Edited by Alex Kurtagić
London: The Palingenesis Project, 2014
The Jonathan Bowden Project is not a progressive rock band, although transgressive might apply. Rather, it is Alex Kurtagić’s project to republish material from The Collected Works of Jonathan Bowden, in something of a respectable and reader-friendly format; the original having been, apparently, something of a self-published mess. I will discuss how well it serves this purpose later, but first, let’s look at the actual text.
As editor Kurtagić correctly says in his Note on this Edition:
Jonathan’s earlier writing was chaotic; it seldom stayed focused on a topic – or even a genre – for long. This does not make it less readable, but it does make it undefinable, except as a record of the thoughts and insights of Jonathan Bowden or his ongoing commentary on the various topics, events, and individuals that preoccupied him at the time of the writing.
Or, as he says on the jacket flap, Bowden’s texts
Belong to no specific genre, the prose being allowed to roam where it may, drawing from many strands, finding unexpected links and collecting shrewd insights along the way.
Based on that description, this “essay” certainly fulfills our expectations.
Bowden begins by considering “one of the most notorious and disturbing cases of criminal malfeasance,” namely “the Ripper murders . . . a series of mutilations that were committed at the height of the Victorian period in the East End of London.” Having “touched a nerve in the Victorian sensibility,” it’s no surprise that they have continued to fascinate the Brits.
Thanks to the plethora of “history” and “chiller” cable channels, Americans are certainly at least vaguely familiar (vagueness seeming to be the state of all their historical knowledge) of the Ripper case, and that, as the murders stopped, and no suspect was taken, some mystery remains. However, I don’t think it quite has the same fascination on this side of the pond (consider the indifference according Johnny Depp’s From Hell), and I must confess I’ve never been all that intrigued myself, despite figuring in the work of such widely different folks as Colin Wilson and Chi Chi Valenti (to say nothing of Spinal Tap’s never finished rock opera, Saucy Jack).
Bowden reviews the various theories and suspects, which gives him a chance to indulge in some of that “commentary on the various topics, events, and individuals that preoccupied him.” But right from the start, almost, Bowden insists that, contrary to the plethora of Dukes and Royal Physicians and even midwifes offered up as suspects, the Ripper must have been
A lonely, violent, fantasizing man of scant education; a piece of low-life – if not necessarily a piece of complete and utter dross – someone not particularly different (certainly not from a distinct social set) to the girls he murdered. Such an individual was poor and disabused, lacking in foresight and most probably alone. He may have been a drinker . . . he might possibly have had some rudimentary experience as a butcher [or] have worked in an abattoir . . . None of which is particularly crucial for the prosecution of this case.
Although Bowden doesn’t mention the connection, the search for the Ripper seems, to this Yank, to resemble the “Oxfordian” case against Will Shakespeare — surely the man capable of writing such dramas could not be an uneducated hick; surely he must have been, if not a royal, at least a noble; if not a noble, at least a titled professional; if not that, then at least a villainous Prof. Moriarty.
In American terms, the search for the Ripper resembles much “conspiracy” theorizing in that the official perp is usually a patsy too stupid to possibly have worked alone. In Oliver Stone’s JFK, based on the investigations of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, Oswald is disparaged as a “a creep” while Garrison’s investigation “uncovers” a CIA conspiracy led by rich, handsome, educated Clay Shaw (who is, to boot, a “butch john, not one of them limp wrists”).
All this “Ripperology” sputters out to no particular conclusion, but it serves to illustrate his real interest, the notion of crime as a response by the superman (Wilson’s “outsider,” Evola’s “differentiated man”) to the crowed anonymity of modern society. This part of the book, roughly the second half, should prove more interesting to most American readers.
For, if we start at the bottom, why does crime exist? Quite literally, what is it for? Does it serve any meaningful purpose at all?
Unfortunately, Bowden stumbles right out of the gate; his πρῶτον ψεῡδος (first false step) is the offhand claim that “homosexuality only occurs in captivity.” Here, he might have benefited from the sort of editor William Burroughs had for his first book, Junkie; rather than, as here, spending half a page explaining what a crinoline is, such an editor would have inserted a note to the effect that “This claim is not supported by reliable medical authorities.”
