It is exactly what it says it is, so long as one carefully notes the dates in the title: this volume contains the full scripts, with asides and stage...moreIt is exactly what it says it is, so long as one carefully notes the dates in the title: this volume contains the full scripts, with asides and stage directions, for all four seasons of the Blackadder television series, along with most of the cast credits, and some supplemental material of similar humour, including a couple pages of connective introduction at the start of each season. It does not, however, contain any material from the several subsequent sequels, such as the specials Blackadder: The Cavalier Years or the Blackadder Christmas Special. For that, and the comparative dearth of pictures given that this was a TV show, I deduct one star. Otherwise, the show is damn near as funny in print as on the screen, especially when one has seen most of the episodes as many times as I have. Now I just need the DVD box set!(less)
Definitely more useful for the Hermeticist than for the Jewish mystic, although the Hebrew bits are very well done in both an easily readable native f...moreDefinitely more useful for the Hermeticist than for the Jewish mystic, although the Hebrew bits are very well done in both an easily readable native font and multiple transliterations where there is doubt or conflict among sources. The prefatory and supplemental materials are quite good, though I do wish they had gone into more detail on some of the more abstruse topics collected in the encyclopedic entries themselves; e.g., the Tunnels of Set are referenced throughout, but only about one paragraph citing Kenneth Grant as the principle source of that material is given, perhaps because Godwin doesn't find it all that useful himself. It also could use more extensive descriptions on some topics within the entries to obviate the need for cross-referencing to other works, though admittedly that could well push the size of the work up to unmanageable proportions, given its existing heft. All that said, I'm sure I'll be sifting through this as a reference source quite frequently.(less)
As much as I generally disdain the pedantic quality of Christopher Tolkien's editorial style, it is clear that his years of work pouring over his fath...moreAs much as I generally disdain the pedantic quality of Christopher Tolkien's editorial style, it is clear that his years of work pouring over his father's voluminous leftovers have finally borne fruit here. With precious little of the analysis for which he is (in)famous—this passage was certainly written after 1951 because my father corrected the amanuensis typescript with a red ball-point pen blah blah—and that confined to two brief appendices of value to those who have slogged through The History of Middle-Earth, this actual narrative is the closest it is possible to get to finally seeing J.R.R.'s vision of the Elder Days manifest.
Despite the popularity and enduring quality of the books on which the movies are based, it was the grand tales of the Elder Days, synopsized in The Silmarillion, that were always the primary stories intended to be told, even as far back as the 1920s, with nary a Hobbit in sight, nor indeed in mind. Sadly, none of these core elements were ever completed in full narrative or poetic form, including this which was always planned to be the longest, a grand tragic epic. After coming through many variations of the story of Túrin in the various posthumous publications, I have long looked forward to someone, someday, putting the pieces together to form a single, coherent whole. This has been done to marvelous effect herein.
In fact, as much a fan as I long have been, I daresay that this is perhaps the best of Tolkien's work, no matter to which Tolkien one refers. No foot-dragging, no loose abstraction, no ponderous asides; this is straight-up classical heroic tragedy in the Western mode. Moreover, virtually every word outside the appendices is from original manuscripts, but for a scant few "corrections" by the editor well noted and well needed (at least for those who pay obsessive attention to such details as where the moon should be rising depending on what direction the hero is facing). No footnotes. No extraneous sites on the fold-out map. Genealogical charts of the main families, and a full glossary of names for those who have trouble keeping track of bit-players, foreign terms, and the inevitable allusions to the other interlocked stories not covered directly herein, such as "The Lay of Leithian" and the Quenta Silmarillion, which add so much to the perception of depth in the tales of Middle-Earth. And of course, Alan Lee's wonderful illustrations, some in full-color plates, which add nothing to the story, but contribute well to the overall aesthetic experience.
In short, this is my new favorite, and I can only hope that we may see a similar treatment of the Fall of Gondolin and/or the tale of Beren and Luthien before we must enter a third generation of authorship.(less)
I almost wish I hadn't read it; I am at least glad I waited until moving through some of the O.T.O. degrees myself.
