But I didn't. This year, no cavilry rode to my rescue. Fields wins this round by TKO.

But I got one jab in -- at one point, I asked the kind and helpful Fieldsian why they had no Lovecraft section, seeing that there seemed to be a natural overlap. She diffidently -- even bashfully -- explained, "We don't like to emphasize that element here." This from a bookstore with two shelves of Satanism and an Occult Nazis section. (Fields shelves their copies of the various Necronomicons in the "Left Hand Path" section.) When I pushed back gently (alluding to the aforementioned sections), she said "You know -- the line between fiction and fact -- we don't like to blur it too much." In fairness, Lovecraft blurs the line far more ably than David Ovason, or even Graham Philips. So sure, Fields, HPL and I will give you that one too, on points.