This in turn leads some of his meanderings into dead ends; such as the suggestion that homosexuality is a product — by no means ignoble in itself — of civilization — thus decadence — somehow genetically passed down in some Lamarckian fashion; rather than androphilia being the source of culture, from the primeval Männerbund to the SS Orden Staat, with “family values” civilization being the product of Semitic culture-distortion.
Bowden is definitely onto something, though, in linking deviance, whether it be criminal, sexual, or artistic, with elitism, true order, and the various concern of the Right. Whether he agrees or disagrees with this, or any other Bowden’s other “probes,” as Marshall McLuhan called his own audacious essays, the reader will find both delight and profit in exposing himself to Bowden’s kaleidoscopic tour of the dark side of the imagination, the natural home of that exile from modern civilization, the Right.
The artistic sensibility has hit upon a salient fact: namely, that crime can be aesthetically understood, but it should not be appreciated – it can be reckoned with and judged, contrary to liberal diktat. For in truth, much liberal opinion does not respect anything enough o want to proscribe it. Yet, artistic and /or intellectual insight into criminality – more accurately, the recesses of the process of human destruction – is more than ever necessary. It is part-and-parcel of any understanding of what it is to be human.
Now, we come to the role of this text in the Jonathan Bowden Project. According to editor Kurtagić, “in their published form [the aforementioned, self-published Collected Works of Jonathan Bowden] the texts were in sore need of line-editing.” Given Bowden’s writing and speaking style, and his lack of “access to a sophisticated word processor,” one can well believe it. But on the evidence of this edition, the original texts must have been one unholy mess, perhaps resembling the work of the Ripper himself; for the text presented here is not very good at all.
There are basically two problems here; first, the text is littered with typos, of the irritating and counter-productive make-you-stop-and-think sort:
. . . (to white: the Romantic agony) . . .
They reside in the archies of the New York Academy of Medicine . . .
. . . who was then an impoverished and Bohemian painted living in the . . .
For it we return to the case for a moment . . .
. . . with considerable gabs between each slaying . . .
All of which has a lot to do with the crowing together of human beings . . .
And with double marks for originality, take this one:
(This, at any rate, is how Coppola doubles meant it: the redundant American parable that had its originis in . . .
Now, some of these were perhaps simply not caught by the editors in the original text, messy as it was; however, as is the frustrating nature of the editing process, some are introduced by the editors themselves. Consider Kurtagić’s own statement of his goals:
The Jonathan Bowden Collection aims at making these obscure texts readily available for the first time, complete with annotations and indeces, so that they may be studied and / or enjoyed by present and future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.
Another problem is due to the nature of the text, which, though apparently not a transcript, reads like one. Since Kurtagić has brought what he calls a “light hand” to Bowden’s style, there are passages which, when spoken, or rather, performed by an orator of Bowden’s caliber, would likely be reasonably clear, but on the printed page become unnecessarily cryptic:
In a sense, to dream a ‘transgressive’ fantasy is the very alternative, the literal – if not the dark, morbid or transgressive side to the artistic imagination or intellect is merely a genetic displacement: a cauterizing of the nature of the human.
This might be useful to some future scholar — in Castalia, perhaps — seeking as pure a text from the Master’s hand as possible, with no editorial intrusions, but the un-readablility of this sort of thing makes it less likely that enough readers will grow among the general populace right now to result in any “future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.”
Now, as I’ve criticized several recent Wermod & Wermod publications for the same peccadilloes, perhaps I should insert some explanation/self-justification. Their publications of Yockey’s Imperium and Proclamation of London are expensive, but this is justified not only by the value of the contents, but the rarity of print editions and the high quality of the editorial material contributed by Kerry Bolton and Michael O’Meara; occasional errors are hardly relevant.
On the other hand, something like Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, which is widely available free, cheaply, or in extensively annotated editions, needs to be judged by stricter criteria. The Partisan is intended to present new fiction to a popular audience, and again, the presentation – despite the “book by its cover” cliché – needs to attract rather than frustrate the reader.
In other words, I don’t intend these as niggling little criticisms but as attempts to judge these publications on their own terms; the text themselves being rather self-recommending anyway.