While the bulk of the book focuses...moreI almost wish I hadn't read it; I am at least glad I waited until moving through some of the O.T.O. degrees myself.
While the bulk of the book focuses on the personalities and histories of Smith's associates in the world of Thelema, there come times when Starr, unrestricted by any vows surrounding the degree work, refers to information that some, particularly members of the Order, may regard as secret. Of course, since most of this focuses on the early history of the O.T.O. in North America in the first half of the 20th century, much of it no longer applies, or applies differently, today—even during the course of the narrative, while Aleister Crowley was still alive he re-edited or rewrote virtually all of the O.T.O. initiations. Still, for those of us who prefer to go into each initiation "clean," without having read ahead, this book may provide some unwanted insights and set up uncertain expectations. I would not, however, consider any of them to be outright "spoilers," and Starr includes precious little information regarding the upper degrees that wasn't already widely available, even within Crowley's more public teachings.
Apart from that, this is a fascinating look at the history of the O.T.O. in North America, and at one man's successes and failures in following out The Path as outlined by Crowley in his O.T.O. and A∴A∴ systems of High Magick. Since they were close associates, it also offers a good, if peripheral, view of the work of author:Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad), as well as touching upon Jane Wolfe, Regina Kahl, C. F. Russell, Jack Parsons, and very tangentially L. Ron Hubbard and Phyllis Seckler, among others. It also represents the first publication of all three parts of Crowley's Liber 132 ("Apotheosis"), a specific instruction from TO MEGA THERION to Smith.
Finally, it is useful as a guide to anyone involved in the middle degrees of O.T.O., mostly as a handbook of what NOT to do in the running of a fraternal magical order, narratively outlining the problems and pitfalls that still plague some such orders and bodies today, as anyone familiar with Pasadena's Agape Lodge could have told you already.(less)
Clearly, for anyone involved in the Western Mystery Traditions, especially magick, hermeticism, modern tarot,...moreI find it difficult to review this book.
Clearly, for anyone involved in the Western Mystery Traditions, especially magick, hermeticism, modern tarot, or Thelema, this is foundational material. Yet Lévi comes off as conflicted between his occult interests and his ambivalent relationship to the Church of Rome. Moreover, Waite's footnotes are as often disparaging as illuminating, and his apparent disdain for the author leads me to wonder why he bothered completing the translation at all. It is high time for a new translation in a modern context less riddled with personal opinions.
Still, there is much to value here, as can be seen from the quotes listed here, at least one of which has greatly aided my own understanding of the practice of the Qabalistic Cross. The book overall improved my knowledge of the roots of ceremonial magick in the modern era.
Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to recommend it outright. So much of it is contradictory, or amounts to little more than a confusing attempt at a faux-medieval grimoire, or misquotes the luminary alchemists and practitioners of prior ages, that it seems to me like one would have to be quite well established on one's own path before this tome could do anything other than muddy the waters.
On a more practical note, the typeset of the 1972 Weiser edition (published under the same ISBN as the later edition pictured) frankly sucks, and the index is just this side of worthless. I suspect that those are the sort of problems that such a well-respected publisher may have rectified in the more recent reprint, but I have not seen it so I cannot say.
So my bottom line is: useful for the intermediate student of the mysteries, possibly essential to the advanced practitioner, and little more than a historical curiosity to anyone else.(less)
This is an early edition, and Becket made numerous revisions over the years; therefore, when using it to follow along with, say, the Beckett on Film r...moreThis is an early edition, and Becket made numerous revisions over the years; therefore, when using it to follow along with, say, the Beckett on Film rendition, one will notice some "wrong" bits in the dialog, and even in small ways the staging, that aren't really wrong. I would've given one more star to a later edition that draws attention to the changes, or includes annotations, and will probably seek out such.
