Author Archive

The Enterprise of Art

Niklaus Manuel Deutsch is an artist all but forgotten in the modern age. I’m not claiming this is some great travesty, for his work, while quite good, is not necessarily outstanding, nor was he particularly prolific. In fact, Manuel abandoned painting and etching in the last decade of his life to focus on poetry, play writing, and one of the trickiest arts of all, politics. Had he stuck with one or two disciplines perhaps he might have produced a single work that endured through the ages, as opposed to creating many worthy but unexceptional pieces that have been swept away in the great flood of history, occasionally bobbing to the surface in this coffee table book or that academic tome on plays of the Swiss Renaissance.  Of course, that’s simple conjecture–it’s entirely possible that had Manuel lived an extra thirty years and painted every single day of every single one of them he may never have produced anything more memorable than what we already have of his work. It is possible, uncharitable an observation as it is to make about any artist, that the man was simply not a genius, not a savant, that he was as good an artist as he ever could have been. (more…)

The Enterprise of Alchemy

Alchemy is a knot downright Gordian when it comes to finding an entry point for the young scribe trying to introduce his readers to the subject. One solution is to tackle the problem as Alexander would, but this in turn leaves us with a conundrum every bit as frustrating as the one we began with—instead of a compact but impenetrable knot of information, we now have countless loose, frayed ends that are just as likely to take us nowhere as they are to reveal how the intricately assembled whole came to be.

Perhaps the best approach, then, is to do as I have done and open with an overly convoluted and essentially imperfect metaphor for the problem—the encryption of meaning in complex symbolism that references the historical, the mythological, or the biblical is, after all, an essential part of the European alchemical tradition. How else to accurately pass along your wisdom without it being exploited by the unworthy? (more…)

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 3 (The End of History)

“Follow our lead,” Ardanuy had told me just before we infiltrated the underground conference. “And save any accusations for the Q and A no matter what slander they sling. Better to take it on the chin than come off as amateur.”

This advice seemed at odds with the example they set, Ardanuy and Dunn both leaping from their seats with canes brandished as soon as Tanzer issued her proclamation. Before I could, as Ardanuy had instructed, follow their lead, both men were swarmed by members of the audience packing truncheons of their own. I stood, resolute in that moment to save my mentors, when something bit my hand and I dropped the pistol Dunn had given me. Staring down in horror, I saw a fat weasel dangling from my palm, blood running down the beast’s greedy throat, and when I moved to tear it away with my free hand I felt tiny, sharp claws settle on my shoulder. I froze. (more…)

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 2

Dunn’s flight had arrived late and so we drove through the night, past Pensacola, past New Orleans, arriving in Baton Rouge just after daybreak. Both professors sat in the backseat, which did not put me any more at ease, and only the throbbing pain in my legs from the drubbing Dunn had administered kept me awake. Ardanuy directed me to a ramshackle motel on the edge of the bayou called the SoCo Inn. The carpets were damp and the mattress smelled like an overfull ashtray someone had urinated on but I was beyond caring, and as Dunn and Ardanuy sat down at the warped card table in one corner of the room I passed out. (more…)

A History of the Reality of the History of the Grossbarts: Part 1

Bullington_Sad Tale Bros. Grossbart (TP)I first encountered Hegel and Manfried Grossbart as a child in an old book my parents picked up at a garage sale—Trevor Caleb Walker’s Enter the Nexus, Black Monolith. Not realizing what a rare find this century-old edition was, my parents gave me the glorified chapbook, thinking that Walker’s thrashing, inept verse was intended as limericks for children, a bit like the copy of Wilhelm Busch’s Max and Moritz that I so adored. At that age I did not even realize Walker was intending poetry and thought it was simply a bizarrely written series of short stories about graverobbing brothers being unkind to man, woman, and beast. I certainly did not appreciate the volume’s value, and so it went the way of so many old horror comics and paperbacks—worn out and abandoned after a few summers, and entirely forgotten by the time University beckoned. (more…)