‘Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative’ by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 1997)
reviewed by Alan Moore
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.
While NOAA’s annual report shows the Arctic has lost 95 percent of its oldest, thickest ice, NASA researchers have observed ice retreat in East Antarctica—a region they’d believed was stable
As the Trump administration tries to undermine the COP 24 climate talks in Poland, new U.S. government data shows that ice melt at both of the planet’s poles—driven by rising air and ocean temperatures resulting from human-caused global warming—is worse than previously thought.
Trevor Paglen writes the kinds of books that get you into weird conversations with strangers. He takes the kinds of pictures that are slightly unnerving until you read the title card, and then it becomes a regular amount of unnerving.
While historians have examined the complexity and nuance of the 1960s counterculture, their analyses of the popular culture that was intimately connected to it continue to focus on “hippie” culture from San Francisco. The Doors represent a different side of the experience. They were influenced by ideas that were influential across the movements that coalesced into the popular resistance front of the late sixties, but the band articulated an unorthodox brand of countercultural resistance that affirmed or rejected different aspects of the culture as it was discussed at the time and as it would later be constructed in popular memory. They advocated “sex as a weapon,” while subtly eschewing “psychedelia” and rejecting the more overt elements of hippie culture, especially Woodstock, in favor of “darkness” and “constant revolution.” The band’s extreme popularity in the late sixties points to the wide appeal of their particular countercultural brand.
People have moments like that under normal conditions, of course. Sigmund Freud wrote a famous essay about them way back in 1929, Civilization and Its Discontents. A few unsettled souls will always quit that bank job and sail to Tahiti, and the stoic middle will always suck it up. But Jacobi couldn’t accept those options. Staggered by the shock of his Kaczynski Moment but intent on rising to the challenge, he began corresponding with the great man himself, hitchhiked the 644 miles from Chapel Hill to Ann Arbor to read the Kaczynski archives, tracked down his followers all around the world, and collected an impressive (and potentially incriminating) cache of material on ITS along the way. He even published essays about them in an alarmingly terror-friendly print journal named Atassa. But his biggest influence was a mysterious Spanish radical theorist known only by the pseudonym he used to translate Kaczynski’s manifesto into Spanish, Último Reducto. Recommended by Kaczynski himself, who even supplied an email address, Reducto gave Jacobi a daunting reading list and some editorial advice on his early essays, which inspired another series of TV-movie twists in Jacobi’s turbulent life. Frustrated by the limits of his knowledge, he applied to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to study some more, received a full scholarship and a small stipend, and buckled down for two years of intense scholarship. Then he quit and hit the road again. “I think the homeless are a better model than ecologically minded university students,” he told me. “They’re already living outside of the structures of society.”
The computer you’re reading this article on right now runs on a binary — strings of zeros and ones. Without zero, modern electronics wouldn’t exist. Without zero, there’s no calculus, which means no modern engineering or automation. Without zero, much of our modern world literally falls apart.
Following the band’s Rock Hall nomination, founder Gerald Casale reflects on its dystopian legacy in the age of Trump.
Presently, the fabric that holds a society together has shredded in the wind. Everyone has their own facts, their own private Idaho stored in their expensive cellular phones. The earbuds are in, the feedback loops are locked, and the Frappuccino’s are flowing freely. Social media provides the highway straight back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The restless natives react to digital shadows on the wall, reduced to fear, hate, and superstition. There are climate change deniers, and there are even more who think that the climate is being maliciously manipulated by corporate conglomerates owned by the Central Bank to achieve global control of resources and wealth. If only that James Bond-style fantasy were true, I would be much more excited about the future, which I fear is more of a slow-death conspiracy of dunces like in Mike Judge’s movie, Idiocracy, the movie Devo should have made.
It’s possible to think of the director as a troll first and serious director second – this is understandable, but regrettable
Last Wednesday, a hundred-plus American theatres hosted a new Lars von Trier film, in its ‘director’s cut,’ for one night only. It’s impossible to imagine any of Von Trier’s still-working contemporaries from, say, the 1996 Cannes Film Festival (where his international breakthrough Breaking the Waves premiered) having their latest films released this way: no such fate awaits Hou Hsiao-hsien or Mike Leigh.
The House That Jack Built (2018) arrived, carnival-barker style, as a viewer-testing orgy of extreme thrills, but it’s actually a very late-period-auteur movie which continues Von Trier’s longtime formal gambit (a widescreen, performance-foregrounding and conspicuously handheld camera style, courting utilitarian ugliness, interpolated with bits reminding you he can go hyper-formal at will) while self-reflexively reorganizing his general preoccupations. A few grody but brief insert shots aside, The House That Jack Built is no serial killer slasher but two and a half hours of uneasy black comedy carried by Matt Dillon’s unreadable (hence unpredictable, hence funny) murderer, leavened with plenty of discussion about church architecture, art and morality.