The second volume of Wilson’s ‘Outsider Cycle’, Religion and the Rebel, will be reprinted by Aristeia Press after several decades of unavailability. Unnecessarily dismissed during it’s original publication some six decades ago, it remains something of a hidden gem in the Wilson canon – I vividly recall finding a first Gollancz edition in the late Eighties and was completely dazzled by it. You can get it here
An excellent review of an important CW book by Vaughan Rapatahana at Philosophy Now –
Published today from Paupers’ Press: ‘Colin Wilson’s ‘Lulu’: an unfinished novel’. In 1983 Colin Wilson wrote “For twenty-five years now I have been writing a novel called Lulu, and I must have started it a hundred times.”Wilson scholar Vaughan Rapatahana writes, in his Introduction: “From his first conceiving the idea in 1956 until about 1980-81, as evidenced not only from the part-manuscripts that we have been able to source, but more particularly from his many comments on the book over these years, Wilson was intermittently preoccupied with this novel.”
The project was never completed despite being commissioned for serialisation by BBC2 in 1976. This book contains the 176 pages of what has survived plus some of Wilson’s notes and journal entries on the novel, providing a tantalising prologue to what might have been.
News from Wilson’s bibliographer Colin Stanley: “The Dept of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham has digitised the original manuscript of ‘The Outsider’. It is available for researchers to view in their reading room. A prior appointment is necessary and, if you have not visited the Dept before, some ID will be needed in order to register with them as a reader.”
A fine taster for Gary Lachman’s forthcoming Wilson biography is in yerstday’s Washington Post here. “People flourish best, says Wilson, when confronted by obstacles and challenges. Life’s setbacks shock us out of our mental laziness and allow us, through disciplined effort, to reshape and strengthen our inner selves. An active will is the key to psychological health”. Beyond the Robot is available from both Amazon UK and Amazon. com and it comes with a very encouraging recomendation from none other than Philip Pullman – “Colin Wilson came to a sudden and unparalleled celebrity with his first book, The Outsider, in 1956, and after that was strenuously ignored by every respectable critic. So much for respectability. Gary Lachman has written an intellectual biography of a writer who might be called the only optimistic existentialist, and done him justice. Wilson was always far better and more interesting than fashionable opinion claimed, and in Lachman he has found a biographer who can respond to the whole range of his work with sympathy and understanding, in a style which, like Wilson’s own, is always immensely readable. I enjoyed Beyond the Robot very much”.
A Herculean attempt to digitise CW’s astonishing cassette archive, more welcome Wilsonian scholarship and a preview of Gary Lachman’s forthcoming biographical study, all within browsing distance of the massive Colin Wilson Collection in Nottingham. By Colin Stanley.
When the Colin Wilson Collection was opened at the University of Nottingham in the summer of 2011, it was agreed among those present that there should be a Conference to discuss his work. 2016 was mooted as an appropriate date because it coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of his first (and still most famous) book The Outsider, which, incidentally, has never been out of print since publication day in 1956 and now been translated into over 30 languages.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, Colin Wilson (who was too ill to attend the opening) died on December 5th 2013. Since then I have been assisting his widow, Joy, to sort his papers and manuscripts in preparation for their transfer to the archive. Much of this has been achieved and the University now not only holds copies of all his printed work but also a significant amount of his manuscripts, letters, journals and assorted papers.
As it happens 2016 is turning out to be an exceptional year for Colin Wilson and studies of his work. In January, Paupers’ Press published Nicolas Tredell’s Novels to Some Purpose: the fiction of Colin Wilson. In May, Cambridge Scholars published Colin Wilson’s Collected Essays on Philosophers. This was followed by Nigel Bray’s Bargaining With the Devil: the Work of Colin Wilson in a Cultural Context in June and my booklet on the Writing of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho. In September my book An Evolutionary Leap: Colin Wilson on Psychology is to be released by Karnac Books and Gary Lachman’s major biographical study Beyond the Robot: the life and work of Colin Wilson, by Tarcher/Penguin; the latter coinciding with a new edition of The Outsider with an Introduction by Lachman.
