Dead Names, Dead Dog: Summing Up, Part 1

After all this time, how best can we sum up Dead Names?

I won’t say it’s a bad book, or that no one should buy it. It’s got some useful information on the NYC occult scene, though given the source, most of that is of dubious veracity. The anecdotes are entertaining, and if that’s all someone’s looking for in this book, I think they’ll get what they paid for.

As for the rest…

Dead Names is a potboiler. It’s clearly not a book that had a great deal of time or effort put into writing it. When reading it, I imagined “Simon” sitting in a room filled with dusty, outdated books on various topics, occasionally taking one down, reading it just to get the bare minimum necessary to sound like a plausible argument, and replacing it on the shelf. He doesn’t even bother to see if the source contradicts him later on. He also surfed the Web a little – or, if his comments are accurate, had others point him to possibly relevant resources that were picked up uncritically and integrated into the book. Despite a great deal of posturing about how many peer-reviewed, scholarly articles he’s read, his book tells a different story.

I am surprised that “Simon” took this particular tack when writing.  It seems to me that an off-hand attack of The Necronomicon Files that nonetheless mentioned that some unspecified concerns had been raised by it would have been the best way to go.  Playing up the supposed spiritual efficacy of the path, instead of muddling in historical facts, would have taken the heat off, at least from his fans.  Instead, he tried to argue from specific points based on poor research and clear bias, thereby undercutting what little credibility he might have obtained.

As for his insults, I can understand “Simon’s” rhetorical stance. Clearly, he can’t provide any more evidence of his book that never existed – no manuscript, no photocopies, no translators’ notes, no eyewitnesses. Now that he’s established himself under a pseudonym, he can’t exactly provide his credentials without looking like a fool. The proper response under the circumstances is to bluster and bluff and pound the table and complain about how unfair and biased everyone else is.

I’ve heard people criticize John’s sections of The Necronomicon Files for their mocking tone.  In retrospect, though, this was an excellent decision, because it made
“Simon” angry.  When an author is furious and writes in a hurry, it can make for powerful work.  If that fury is not checked during the revision process, however, that same anger can often cause the author to reveal more than he should.  In this case, it caused “Simon”  to openly display disdain and hypocrisy toward the very sort of people for whom he’s supposedly writing the book.  Instead of showing himself to be an authority in the occult community, he has shown himself to be a man outside it.

Next post – an evaluation of the man himself!

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 11:25 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I think he’s just perpetuating the joke. I’d love to read your Necronomicon Files book at some point, but I think “Simon” is really just playing a game, one that has been profitable enough, but still an elaborate hoax in a grand tradition of hoaxing.

    The problem is Lovecraft gave so many hints of something, but he avoided systematizing and classifying it as if it were the plague. It were, because that would ruin the wonder young readers sometimes stumble upon with Lovecraft.

    RPGs, Kenneth Grant and his attempt to “Kabbalize” the Mythos (TM) and those weird SSSers under Lin Carter who developed the Raise the Necronomicon project (TM) all violated the “pneuma” Lovecraft sought to impart. “Simon” merely made the scene, saw the opportunity and managed to stuff some of the reams of paper already produced under some publisher’s nose, imho.

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