Colin Wilson, genius, knicker fetishist, social misfit and author of 110 books that even his publisher didn't want
May 30, 2004 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Seems more idiot than savant. Sweet though.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:11 PM on May 30, 2004

Hey, I'm jealous--I wish I'd thought of this. Colin Wilson is a very interesting guy who gives autodidactry a good name. That's a really good exposition on him. Wow, and Ernst Juenger linked right there.

The Glass Bees, Mon /Rasta Schwarzenegger Too hip!

Great post.
posted by y2karl at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2004

I must have read four or five of his books in college. Something about what he wrote about struck a powerful chord with me then, and probably still does, but I've moved on since then to finding my own way. Still, Colin Wilson's world is a wild and wacky one and I approve of it. Reading about him again reminds me of my favorite usenet post (not by me, but by this Steve Harris guy).
posted by wobh at 9:27 PM on May 30, 2004

A bit OT, but...

Genius is such an old concept, its this classist 19th century idea that was later tacked on to describe those on the high end of the IQ test.

Aren't smart people supposed be done with with overused and meaningless terms like genius? It leads to such horrible ego inflation and I'm sure puts pressure on whoever is labeled such a thing, the same way we label celebrities as "role models."

Seems to me that the word can be replaced with polymath without all the negative associations. Also, I can see someone being a genius at something, but being a genius 24/7 seems ridiculous.
posted by skallas at 9:41 PM on May 30, 2004

Eurgh. Basis thesis of The Outsider: "people think I'm a sad nerd and don't like me, but that's because ... nyahhh! ... I'm superior". I quite enjoyed The Mind Parasites though, and CW's work did at least lead to Lifeforce.
posted by raygirvan at 10:16 PM on May 30, 2004

"I said at the end of Voyage to a Beginning [his first autobiography, written 40 years ago] that I regarded myself as the most important writer of the 20th century and I'd be a fool if I didn't know it, and a coward if I didn't say it. "

Reminds me of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. It's funny to know that this kind of egotism can occur naturally.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:27 PM on May 30, 2004

I enjoyed his sci fi (sort of) novels including "The Philosopher's Stone." Another one, about soul-sucking aliens, got made into a movie. I never read The Outsider, though.

He kind of reminds me of another oddball, Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of Illuminatus!, and author of a bunch of weird stuff.
posted by Slagman at 10:29 PM on May 30, 2004

I used to love his books. They were a promise that a another world existed which cared about ideas. He also did all the hard work of ploughing through books which were not noteable for easy reading.

He lost me somewhere after The Mind Parasites, but I remember him with great affection. Wouldn't he have delighted in the internet?
posted by emf at 12:47 AM on May 31, 2004

[His autobiography] seems to constitute an attempt to classify human feelings and behaviour as written by a Martian who has never met an Earthling. This is, of course, Wilson's weakness and also, in a way, his charm — he has no understanding of other people whatever."

If that's the criterion, I also should be a genius by the time I'm 73.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:56 AM on May 31, 2004

From the interview: 'How awful,' I murmur, resolving to avoid the subject of non-pessimistic existentialism at all costs.

And the interviewer purports to write about Wilson while ignoring some of the core of his philosophy how?
posted by ChasFile at 1:38 AM on May 31, 2004

There are a lot more odious philosophies out there than Wilson's, but the first and most obvious objection to his desire to prolong the "peak experience" is the fact that peaks are defined by the valleys they adjoin, and you can't have a pinnacle without a depression. There is no escaping the fact that life has its ups and downs. The sin, as I'm sure he'd agree, is fetishing the downs, and attempting to propitiate them with your soul.
posted by Faze at 6:40 AM on May 31, 2004

Wilson really introduced me to modernist literature. I'd never heard of Villiers de L'Isle-Adam before I read The Outsider, or of Symbolism; and I think I'd only vaguely heard of Yeats or Lawrence or Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. So big points for that. He can't write fiction for squat, but his logorrhea and his odd obssessions do make him a perfect example of the interweb mentalist 50 years before his time.

(Too bad he never had a child with Ayn Rand, though.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:03 AM on May 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

I have a deep fondness for Colin Wilson's writings, and quite a bit of sympathy too for the man himself....

That said, the Guardian piss was funny as all hell. A delightful tidbit about an eccentric, quintessentially wacky Brit with a style of attention deficit disorder that's yoked to an Aussberger's profile, some notable brilliance, high energy, and a panty fetish.

Wilson missed a chance to really flumox Ms. Barber - he should have taken her out dowsing, across the moors, whilst making off color remarks about her choice of panty brands.

Wilson is - in a sense - an awful lot like a Jim Lovelock who took a wrong turn somwhere and never focused in on any subject long enough to bring to fruition a deep understanding.

Lovelock and Colin Wilson have many similarities - both classic English eccentrics, brilliant, independant to a fault, rough contemporaries.....

But, whereas Wilson started by writing "The Outsider", Lovelock began his career in earnest with the invention of the Electron Capture Detector - a device which didn't really quite work for the purposes Lovelock originally designed it for but, instead, proved uncannily accurate at detecting pollution in extremely minute quantities, parts per billion.

Wilson would have done well to take the cue, earlier in his career in terms of his interest in psychology, mysticism, spiritualism, and existentialism (lots of isms there, eh?), from Stan Grof or Charles Tart.

Much of Wilson's writing now seems derivative [ his "Mysteries" is a great read, BTW - now out of print, I think ] to me now...

I like science writing, and when I'm feeling randy, this sort of stuff

Wilson's "Mysteries" was a great read, BTW.
posted by troutfishing at 7:19 AM on May 31, 2004

Is there an echo in here, or is it the poltergeists ?
posted by troutfishing at 7:21 AM on May 31, 2004

That was great.

For the record, Nietzsche was something of a non-pessimistic existentialist, so I was kind of disappointed that she didn't ask him about it. It would have been interesting to see exactly what his views were in relation to that. Of course, I could always just read one of his books, I guess.
posted by The God Complex at 10:05 AM on May 31, 2004

"The Occult" was my introduction sometime in the smoke hazed mid 70's
Read quite a few others but it all just got too heavy.
Nice link hadn't thought of this guy for years.
posted by johnny7 at 12:29 AM on June 1, 2004

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