It was appropriate that all of the above-named presented papers at the First International Colin Wilson Conference on Friday July 1st. This was held at the King’s Meadow campus of the University of Nottingham where the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (and therefore Colin Wilson’s archive) is housed. Among the special guests were Joy Wilson, her daughter Sally, sons Damon and Rowan and granddaughter Rosa, all of whom were taken by the Manuscripts staff, behind the scenes on a tour of the archive store before the Conference got underway. Curiously, King’s Meadow was previously the home of ITV’s Central Studios and it was there, on a cold night in March 1995, that I, and my wife Gail, met Colin Wilson himself in the lobby. He had invited us to be in the audience at a live programme of psychic phenomena, hosted by David Frost, entitled ‘Beyond Belief’. Colin was one of the experts employed to explain the mysteries which unfolded during the course of the programme. In a wonderful example of synchronicity the programme was broadcast from the very auditorium which now holds his archive. [As of writing, the programme is on YouTube here].
The first paper was presented by Simon Brighton, a writer and musician who collaborated with Colin Wilson on a CD of music and spoken word entitled A Giant which celebrated the work of T. C. Lethbridge. He had also contributed an essay on The Philosopher’s Stone to Around the Outsider, a symposium, published by 0-Books in 2011, to celebrate Colin Wilson’s 80th birthday. For some years Simon has been working on a project to digitalise Colin’s journal which he had recorded onto hundreds of cassette tapes over the years. The delegates were treated to many audio extracts from these journals during the paper.
Professor Stephen R. L. Clark, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Liverpool, who had written an essay on The Mind Parasites for Around the Outsider, presented the next paper on a writer about whom Colin Wilson had much to say over the years: H. P. Lovecraft. His enlightening paper contained many quotes from Lovecraft and also touched upon Colin Wilson’s ambivalent attitude to the author’s work.
After a short coffee break, Nigel Bray took the floor to deliver a lecture based on a section of his newly published book (mentioned above). His paper, intriguingly entitled ‘Colin Wilson and ‘Dread of Being’’, included an analysis of the author’s important ideas on depression, boredom, and how we can overcome them.
The final paper in the morning session was delivered by Lindsay Siviter, who, as a trained historian, has worked in various museums around the UK including Scotland Yard’s famous Black Museum. As an expert on Jack the Ripper she took the delegates on an entertaining chronological guide to Colin Wilson the ‘Ripperologist’ (a term he, apparently, coined).
Before lunch a specially prepared trailer for the forthcoming film of Colin Wilson’s novel Adrift in Soho, directed by Pablo Behrens for Burning Films, was shown.
During the lunch break delegates were invited to view a display of interesting items from the archive which included early versions of Colin Wilson’s first novel Ritual in the Dark , the actual handwritten manuscript of The Outsider, various signed first editions and other treasures.
The afternoon session was kicked-off by Nicolas Tredell whose contribution to Around the Outsider was an essay on Ritual in the Dark. His fascination with this under-rated novel was reflected in his paper ‘A Ritual for Outsiders: philosophy and narrative in The Outsider and Ritual in the Dark’.
David Moore who runs the blog ‘Ritual in the Dark: essays and reflections on the work of Colin Wilson’ presented the next paper which he entitled ‘The Light Barrier: Existentialism and the occult in Colin Wilson’s science fiction’. In this paper he argued, very convincingly, that The Mind Parasites and The Philosopher’s Stone formed the link between Colin Wilson’s new existentialism and his writings on the occult.
Gary Lachman gave the penultimate paper. His many books on the occult, mysticism and psychology have made him well-known throughout the English-speaking world and he contributed the essay on Poetry & Mysticism to Around the Outsider. He chose to talk about Colin Wilson’s ‘Faculty X’: the sense of the reality of other places and other times. His paper drew much discussion among those gathered.
Finally, George C. Poulos, an independent researcher from Australia, whose main interest is in transcendent states of consciousness and who provided the essay on Beyond the Occult for Around the Outsider, delivered the last paper. He chose, not surprisingly, to speak on Colin Wilson’s transcendental theory of evolution in an attempt to provide a link between recent scientific research and Colin Wilson’s ideas.
The proceedings concluded, many of the delegates retired to my house near Trent Bridge to continue the debate fuelled by some good wine. It was here that the guest of honour, Joy Wilson, was presented with a framed artist’s caricature of her late husband. The following day there was a meal for the speakers and special guests at a local restaurant.
Photographs of the event are posted on the Colin Wilson RIP Facebook page. The video recording of some of the papers will follow at a later date as will the published proceedings.
A very interesting new study on Wilson is available to buy here. Bargaining with the Devil: The Work of Colin Wilson in a Cultural Context by Nigel Bray is published by CreateSpace. “This book is not a systematic or chronological study of his life and work, but an attempt to place him in a cultural context, and so provide grounds for a re-evaluation of his achievement.” At 484 pages, it’s a bargain for the kindle version. My Bray will be one of the speakers at the forthcoming First International Colin Wilson Conference