So in this case, you’ll recall this edition’s statement of purpose:
. . . so that they may be studied and / or enjoyed by present and future generations interested in the dissidents who were on the margins of British intellectual life in our troubled times.
Although the footnotes do help those hoping to study the text, the overall presentation is hardly conducive to enjoyment, although a lot of the problem could, hopefully, be corrected in future printings.
1. Wilson devoted many pages to the Ripper, along with other criminals, madmen and messiahs; after a lecture at the New York Open Center I met up with him (as part of a group of listeners) at a Greenwich Village “theme pub” called The Slaughtered Lamb. “Indeed, when these issues are brought up, you feel like a lamb led to the sacrificial slaughter” (p, 61). Chi Chi epitomized the sort of American who would think an interest in the Ripper denoted “class” and “sophistication”; her elegy “Whitechapel Girls (The Ripper Poem)” was published in her literary fetish ‘zine Verbal Abuse in 1993 (online here), and later recited at a Ripper themed night at her nightclub, Jackie 60 (see my “Fashion Tips for the Far From Fabulous Right” in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2112)
2. A term, it should be noted, invented by the CIA to demonize anyone questioning the Warren Commission; see the documents collected here.
3. Of course, the FBI’s post-911 “terror plots foiled” record shows a remarkably consistent narrative of half-witted Muslims approached by the FBI with a can’t miss plan to bring glory to Allah, so who’s reading whose scripts?
4. “People like you just walk between the raindrops” muses Garrison. Even the more louche conspirators are given a kind of sheen: David Ferrie “knows five languages, knows a lot about history, philosophy . . .” while even imprisoned rent boy Willie O’Keefe struts around shirtless for our admiration, paraphrasing Yockey (“You a liberal, Mr. Garrison, you don’t know shit ’cause you never been fucked in the ass. This ain’t about justice! No, this is about order! Who rules? Fascism is coming back!”) and explains his motives in confessing as “I hate to think they blame it on silly, fucking Oswald. Didn’t know shit, anyway.”
5. A favorite expression of Schopenhauer’s; see, for example, The Basis of Morality, Part II, Chapter II.
6. On the all-pervasive nature of homosexual – or rather, “ambisexual” — relations in the animal kingdom, especially primates, see James Neill’s The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies (McFarland & Co., 2008), as well as my subsequent kindle single (only $0.99, cheap!), A Review of James Neill’s “The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies.”
7. See “A Band Apart: Wulf Grimsson’s Loki’s Way,” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro.
8. See Julius Evola, Men Among The Ruins (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002) and the reviews “René Guénon: East and West” and “East and West: The Gordian Knot” reprinted in East and West (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
9. See my “Welcome to the Club: The Rise & Fall of the Männerbund in Pre-War American Pop Culture,” here and in my forthcoming collection, Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
10. Aryan superman Elliot Ness, putting together his “Untouchables” (incorruptible, outcaste, and immortal) to renew order (dharma) in the chaos of Prohibition era Chicago, looks among the riff-raff of official police culture (rejecting one recruit, his guru Malone sneers “There goes the next Chief of Police”), and stubbornly insists “I don’t want any married men” (see my “’God, I’m with a heathen.’ The Rebirth of the Männerbund in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables,” here and reprinted in The Homo and the Negro; while his opposite number, immigrant superman Ricco (Little Caesar) sneers “nahh, that’s soft stuff” when his buddy and partner talks about girls.
11. The modern “genius serial killer” is perhaps the American version of Ripperology, from Manson to Hannibal Lecter to The Black List. In Manhunter, Will Graham, the FBI profiler who can “get inside the mind” of such a one, due to his own latent superman tendencies (Will), achieves his own breakthrough when he becomes “tired of all you sons of bitches” and, however the Tooth Fairy was abused as a child, today he just wants to “shoot him out of his socks” — and does so; see “Will and Phil: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror and Manhunter,” here as well as my review of Andy Nowicki‘s Beauty and the Least (Chicago: Hopeless Books, Uninc., 2014), here.
12. See my review, “The Original Weird Critick,” here.
13. Demon, by the way, has a very nifty cover illustration, of Bowden as Ripper, from Alex Kurtagić himself.