Recently I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s new novel The Book of Dust. I have to say I am deep into it and enjoying it immensely. Philip had said some warm words about Beyond the Robot, and my name must have gotten on the list of copies to be sent out. I didn’t expect this and it was a pleasant surprise, as I don’t often get a chance to read fiction. My book, Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, had just come out in the UK, and I sent him a copy in return. Not long after this I saw his comment on my tweet about the book. That was another very nice surprise. “I am reading it now” he wrote “and it is very important.” Well I can say the same about The Book of Dust. I am reading it now, and it is very important – and a very good read too.
Another book I am happy to see is the new Aristeia Press edition of Colin Wilson’s Religion and the Rebel. This was Wilson’s follow-up to The Outsider, and, as I say in my Introduction, it almost ended Wilson’s career. The critical response to Wilson’s second effort was as unlike that to his first as could be imagined. From hailed as a boy genius, Wilson was vilified as a fraud, and sent to literary Coventry. This had little to do with the book itself, which is a serious and passionate exploration of a possible religious answer to the Outsider’s existential dilemma. Wilson examines the lives of Pascal, Boehme, Swedenborg, and Kierkegaard, looks at the Outsider against the historical vision of Toynbee and Spengler, and contrasts the philosophy of Whitehead and Wittgenstein in light of his aim: to extend the range of human consciousness. Reading this fine new edition of a central work in Wilson’s Outsider Cycle may be one means of doing just that.