So which banned books have you read this week?
This week has been Banned Books Week. It sounds like it might be some sort of quirky look at the ...
The general public tend to know (at most) three things about Aleister Crowley, who was born 141 years ago this coming Wednesday, October 12th (and how to spell his first name is usually not one of them):
- The popular press dubbed him 'The most wicked man in the world' – and he wasn't inclined to argue.
- Led Zeppelin became rather obsessed with him, to the extent that Jimmy Page bought Crowley's old mansion, Boleskine, on the banks of Loch Ness
- 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law' was his basic guide to life or, if you want to take this nonsense seriously, the central tenet of the 'religion' of Thelema, which Crowley 'founded'.
Amongst all this mumbo, not to mention jumbo, the fact that he was a prolific author (and critic and artist) tends to get overlooked. He wrote dozens of short stories, two autobiographies, philosophical texts, poems, plays, not to mention a goodly (possibly wrong choice of word) amount of pornography, erotic and homoerotic literature.
You wonder how he managed to produce such a huge volume of work whilst also having Olympian amounts of sex and making it his life's work to destroy Christianity. And then you think, ‘Ah yes, the drugs’.
Talking of which... The Drug and Other Stories is a collection of 54 tales from the mixed up, muddled up but undeniably fascinating mind of a man who was, believe it or not, voted the 73rd Greatest Briton of all Time in the BBCs 2002 poll (sandwiched between Henry V and Robert the Bruce, a position which would undoubtedly have appealed to the old rogue).
The title story of the collection is one of the earliest first-hand accounts of a psychedelic experience and sets the tone for a compendium that might not be the most suitable Christmas present for Aunt Maude, but does manage to shock, scare and amuse throughout, which was probably exactly what Crowley wanted to achieve in life as well as art.