Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a true classic…the plot grips you right away, and the two young boys, Jim and Will, are some of the coolest characters out there…well, maybe.

I like the story, really, and I do like the characters, but I cannot stand the way the book is writtem. Look:

Just after midnight.
Shuffling footsteps.
Along the empty street came the lightning-rod salesman, his leather valise swung almost empty in his baseball-mit hand, his face at ease. He turned a corner and stopped.
Paper-soft white moths tapped at an emtpy store window, looking in.

What the hell does that mean?

Shouldn’t there be a comma after Paper-soft? Why is there a comma before looking in? What does that sentence even have to do with the salesman? The whole book is filled to the brim with this crap, not to mention that practically everything regarding the writing style is what today’s reviewers, editors, and publishers consider incorrect, and let me tell you, the story is not so amazing as to eclipse this fact.

It really bothers me to no end that people eat this up and consider it an American classic. From the perspective of a writer, everything about this book-technically speaking-is wrong. Furthermore, from the point of view of a reader, it’s just bulky and filled with nonsense, which doesn’t even drive the story forward, but again, the story is actually pretty neat.

Read it, don’t read it, I don’t care. I just wanted to vent because it’s considered a classic and not just a crowd favorite. Gatsby’s a classic…not this thing.

Thanks for listening, and sorry you wasted the last 5 minutes of your time.

Tales of Power

Tales of Power is yet another of the books written by Carlos Castaneda, and the first to totally dissect the teachings of Juan Matus. It starts off simply enough with Castaneda’s return to Central Mexico. He questions Juan as to why the use of psychotropics was such a heavily used component in his teachings after it was discovered that the actual teachings were not at all in the use of psychotropics.

“Because you’re dumb,” Juan counters.

I’ve stated before that this is the case, and though it is imperative-or maybe not- that the books are read in some kind of cohesive order, the true teachings are revealed in this exciting novel.

From the book:

He said that in line with the rationale he had rallied my interest around the idea of “seeing”, which properly understood, was the act of dealing directly with the “nagual,” an act that was the unavoidable result of but an unattainable task as a task per se.

“What was the point of tricking me that way,” I asked.

“Sorcerers are convinced that all of us are a bunch of nincompoops,” he said. “We can never relinquish our control voluntarily, thus we have to be tricked.”

…he had tricked me into considering the real issues of his teachings as inconsequential affairs. Erasing personal history and “dreaming” were never as important to me as “seeing”.

You see, the entirety of all those acts, which everyone dismissed from the first or even first three novels, were tricks employed by a most rational individual; Juan Matus. It was because “power” had provided him an apprentice that he did whatever farcical thing necessary to elicit the proper response from his apprentice. Castaneda was a dunce, which he openly admits, and as such, Juan had to use whatever Pan-Indianism was at his disposal.

Again from the book:

It had indeed taken me years to realize the importance of those suggestions made by Don Juan.

…it was only in the later years of my apprenticeship that I realized the meaningful transformations and findings of sorcerers were always done in states of sober consciousness.

It’s too bad that by this time Castaneda had practically vanished from the world. The only real avenue of him left was his later novels, and his Magical Passes; something I’ll eventually touch on.

I have been asked why I cling so desperately to these teachings. I don’t…that’s my answer; I simply really enjoy the novels, and have to-like a warrior-believe because I have to. There is no point in living in a world explicable by man’s designs. How awful a state of affairs to think that entire complexity of the universe, of perception, can be explained to man’s standards. I choose to believe that there is more to us than our reason, and yet I obviously function quite well in the world of mundane affairs.

Unlike most of those, who read and dismiss, I set out to actually employ some of the “techniques” or “suggestions” brought to light in these novels. Frankly, I don’t care who believes what, I know that I can control my dreaming to perfection. I know I have been able to shut off my internal dialogue for a period of time and experienced things indescribable. I know that I have learned to “know” things, which by reason’s design I should not be able to know…my only wish is that everyone around me had the indifference to try and experience the world beyond the description created by the ever fallible man, and instead suspend judgment for only a moment…

We have all had a friend on our mind in such a forceful manner that when he/she calls we simply knew it was only a matter of time. Parents often “know” their children are in distress even though they live miles away. We often “know” we should not take a certain route to work, and yet we dismiss these things…these things we call a “gut feeling”. We have our own term for it, and yet we still dismiss it. Castaneda tells us why we do that.

Many of us trust in a higher power. Many of us meditate or pray. We trust in Astrology, or animal totems, or the teachings of God, and there is nothing wrong with that. We, all of us, instinctively know that there is some unseen reality out there just waiting to be experienced.

Some of us have even experienced lucid dreaming or astral projection, out of body experiences, and still-STILL-we dismiss these acts because they are foreign to us, but what if this stuff was taught to us on a regular basis from a young age? What a world we might live in!

