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The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 24.50
39 used & new from CDN$ 19.15

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Most Disappointing Book on Tarot I Have Ever Read., Dec 3 2009
There are so few books in English about the Marseilles tarot that I was thrilled to learn that Alejandro Jodorowsky's "La Voie du Tarot" had been translated into English. My excitement quickly turned to confusion, then disappointment. This book is probably the most illogical, uninformed, arrogant, and inept book on the subject that I've ever read.

A few years ago, Jodorowsky embarked on a project to "restore" the Marseilles-style tarot. "...we observed that some Tarots have identical and superimposable drawings, and yet each contains symbols that do not appear on the others. We deduced that they had been copied from the same Tarot, an older version that is now missing. It is this original missing Tarot that we wanted to restore." He criticizes, quite rightly, Waite, Dali, Crowley, and others who have re-interpreted the tarot over the years. "Each new deck of cards contains the subjectivity of its authors, their vision of the world, their moral prejudices, their limited level of awareness... every occultist alters the original structure."

After reading this book (actually, about 50 pages in or before) it becomes apparent that Jodorowsky and Philippe Camoin (his partner is this project) have done exactly what he has criticized the occlutists for. He has essentially created his own personal Marseilles tarot, and imposed upon it his own "esoteric" system of belief, without offering any documentation or substance in the way of proof or explanation. "The Way of Tarot" is over 500 pages long, yet has only 10 "notes" (which actually aren't notes, but bibliographic entries). This book, then, is not really about the Marseilles tarot, but the supposed "restored" cards done by the author and Camoin.

Details on their process and methods would have been welcome. For example, which details came from which decks? Why were some details chosen over others? Camoin claims to be the direct descendant of Nicholas Conver, but no proof is offered. Also, reference is made to a mysterious, "very old" tarot found in a shoebox belonging to a dead friend -- which supposedly provided the authors with important clues toward a rectified color scheme -- though no effort is made to identify the deck or explain why it was considered important. Also, no proof. Photographs of some of the cards should have been included.

This book is a frustrating read, often due to Jodorowsky's habit of making broad statements, and then completely contradicting them, like in the examples below. He usually seems unaware he is doing this. Breaches of logic, reason and perception occur, nay, abound, on nearly every page. At one point he writes, ludicrously, that he believed (before the completion of his own deck) the most authentic Marseilles tarot to be Paul Marteau's 1930 version (Grimaud), and that the 17th and 18th century versions could not be trusted because they had become corrupt over time. And although Jodorowsky chooses to call the cards "arcanum", hypocritically adopting the pretentious term coined by the occultists he despises, he never satisfactorily explains why this terminology is acceptable to him. Those of us who use the Marseilles deck are generally quite content with "trumps" and "pips".

Even though he's made his position clear on the "occult" tarot of Waite, The Golden Dawn and others, he more often than not adopts their ideas (errors and all) about the cards. For example, he uses their elemental attributions of the suits -- and never once questions it. He simply says something along the lines of "Why not? Makes sense to me.". At least a discussion of why a weapon forged in fire is attributed to air, or why Sticks (excuse me, Wands) is attributed to an element that consumes it, would have made this section more interesting. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky is neither a scholar or an intellectual; he's an artist, and he's simply not equipped to deal with problems such as these.

Some of the cracks in the foundation may be due to the translation by Jon E. Graham. The suits are translated as Swords, Cups, Wands(!) and Pentagrams(!) -- and I can't really believe the Jodorowsky would use these terms as the French names would be clear to his French readers. I question why the translator chose to use Rider-Waite terminology when the author spent the better part of the introduction criticizing Waite and other occultists' alterations to the "original" tarot. Again, we who use the Marseilles tarot call the suits what they are: Swords, Cups, Sticks and Coins.

The Rider-Waite titles are used for the trumps as well: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Tower, etc. The only trump that is not called by its traditional name is Death, which Jodorowsky absurdly calls "The Nameless Arcanum". While it's true that in most Marseilles decks Death is not titled, the author fails to note (probably due to his ignorance of historical matters) that in the earliest tarots, all of the trumps were untitled. He explains that the term "death" is too simplistic to convey the real meaning of the card -- and then goes on to give a basic and traditional interpretation of card XIII. I am at a loss to see how "the Nameless Arcanum" is more precise and descriptive than "Death".

Many sentences make no sense in their English translation:

"Simply creating new versions of the Tarot of Marseilles, anonymous like all sacred monuments, by imagining it is enough to change the drawings or the names of the cards to achieve a great work, is pure vanity."

Yes, you can pick out the meaning. It could have been written more clearly, and there are numerous examples of this sort of thing throughout the book. One wonders if an editor even saw it before it went to the proofreader.

