Jim Razinha's Reviews > Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy

Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson
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Aug 04, 2011

did not like it

Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. I can say this with reasonable certainty because any other books that might have qualified for that distinction (anything Hemingway, Joyce's Ulysses come to mind) I would never have finished. I've reached a point in my life where my time is too valuable to waste on stupid things. If I've gotten all I can out of a book, or all I expect I can get, then there is no point reading further.

With Wilson, I had to finish for several reasons:

1) I needed to see for myself how his fiction related to his non-fiction (nearly indistinguishable, and that's not a compliment)

2) I wanted to see if he had anything of value to say (sadly, no)

3) I wanted to see if he managed to tie things up (again, no)

4) I need to read the entire trilogy in case my initial assessment would change (it didn't)

In short, Wilson is pretentious, absurd, a bit obscene, not funny at all, not anywhere near as clever as he thinks (thought; he died in 2007), and wrote bizarre surreal text that Vonnegut did better. He got cute at one point, knowing that critics would pan it as drivel, an inserted a comment that implied that anyone reading his work (or the work of a character that was his mirror) wouldn't understand it, and would necessarily dislike it.

Well, I didn't "get it" because there was nothing to "get". 545 pages of nonsense. And I have a problem calling this science fiction. Fiction, yes. Fantasy, maybe, probably. But inserting a couple of references to quantum physics does not make is science fiction. Mumbo jumbo. And the fans who read more into it than is there are like the caricatures of pretentious art admirers standing in a museum and pretending to "see" what the artist was trying to "convey". Hogwash. Wilson liked his LSD and it showed through in this mess. Sprinkling a few parrot droppings from a reading of Niels Bohr does not a physicist make.

Now, in the Dell rollup, on page 225, Wilson relates a story of a character, Hugh Crane, who at age ten watches a Mysterious Tramp who keeps asking people questions, all of whom shook their heads and walked on. Hugh couldn't understand why if the Tramp got his answer, he kept asking. "Didn't he believe the people who already answered the question?" (The Tramp, unbeknownst to the ten year old, was begging for food or money.) I got a kick out of this, because at age five, I determined that the job I would have when I grew up would be that of the guys directing traffic on the side of the highway (they were hitchhiking and pointing the way for the cars with their thumbs!)

I did find one line funny: page 396, James Earl Carter in that particular universe was a physicist, and said, "Ah don't understand politics. [...] Ah'm a scientist."

And on page 478, I found one passage prophetic (okay, I don't believe in that crap, but it sure was applicable to the 2001-2009 administration): "The President in Leary's book, called Noxin [Nixon], was a monster. He got the country into totally unnecessary wars with out the consent, and sometimes even without the knowledge, of Congress. He lied all the time, compulsively, even when it wasn't necessary. He put wiretaps on everybody - even *himself*."

If you like Vonnegut, you might like this. If you like Adams' Hitchhiker, you might (probably not. Adams was funnier, even though I don't find any of his stuff "hilarious".)

As for me, I'll never again get back the time I lost being stubborn enough to finish this junk. But then, Wilson may be right and in the quantum, world, I will.

Yeah, right.
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08/14 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Prakriti (new)

Prakriti So let me see, Hemingway and James Joyce's Ulysses are amongst the worst books you have ever read, you do not find Douglas Adams funny, and by the tone of your sentence, you don't think much highly of Vonnegut either.
You speak much passionately of wasting your valuable time while reading this book, so I was genuinely curious to see what kind of books do you like. Your good reads profile isn't much helpful in that as well.

What DO you love reading, Jim?

message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 1 star

Jim Razinha I did not say Adams was not funny. I said he was not "hilarious". I used quotes because I've seen that term exactly used to describe THHGTTG.

Further, if you look again atthe paragraph after the list of reasons I had to finish the trilogy, you'll see that I said Vonnegut did surreal better than Wilson. Nowhere did I say I do not think highly of Vonnegut, though to be fair, I last read him more than 30 years ago and I might not think the same now as then.

I guess my "read" list is not visible to you, and even if it was, it's only the ones I've actually entered into Goodreads - I own more than 5400 books, though 2000 of those are young adult and children's book.

I like James Loewen, Sam Harris, Bill Bryson, Larry Niven, John Allen Paulos, Al Franken, Jack Chalker. I've enjoyed Paul Johnson's histories, Michael Shermer, Brian Greene, Walter Isaacson's biographies, Martin Gardner, books on math and physics and religious investigations. I like David McCullough's writings, but despise that he does not footnote his work, so one can't tell if what he's written is a quote or as assessment (I keep two bookmarks to allow flipping back and forth, and often find myself taking a detour mid-book to follow up on a reference.)