So far as I can tell, everything that can be experienced can be-at least loosely-explained in reference to the teachings of Juan; ghosts, aliens, strange dreams, premonitions, many of them in the realm of what Juan calls the “knowable”, which is what man acts with directly, and other things belong to the “unknown”, something still in the reach of man, but unfamiliar, and then there is the “unknowable”, and it is a dangerous affair, but that is a discussion for a review of a later book.

I think Tales of Power is pretty good. It is not my favorite in the teachings, and probably not as entertaining as Journey to Ixtlan nor as spellbinding as The Power of Silence, but a solid novel deserving of 5 stars. Seriously, do yourself a favor and involve yourself with these novels, if only as a means of entertainment.

Thank you.

 

 

 

A Separate Reality

A Separate Reality is the second book written by Carlos Castaneda, and while still practically mired in the realm of hallucinogenic mixtures, a few new topics are brought to life; seeing, living like a warrior, and shutting off the internal dialogue.

It is those three concepts, which bring a rather large change to the narrative presentation. Some people argue that it is because the book veers away from the initial inspections of the first book that it must all be fake. Okay, very possible. It is also possible, as Castaneda states later on, that his conglomeration of notes were mostly tossed aside because he  believed the teachings were predicated on tripping balls.

So, it isn’t that the story or characters have changed, it’s that Castaneda uses previously unused notes in his story.

I want to stop here and state firmly that I am not trying to convince anyone that we can be sorcerers. It’s simply that these stories have had an overwhelming impact on my life and I see how stale everyone else around me is, yet I see the world as something new and fresh everyday…

Anyway, if nothing else, the story if used as an allegory can still show us what many books, T.V. programs, movies, etc., shows us; ways to enrich our lives. The actual events don’t have to be true or accurate. The bible may well not be real, but the teachings are still valid, no? Once more, I’m not saying the bible is fake, but it is written by God’s fallible man. The only thing God ever wrote was the 10 commandments, and if you look into the real commandments, not the ones altered in the 19th century, they are very powerful and actually fit quite well with Don Juan’s living as a warrior.

So here’s a little exchange that I really enjoy:

Juan looked at me with an air of disbelief then broke into laughter.

“What would you do?” I urged him.

“If someone is waiting for me with a rifle with a telescopic sight?” he said, obviously mocking me.

“If someone is hiding out of sight, waiting for you. You won’t have a chance. You can’t stop a bullet.”

“No. I can’t, but I still don’t understand your point.”

“My point is that all your strategy cannot be of any help in a situation like that.”

“Oh, but it can. If someone is waiting for me with a powerful rifle with a telescopic sight I simply will not come around.”

There you have it. This is key for martial artists. The first line of defense is not be in the way of danger; to not be pinned down by routines. In essence, this is living as a warrior.

As a whole, the book is nearly perfect; funny and lighthearted at times, filled with anticipation at others, it paints beautiful pictures, and will take you to another world…even if it is only in your mind.

A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge is the first of many books written by Carlos Castaneda. While there is, and has been, a great deal of controversy over the author and his books, the story itself-his alleged apprenticeship-is beyond fascinating.

A Yaqui Way of Knowledge is Castaneda’s reportage of his first four years  of friendship with an old Indian shaman. Most of the book focuses on Castaneda’s experiences with a variety of hallucinogenics; this is because at the beginning of the teachings the author was under the impression that these altered states of reality were in fact the knowledge imparted by the old shaman.

I have read all of the books many times over during my eight or so years of owning them. Here and now, I just want to touch on the first book.

The one issue I have is my issue with many literary works; passive phrasing. All too often it is written that something could happen or something would happen; a personal pet peeve. The saving grace is that the whole of the book is essentially one big narrative; the apprenticeship as experienced by the author, and we do tend to talk in a sort of passive way. It’s just more natural.

That aside, the imagery-sounds, scents, sights, vivid descriptions of things for which we have no known inventory-is masterfully depicted, and the characters…they are simply astounding.

Fact or fiction, the method in which Castaneda openly presents himself as a pompous thick headed dummy reduced to tears every fifteen minutes makes for a great read, and the old Indian, Juan, appears to be the archetype of the wise and aged Indian medicine man. there’s also a great deal of humor.

“So I did have a body, as I do now?” I asked.

“No, you did not have a body the way you do now,” Don Juan answered. “The smoke took it away.”

“Then where did it take my body?”

“How in hell am I supposed to know that?”

Maybe it’s just me, but I find those kinds of exchanges absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, it seems that most people want to dismiss the whole topic as fiction, and again, it may be, but for those who read beyond the first book and actually read through all the books over and over again, it becomes exceedingly evident that Castaneda admits that he mistook the hallucinogenic experiences as lessons, when they were not. I won’t get into the teachings with this post. Instead, I just want to invite you to try something new.