Here's an example of the author's style, from the chapter on "The Magician":

"Although represented by a male figure, The Magician is an androgynous individual working with light and shadow, juggling from the unconscious to the superconscious. He is holding an active wand in his left hand, while in his right he hold a receptive pentacle. This yellow coin, a miniature sun, symbolizes perfection and truth, but it also tells us that The Magician does not overlook the daily necessities. The blue wand in his other hand is seeking to capture the cosmic force. We can also see an extra flesh-colored object there, like a sixth finger, that will find an echo in the second decimal series, in the sixth toe of Strength..."

That's enough. Needless to say, he never explains why he believes any of this to be true -- he simply states it as fact, and assumes we are willing to accept what he says without question. Male, yet androgynous? Also, the Magician does not have a sixth finger -- either in Jodorowsky's deck, or any other Marseilles that I could find. Strength's "sixth toe" is a detail that was probably added by Jodorowsky as I can't find one in any of the Marseilles decks that I own. It's clear that the details of this "restoration" were incorporated (or invented) not because of any sort of in-depth research or study, but from the author's own mystical ramblings. Another indication that this deck is not a restoration, but a personal reinterpretation of the traditional Tarot de Marseilles.

At this point I should mention that most of the various details that Jodorowsky points out in the cards appear to be in his deck only, and therefore are probably his own creation. On "The Magician" he makes a great deal about the three dice and the knife that looks like a serpent's tail. Also, "orange balls" in the Magician's hair. A fingernail painted red on Strength. A secret "egg" hidden in the wreath on The World. All of these tiny details appear only in the "restored" deck. I've not been able to find precedence for any of this -- and the author's list of secret symbols and hidden meanings is endless. Of course, he doesn't offer to fill us in either. Instead we are given page after page of opinion and subjective observations stated as fact.

Jodorowsky also sees things that simply do not exist, and often writes at length about them: plants that supposedly look like vaginas, hidden planets in hair, extra fingers and toes, etc. Somehow he is able to identify eagle feathers in Strength's hat. Truth be told, there is simply not enough detail in the original woodcut prints to allow us to identify the bird from which the feathers came, or even if they are feathers at all. Nevertheless, our Author builds a whole argument around them.

If the book has anything to recommend it, the sections on numerology and the pips (oh, excuse me, the Minor Arcana) are interesting and engaging -- after all, numbers don't lie. The interpretation of this numerological data is not entirely free of the sorts of flaws that pervade the rest of the book, however.

Jodorowsky's conclusion, titled "The Tarotic Philosophy" (one wonders why the translator shied away from "Popess" yet uses a made-up word like "tarotic") contains this amusing and self-damning statement:

"The bad tarologist, who mistakes thinking for believing, delivers whimsical interpretations and then searches in the Arcana for those symbols that can confirm his conclusions. For him, truth is a priori, followed a posteriori by the quest for the truth."

Officially and without a clue Jodorowsky has qualified himself as a "bad tarologist". He goes a step further. When he cannot find a symbol that confirms his conclusions, he either has had Camoin draw the symbol on the card for him, or he simply chooses to see something that isn't there (extra fingers and teeth usually, and also vaginas).

I rarely feel this way about books I have purchased, but I honestly wish I hadn't spent $[...] for this. It's just poor all around -- poor scholarship (actually, no scholarship), bad translation, no index, hardly any notes or bibliography. "The Way of Tarot" doesn't satisfy on any level. What a disappointment.

Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon -- The Case Against Celebrity
Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon -- The Case Against Celebrity
by Andrew Breitbart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.51
21 used & new from CDN$ 20.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Hysterical and entertaining., March 4 2004
The nasty reviews here are probably by fans of Oprah and members of the Church of Scientology -- two big targets in this shocking and hysterical exposé of Hollywood celebrities. Thankfully, this book is more than a witty roast; it has a valid point. The lifestyles of the rich and famous are immoral and depraved beyond description -- yet the public is somehow hoodwinked into thinking that because these people are famous they are somehow above the rest of us (and the law as well). Four thumbs up and a pat on the back to both Ebner and Breitbart for having the courage to tell the truth about America's "royalty".