When I'm in a frivolous mood, I'll read Simon Hawke, Clive Cussler and even Dan Brown or Michael Crichton. I draw my frivolous line at Stephen King and Tom Clancy, though.

When I wrote this rant review, I was deep into two of Wilson's other nonsense books: "Quantum Psychology" and "The New Inquisition". Wilson either took too much LSD or not enough...and I thought his grudge against Martin Gardner and Carl Sagan was rather immature and unfounded. Gardner never said anything about Wilson save to mention to an interviewer that he couldn't understand why Wilson hated him.

I read to learn or be entertained. Most of what people call "the classics" neither teach nor entertain me. I do try to understand, but I have yet to have anyone explain to me how Gatsby is great, why Hemmingway or Joyce are in any way great writers. Ayn Rand and Diana Galbaldon and many others wrote giant tomes like Joyce's Ulysses but he stands apart. Still curious why.
When I was in my late teens, Rand's body of work was engaging. As an adult, I see her numerous flaws. (To be clear, I've not read Galbaldon...I just know she writes huge books.)

I also don't think hanging a urinal in a museum and calling it a fountain, or painting soup cans is art. I happened to be married to an artist who is drawn to abstracts, so any opinion I have on that matter is dismissed quickly. I don't get emotionally drawn in to any work of fiction - no one has written anything that I can think of that would even come close to doing so. I did get angry after reading "Lies My Teacher Told Me", but that's nonfiction. I've laughed out loud at Al Franken's works...again, nonfiction.

So, I'm going to go out on a limb here an guess that I've struck a nerve of an apparent fan of Wilson, And my dislike of his stuff was offensive. I've not written much on my blog this summer, but I have seen at least one page view per week coming from someone googling Wilson (I wrote rather extensive analyses of the two pieces I mentioned above, as well as posting this rant there, too) so I wonder that there are a few fans looking for validation or perhaps looking for corroboration. Also on my "read" list, you'll find I gave one star to William Gibson's "Neuromancer", though I actually gave up on that one. I don't quit books easily, but I should have on this one, too.

I like reading. I like learning. I don't LOVE to read anything in particular, though I do like fantasy and science fiction. Two works number among my favorite re-reads: The Lord of the Rings and Dune. And in case I have misrepresented, I do like some nonsense; Ted Nancy is one who I would call hilarious. But then the nonsense I enjoy reading is deliberately so. I'm afraid Wilson didn't realize his was.

message 3: by Prakriti (new)

Prakriti Hey Jim,

Thanks for humoring me with that detailed a reply. I am not a fan of Wilson, haven't ever read anything by him. I was on the Goodreads page of this book, because I had been mulling over reading it and wanted to see others' perceptions of it.

I am however a huge fan of Hemingway, and I find that that I "learn and get entertained" by his words (to borrow your words).

I didn't take offense at your review above, and wasn't seeking validation or corroboration either. As I mentioned earlier, I was genuinely curious on what do you love reading, since you had pretty strong views about some very influential and well loved writers.

You have answered me by the opening of your last paragraph "I like reading. I like learning. I don't LOVE to read anything in particular."

Thank you.

message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 1 star

Jim Razinha Thanks, Prakriti. I was harsh in this "review" and harsher still in my analyses of his other two that I mentioned. I decided to leave it up as is, rather than tone it down, even though I might turn off potential readers. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean someone else won't. Same goes for Hemmingway...I am in the minority there. I just can't fathom how his simplistic writing is considered great. But that's me.

message 5: by Trooper (new)

Trooper Isomorph Hemmingway is hardly simplistic.

Denis Gardens Hahaha dude you just bashed some of the greatest literature in the past 100 years in one paragraph. I don't know if you are full of shit and trying to get a rise out of people or you're serious and totally fucking clueless but Wilson aside--which I think is incredibly funny, witty and mind opening--Joyce and Hemingway are two of the worlds greatest writers. Their work is not simplistic or overrated and in fact if you grasped anything from their work it should have been that both writers were incredibly deep and encompassing. Just Ulysses alone can serve one with a lifetime of illumination--I have read Ulysses only a handful of times and have been astounded at the amount of new themes, symbolism, and all sorts of mind blowing connections every time I have picked the book up. So I would highly suggest that you re-read Joyce and Hemingway cause you clearly missed out on a whole lot of goodness.

message 7: by ironicinori (new)

ironicinori I should have stopped reading at Ulysses. Not sure if insufferable hipster, or honestly just not very good at reading. You're entitled to your opinion of course, but if it differs from 99.999% of readers, the problem may lie with you, not the book.

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