Monday, December 19, 2005

Reading and repentance

Not for the first time, I seem in danger of contradicting myself. After reading a fascinating thread on Crooked Timber about books we regret having read as kids, I was about to argue that there was no reason to feel shame about having dabbled with the likes of Erik von Daniken and Colin Wilson. These folk might be difficult to take seriously as thinkers, but their work has, I was thinking, a certain mad poetry which is bound to appeal to kids and which has a certain value for the rest of us, too. I mean, von Daniken might be decidedly dodgy as far as the old empirical research goes, but who else would have an imagination grand enough to fuse prehistory with science fiction, as he does with his theory of the role of 'aliens' in evolution? (Alright, I suppose the first half of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey might have done something similar, but Kubrick isn't bad company to be in, is he?)

I must confess that I defend von Daniken out of impure motives: I pillaged one of his numerous tomes for part of a recent sequence of prose poems:

The Astronauts

The alien astronauts landed in the clearing their force field had burned out of the jungle. The ape men dropped slowly from their branches, and crept in twos and threes into the shadow of the ship. The astronauts removed their helmets and fell to their knees: from this moment, they would worship the inhabitants of the new world as Gods. Soon they would alter their genes, remaking themselves in the image of the Gods.*

There's not a great deal of forgiveness on display, however, in my latest intervention at the long-suffering spanblather blog: that poor old fascist JRR Tolkien gets a right old raking over. What happened to charity for cranks? Perhaps, though, I'd be less favourably inclined towards von Daniken if he boasted legions of annoying fans and a trilogy of absurdly over-rated film adaptions. A crank isn't so funny when he's taken seriously...

*Richard Taylor vows that he will respond to this piss take with a poem portraying von Daniken as a staunch anti-imperialist. Do your best, mate.


Blogger span said...

define "long-suffering" please.

1:37 pm  
Blogger maps said...

As in 'long has spanblather suffered the contradictions and spleen of comrade Maps'. But you can make it into a slight if you rooly rooly want to!

3:30 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Some how or other I also like the fact that there are von Dannikens and Thor Heyerdals - keeps the rationlalists honest -keeps them alive! There is a feeling almost of racism from von Danniken -that "ordinary" humans in the East or in Northern Africa couldn't have built the pyramids whereas - it has been shown they are relatively easy to build using human labour -levers, ramps etc. And those people had accurate measuring & quite advanced maths and records etc (and the pyramids are wonderful achievments)...but it's still good to feel that there are some mysteries - and indeed in the world and in nature and there ARE some mysteries that are unsovable.

And von Dannikens -we need eccentrics like him - in this all too rational world.

10:17 pm  

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