Feast of Blood
Feast of Blood
by James Malcolm Rymer
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 16.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting from a historical perspective, but�, Oct. 1 2001
This review is from: Feast of Blood (Paperback)
This book was always considered as the work of Thomas Prest. A reprint was issued some years ago with a well-argued essay contending it was the work of Jame Malcolm Rymer. The essay never took into account that "Varney the Vampyre, or the Feast of Blood" was published complete in both their lifetimes under Prest's name, and Rymer never contested it -- as he surely would, considering the money it made.
It is the first vampire novel ever written. It is also poorly written, poorly typeset, illustrated with a hodgepodge of woodcuts from many sources, and about hundreds of pages too long.
The author was writing many other "penny dreadfuls" at the time, and there are a few instances in Varney where he simply forgot which one he was writing. Incidents occur with characters that don't belong in the story -- and they are either hastily written out by the following installment, or they simply vanish. The writer also quite obviously fleshed-out copy simply to fill space.
Varney himself is not your typical vampire. He walks about in the day, exhibits few vampire-like characteristics (except when he's feeding), and may just as well be an elegantly-dressed Ed Gein. As the book progresses, he appears less and less. Elaborate plots are concocted involving new characters, Varney steps in to create a little havoc, then gets quickly chased off. New characters, a little Varney, Varney runs away, repeat. This goes on for about a thousand pages (this current edition is not complete; I am writing my review from the out-of-print Dover edition).
In sum, read this if you are really interested in historical vampire literature. You can at least tell your friends you got through it. As books go, it's not good. And the experience of reading it today is made worse by the fact that it's dull.

L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman
L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman
by Bent Corydon
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 34.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Disgusting Religion., Aug. 19 2001
This book is not organized chronologically, but works best as a collection of short articles documenting the Church of Scientology's abuses of its members, the legal system, and society in general.
While not particularly bloody, the short history of the "Chruch" of Scientology is hands-down the most bizzaire of all religions (the term applied to this particular organization is in dispute by most right-thinking persons). The information in each chapter was culled from court documents and interviews, and the fact that the Cult of Scientology was unable to legally supress its publication attests to its honesty and accuracy.
Here are a few weird factoids about the Cult:
1) The church paid Alexis, Hubbard's daughter, money to settle her claim to a share of Hubbard's estate. They failed to get her to sign a document stating her BROTHER was her father, not L. Ron.
2) High-ranking members of the chruch believe they are posessed by thousands of souls of dead aliens, called body thetans. These souls were implanted with false visions of reality by an evil intergalactic ruler named Xenu, 75 million years ago. This possession hinders mankind from achiving its true potential -- and only Scientology tech can exorcise these body thetans.
3) A raid by the FBI in 1977 uncovered information that the Chruch of Scientology had been raiding government offices and destroying documents related to the cult. This resulted in the criminal conviction of 11 high-ranking Scientologists, including Mary Sue Hubbard, Hubbard's wife.
Well, there you have it -- and that's but a teeny-tiny bit of the weird, weird world of the inner-workings of the Church of $cientology.

Typographers On Type
Typographers On Type
by Ruari McLean
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 4.93

4.0 out of 5 stars A book on type should be designed better than this., July 13 2001
This review is from: Typographers On Type (Hardcover)
The four stars are for the content, which is generally excellent and has not been published in other books. Everyone will have their favorite chapters, but the interview with Dwiggins is particularly illuminating and amusing.
My problem with this book is its astonishingly poor design. The layout of the pages works well, even though there are few illustrations. The paper is a shiny, bright white that positively hurts my eyes. If the book featured photography, I could understand. But it's all black type on snow -- nasty. Not to mention that the stock itself stinks. It has a heavy chemical odor, and consequently is difficult to hold at a comfortable reading distance.
If Rauri McLean did not want to use ligatures, he should have choosen a type that did not require their use. The crashing fs disturb me. Also, the beginnings of chapters are not flagged well. They begin with a drop cap followed by a short introduction in italics. This would probably work if the drop caps were larger, or in a different color. As it is, it's difficult to pick out a subject by simply thumbing through the book.
I understand that McLean was trained by the great typographer Jan Tschichold, whom I admire enormously. However, I don't see much of his influence in this glaring white, smelly book.

The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6)
The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6)
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.66
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A cutting indictment of FASHION and those who follow it., March 11 2001
Esmé Squalor is obsessed with what's IN, and as orphans are currently IN, she has adopted the Baudlaire orphans. Unfortunately, elevators are OUT, so getting to Esmé's penthouse on the 66th floor of 667 Dark Avenue is a fashionable but exhausting climb.
If you've ever known people who lounge about on uncomfortably stylish furniture, worn hideously fashionable clothes, or attended monotonously hip parties, this book is for you. Handler has had a bit of a break from writing this series, and the downtime has paid off -- this is the wittiest installment yet. Shades of The Basic Eight appear in the form of Café Salmonella (remember Mocha Monkey and Death by Decaf?), and Sunny's usually indecipherable outbursts now occasionally make sense (as she holds up some of Justin's neckties, she exclaims "Armani!").
All this, a clue about Beatrice, and a new (unsolved) mystery surrounding the Baudlaire Mansion make for another engrossing installment in the Unfortunate series. The seventh book is due out soon, and I can hardly wait!

