‘Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative’ by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 1997)
First published in KAOS 14, 2002
As fascinating and as ultimately mystifying as a giant squid in a cocktail dress, what shall we make of Kenneth Grant? I know few occultists without at least a passing interest in his work, and I know fewer still who would profess to have the first idea what he is on about. What he is on. To open any Grant text following his relatively lucid Magical Revival is to plunge into an information soup, an overwhelming and hallucinatory bouillon of arcane fact, mystic speculation and apparent outright fantasy, as appetising (and as structured) as a dish of Gumbo. The delicious esoteric fragments tumble past in an incessant boil of prose, each morsel having the authentic taste of magic, each entirely disconnected from the morsel which preceded it. Sometimes it seems as if inferior ingredients have been included, from an unreliable source: the occult data and the correspondences that simply fail to check out when investigated, knowledge that appears to have been channelled rather than researched. Doubtful transmissions from the Mauve Zone.
Spicing this delirious broth, characteristically we come across bewildering yet urgent outbursts in which Grant repeatedly protests that the eleventh degree ritual of the OTO involves no homosexual practices, or jaw-dropping accounts of magic workings that defy all credibility, with live baboons dragged screeching into nothingness by extra-human forces, this delivered casually, almost as after-dinner anecdote. The onslaught of compulsive weirdness in Grant’s work is unrelenting, filled with jumpy fast-cuts that remind one less of text than television: H P Lovecraft’s House Party. Each chapter an emetic gush of curdling chthonic biles and juices served up steaming, a hot shrapnel of ideas, intense and indiscriminate. A shotgun full of snails and amethysts discharged point blank into the reader’s face.
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