There are good reasons why the play is so famous, and revolutionizing the nature of theatre performance and the "nothing happens, twice" characterization are only the most obvious. To those not overly familiar with the Modernist and Absurdist literary movements, those reasons may be a little inscrutable. I found the collection of notes compiled by Penelope Merritt and available on the Samuel Beckett Resources webpage to be quite helpful, since I don't have time to read the voluminous literature without someone giving me a degree in trade. It certainly drew my attention to more subtle interpretations (Godot = God is just a little too obvious to be the whole thing) and the importance of bits of the text that wer, of course, more deliberately written than I had at first supposed.(less)
Generally, I greatly prefer to read books in the dead-trees format—actual paper in my hand. This was the first I've read in a long time where I found...moreGenerally, I greatly prefer to read books in the dead-trees format—actual paper in my hand. This was the first I've read in a long time where I found myself desperately longing, not only for an electronic edition, but for a fully hypertextual version, rich with links. Over the two months I spent on this volume, on and off, I believe two-thirds of my time was spent on the Internet looking up references. At the very least, this book would benefit greatly from extensive illustration: the range of artistic works referenced, from Caravaggio to Millais to Vermeer, is sure to baffle most modern readers without a degree in Art History. Remember Laurent Tailhade? Yeah, me neither.
Frankly, with the state of Liberal Arts education today, I have a hard time believing that much of anyone who has read this in the last 30-40 years has understood but a fraction of it—and reading over the reviews I can find bears this out. Both essays are often seen as little more than an apologia for "drug experimentation." While that is certainly an element of both, it can hardly be taken as Huxley's central point. It was rather Dr. Leary who much later reduced the matter to such a simple and simplistic premise, and even he had more than that to say to those who were willing and able to delve beneath the surface.
Instead, while making the case for the legitimacy of drug use, Doors offers a hypothesis for the mechanism of the experience via the well known reference to Blake and the then-current state of neuro-biological research; to wit, that ordinary perception is a matter of the mind filtering data for survival, while transformed or visionary experience—whether achieved through asceticism, art, or chemistry—opens the mind to all the data available, regardless of its mere survival value, thus allowing one to see through the ordinary to a truer vision of reality. Why, after all, should one need to starve or abase oneself for months and years to achieve such states when the same experience, or a reasonable simulacrum, can be had for the cost of a drug and perhaps a mild hangover?
Heaven and Hell goes on to develop this thesis by comparing the visions induced by exogenous chemicals to the more visionary pieces of art throughout history, as well as elaborating on the religio-spiritual theme. This is where, I believe, a majority of readers are likely to get lost, and thus explains why there are far more extant reviews of the former essay than of the latter. Even with handy art references, the latter is still the more difficult read, with its several tangential appendices and textual digressions. One might almost suppose that the drugs had not yet worn off while he wrote this one. Still, for the persistent, this is a worthwhile sequel, and it is readily obvious why the two are so often packaged together. But keep your browser near at hand, because many of his points are utterly lost without knowing the art to which he refers.
Finally, it is this very lack of illustration, and internal referencing for the modern reader, that prompts me to deduct one star from what would otherwise be a truly stellar recommendation. I continue to hope that the Huxley estate, or whoever controls the copyrights, will consider reissuing this with the necessary supplemental material, perhaps even in a definitive scholarly "critical edition." Were it in the public domain, I might take on such a project myself.(less)
As a cynic and sometime fan of The Daily Show and of Jon Stewart, naturally I found this book to be funny. It was not, however, nearly as funny as I h...moreAs a cynic and sometime fan of The Daily Show and of Jon Stewart, naturally I found this book to be funny. It was not, however, nearly as funny as I hoped and wanted it to be. In fact, it was little enough funny that I started keeping track of how funny it was or wasn't. Here are my findings:
Smirks: 7 Smiles (exclusive of smirks): 13 Chuckles: 14 Laughs (exclusive of chuckles): 10
Altogether that's only 44 instances of appreciable humor in 240 pages, or one per 5.45 pages. Hardly a laugh riot.(less)
I haven't actually played any of these, but they read well. Each of the seven self-contained "Adventurer's Guild" scenarios is designed for 4-6 mid-le...moreI haven't actually played any of these, but they read well. Each of the seven self-contained "Adventurer's Guild" scenarios is designed for 4-6 mid-level characters, and takes place in a different TSR/WoTC game setting, as follows: