SLOWLY, SPITTING CRAWLS THE SNAKE: 10 TOP READS OF 2012

30 Dec

Listen: Just like we stated for the past two years, we love year-end “Top Ten/Best Of” music lists as much as anyone, not least because counting to ten represents the furthest extent of our mathematical abilities. At their best, these lists serve to elucidate, shining light on artists and work that might otherwise go under-appreciated or worse, unheard. A list can put a year of listening in perspective and and help stoke your sonic fires for the year to come, and this year, there are plenty of great lists waiting for you to devour.

But when it comes to the apes that revolt … we plead no contest. As previously indicated, we’re always tempted to let our pompous nature take over (again!) and say something about how further attempting to compartmentalize the subjective and sacred nature of our sonic rituals to fill ill-fitting categories of “best of,” “top 10″ and “the year” only serves to fuel … something we don’t want to fuel. We’re tempted, but will resist. Sorta.

The fact is that putting together a “Top 10/Best Of” list feels like toil to me, and as our friend “Ticklish” Terrance McKenna said so memorably, “man was not put on this earth to toil in the mud.”

Rather, again this year we will indulge our love of the written word.

We take a quick look at ten reads that made 2012 memorable – and this year, we feel more than fortunate to have shared interviews with four of the authors who quite deservedly made the list.

You may say it’s a cop-out, but I’m not the only one. In no particular order, for no particular reason, please take a moment to consider interacting further with ten of the best reads these apes revolved around in 2012.

Arthur – Issue #33

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Here’s one we didn’t see coming – the rebirth of Arthur magazine, now taking shape as a super-sized broadsheet after a four-year period of hibernation. More amazing than Arthur’s reanimation from its early and unfortunate grave is the fact that the most recent issue sports an immediate and undeniable return to form. Contents include an incredible interview with the late Jack Rose, an appreciation of Waylon Jennings by Stewart Voegtlin (moonlighting from the unstoppable “Chips and Beer“), and the always entertaining and illuminating two-headed dog that is the Byron Coley/Thurston Moore LP review machine. No other publication has been such a constant and compelling influence on these apes.

“Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal” by Jeffrey J. Kripal

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Read our interview with author Jeffrey J. Kripal here. We said: “Kripal … is among the most thoughtful, creative, and utterly energizing writers we’ve ever had the great fortune of encountering.”

“Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noosphere” by Richard M. Doyle

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We know what you’re thinking: “Oh, another book about the fact that human evolution is intrinsically linked to psychedelic plants? Yawn!” Doyle’s book goes far, far, far beyond simply that, toward incredibly timely and well-reasoned insights on the drug war, the interconnectivity of the modern world and the totality of human consciousness. It’s no easy read but Doyle, a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, is a master of communicating the complex. To wit:

“If the Upanishads instruct that ‘Tat Tvam Asi,’ ‘You are that,’ and they do, ‘that’ is an ecosystem subject to sudden volatility and massive extinctions even as it is increasingly interconnected with an otherwise dynamic, even lively, cosmos. It is therefore a rhetorical challenge to make this perception available to those humans who so violently cling to visions of autonomy even as they are forced to adapt. Rhetoric is the practice of learning and teaching eloquence, persuasion,and information architecture by revealing the choices of expression or interpretation open to any given rhetor, viewer, listener, or reader.”

You took the words right out of my mouth, dude.

“Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power, 1965-1975”

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Read our interview with author Pat Thomas here. We said: “What ‘Listen, Whitey!’ is, then, is a book-length discovery and celebration of how the concept of Black Power – one of the many, varied and emerging ways of liberation – influenced the culture of the time. It is also, without question, one of our very favorite books of the year.”

“100 Lost Rock Albums from The 1970s” by Matthew Ingram

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It’s not so much that Ingram opened our eyes to dozens and dozens of albums from the decade that gave birth to not only the idiot typing this right now and Blue Oyster Cult (not to mention the great variety of things in-between), though in a way, he did do that. It’s not even that all of the hundred albums Ingram writes about are totally forgotten. But there is something terribly compelling about the way Ingram pulls it all together in a way that’s really not just about the 70’s and not just personal. Relatively short as an eBook, we look forward to more books of this quality.

“On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S.” by Sean Stewart

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Read our interview with author Sean Stewart here. We said: “Sean Stewart’s beautiful and bountiful book [is] alternately eye-opening and eye-popping … Stewart presents a compendium of the images that once flooded underground newspapers across the United States, along with the thoughts, remembrances and stories of those who were their, hands dirtied with ink.”

“Dark Pool of Light – Volume One: The Neuroscience, Evolution, and Ontology of Consciousness” and “Dark Pool of Light – Volume Two: Consciousness in Psychospiritual and Psychic Ranges” by Richard Grossinger

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Somewhere among the universe of words that exists on author Richard Grossinger’s website (and if you find yourself feeling non-committal on his books, do yourself the favor of spending some time on his website), he relays the thoughts of an old college friend, which we will paraphrase as, “Damn it, I love you Richard, but you really need an editor.” It makes us laugh, but we would fiercely disagree. Grossinger’s “Dark Pool of Light” series – of which the third volume was just recently published, though we’ve yet to dive in – is in many ways the logical extension of an author working without an editor or perhaps more to the point, without constraint. Here, we’ll steal the words of the above-mentioned Jeffrey J. Kripal:

“I hesitate to call this trilogy a book, or even three books. I mean, what is it? A double treatise on the limitations of scientific materialism and the renunciatory logic of Buddhism? A celebration of the possibilities of a shameless, liberated, lid-off theosophical imagination? A spiritual autobiography? An ethnographic report on some ‘psychic studies’ in Berkeley? The answer, of course, is that it is all of these things, and more.”

“Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood” by Peter Bebergal 

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Read our interview with author Peter Bebergal here. We said: “‘Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood’ carries the written equivalent of the buzzing, transformative urgency employed in song by The Electric Prunes nearly fifty years ago, reverberating in time with the legions of seekers that preceded the Prunes for millenia – if more upfront from the outset that this quest for communion with God will remain necessarily unfulfilled. As a book, Bebergal presents something several degrees beyond simply a memoir.”

“Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” by Sean Howe

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There was a certain sense of sadness mixed with relief that occurred as we turned the last few pages of Howe’s hero-sized account of the history of Marvel Comics. Sadness because now we know all of the secrets behind the company and behind many of the artists who made such a hero-sized impression on our impressionable brain during adolescence (and beyond). Relief because now we don’t have to wonder anymore (and at least we have confirmation that “Captain Marvel” was indeed fueled by LSD).

“How to Build An Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection” by David Dufty

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There was once a Philip K. Dick Android. We know that much is true. The Android was lost in transit and has never been recovered. Author David Dufty fills in the gaps in this marvelous, even-handed account of the creation.

BILL

One Response to “SLOWLY, SPITTING CRAWLS THE SNAKE: 10 TOP READS OF 2012”

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  1. TEN TUNES AND TEN TOMES WITH THE VACANT LOTS | Revolt of the Apes - May 30, 2013

    […] then: as a music website that has for three years running persisted in listing our ten top pieces of reading material, along with being fortunate enough to […]

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