It's a truism that a ground-breaking work is often not as well known as its successors. Edgar Allen Poe's prototypical
C. Auguste Dupin, a detective before the word was even coined, is not nearly as well-known as Arthur Conan
Doyle's imitative Sherlock Holmes. Hildegard Von Bingen, the mother of opera and perhaps the greatest influence
on the development of classical music, is not a household name like her successors Richard Wagner and Johann
In the same way The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson quoted Principia Discordia
extensively--and people still thought the original work was non-existent.
The trilogy starts with a clue to its own mystery: it begins with the obscure island Fernando Poo, which is itself an
obscure Discordian joke. Fernando is from Ferdinand the bull, and "poo" is, well....
Joseph Malik, radical magazine editor, stumbles on reports of a secret society that may be--and then Malik's office
explodes and he disappears. Saul Goodman, the type of streetwise detective who stepped into the gumshoes worn
by the hard-boiled detectives of the 1930s and 1940s, takes the case.
And it's quite a case, as the book travels through time and space and even thought. Like Principia, the book can be
funny, serious, funnily serious, and seriously funny. Virtually every conspiracy you've ever heard of is in there
somewhere--even if they weren't created until after the book was written. This was years before The DaVinci Code,
so it is ironically and perhaps prophetically a take-off of a genre that hadn't fully begun. Also ironic is that some
fans take the Illuminati books by Shea and Wilson, who when editors for Playboy made up letters to themselves,
Important parts of the trilogy take place in Mad Dog, Texas (read "mad dog" backwards). The books are copyright
1975, the same year the pornographic movie Deep Throat was declared legally obscene in Texas. But had every
word of this book been filmed, by comparison Deep Throat would look OK for Sunday School. Discordianism at its
most fundamental level challenges cultural norms, and those definitely including sexuality.
The trilogy even briefly touches the Alice of Wonderland/Dorothy of Oz/Wendy of Neverland youth-adult sexual
connection fully explored, exploited, and exploded in Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's porno-graphic novel Lost
Girls. (Wendy was sexually precocious in J. M. Barrie's original, and was based on the real-life prostitute Minnie Rae
who played mother and wife to James, although Moore said he didn't know the real-life connection until after he
wrote the book). Like most "true" Discordian works (including Ek-sen-trik-kuh Discordia: The Tales of Shamlicht
which tells details of the real-life Wendy), the trilogy feels its way into areas of sexuality that touch and toy with the
"immoral" and even the illegal. Just one brief exchange from the second book, The Golden Apple: "I wanted sex with
my father, when I was two years old. When did you have that thing about the Saint Bernard?/When I was eleven or
twelve, I think. Just before my first period" (p. 376).
Along the twisted way you'll meet Hagbard Celine, the Captain Nemo-like owner/creator but not leader of a yellow
submarine, and the prank-pulling the Midget (Markoff Chaney). Both of them were inspired by the same real-life kid,
"The Gamemaster of Florin," who found Fernando Poo on an old map and contributed to Principia Discordia. And if
you aren't aware of the connections between Discordians and The Beatles (The Golden Apple/Apple Records, the
Yellow Submarine associated with a pyramid/the Yellow Submarine associated with a pyramid)....And then there's
John Dillinger, who may have died for you, and....
Before you open the book, open your mind and be prepared to be unprepared.
|Review for Amazon.com by Johnny Shellburn
The front cover of the
1998 printing by
The Illuminatus! Trilogy: Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, two former
Playboy editors, wrote what in retrospect can be seen as a takeoff of the
Conspiracy Novel genre that hadn't yet begun. Considering how this novel jumps
in time and space, that's appropriate.
Johnny Shellburn said, "Back in the day, I wrote book reviews and actually got
paid for it. The only problem was I got told what to read and what to review. Here I
can review what I want."
Paperback reprint of
the collected edition.
collected edition of
Reviews for currently
unreviewed books are