Drowning Ruth: A Novel
Drowning Ruth: A Novel
by Christina Schwarz
Edition: Hardcover
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Simply and beautifully written., Jan. 26 2001
This review is from: Drowning Ruth: A Novel (Hardcover)
This beauty of this tale is in its telling -- Schwartz's prose is resourceful and exact. Her descriptions contain just enough clues to set her scene and draw her characters, with all the grace and brevity of a poet. Stories of family secrets are not uncommon, but this one stands out because of it's creative and thoughtful structure.
Schwartz chooses to tell her story in both first and third persons. This is not unusual, but her reasons for doing so are not apparent until the very end. I found myself thinking the tale could have been told quite neatly in the third person -- but then there would not have been the dimension of doubting the narrative of it's protagonist, Amanda. The special quality of this book is that you are never quite sure (until the end) if you are being given the real facts of the story. You know Amanda has spent time in a mental hospital, but then she is telling most of the tale. By using the device of switching back and forth between persons, you are able to discern the real plot as well as gain a deeper understanding of its characters.
My only complaint is that the structure could have been even more subtle. When the person switches -- often in mid narrative -- it is headed by the name of the character recounting the story, mostly Amanda. Only in a few instances is another character allowed their say. So, as you are reading, you will encounter the name "Amanda" in large italics (denoting her narrative), a single line of empty space (denoting a section of third-person narrative), then more "Amanda". As the author's intentions are not clear before the last page, her reasons for this odd structure will seem elusive and often irritating.
Stick with it though. The story wraps up beautifully. This is an impressive first novel, and I expect many more from this talented writer.

Nymphs of the Rhine Vol. 1
Nymphs of the Rhine Vol. 1
Price: CDN$ 15.33
18 used & new from CDN$ 7.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Rare and expressive music., Jan. 25 2001
I never thought these pieces would get a "complete" recording, but leave it to Naxos to take a chance on music that is rarely heard or performed.
The collection "Le Nymphe di Rheno" is a collection of twelve sonatas (really, they are more like suites) for two viols da gamba. Johannes Schenck was a virtuoso gambist and all of his published works are for this instrument. If you think that listening for two bass intruments play for over an hour would be monotonous, the deeply expressive playing of Les Vois Humaines will quell your fears -- and soothe your ears. Their playing is warm and lyrical, and reveals the emotional character of this repertoire. No steady tempos here, but the performances are beautifully suited to the music.
The first six sonatas are contained on this CD, and Naxos is releasing the second disc of the set in March, 2001.

SERSE (Handel)
SERSE (Handel)
Offered by USA_Seller_4_Canada
Price: CDN$ 84.06
8 used & new from CDN$ 48.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful from beginning to end., Dec 5 2000
This review is from: SERSE (Handel) (Audio CD)
The great thing about buying a recording of a Handel opera is that you know you won't be disappointed in the material. Every aria is like a delicious sweet, and you can't stop eating them. Nicholas McGegan leads this production with his usual expertise and musicianship -- and everyone follows suit. Each of the singers performs with character and conviction. The most astonishing is perhaps Brian Asawa, who has never sounded fresher -- Cecilia, Sumi, Montserrat, step aside! Judith Malafronte sounds just a little raw, but on the first disc only. The second and third discs show this well under control. The Hanover Band plays with their usual warmth and precision. All in all, probably the best recording of this work I have yet heard.

Darker Than You Think
Darker Than You Think
by Jack Williamson
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 1.06

4.0 out of 5 stars A heck of a lot of fun to read., Nov. 11 2000
This review is from: Darker Than You Think (Paperback)
I came to this book after reading SEX AND ROCKETS, a biography of Jack Parsons. JP was one of the founders of Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and he was also a disciple of Aleister Crowley. Darker Than You Think was Parson's favorite novel, and it's not difficult to see why. Lycanthropy and witchcraft are all scientifically explained here, and much of what goes on in the book also encompasses astral projection, voodoo and paganism. In fact, many Wiccans at the time took Jack Williamson for a fellow pagan. While some people complain of the writing style, I find it nostalgically charming -- the great Sci-Fi writers of the 1960s and 1970s were yet to set the precedent -- and this early example of sci-fi-meets-horror is still quite readable today. The claim the writing is "dated" is less valid than the fact that Darker Than You Think is the work of a young man; much of the writing is amateurish and naive, and the pacing is not as well-planned as it could have been. This should not deter you from reading it, however. It is an imaginative, exciting and gripping book. Enjoy.

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