Post by Jeff Bruemmer

Much of the self-help schlock these days encourages one to "think positive" and set goals, or offers other insipid suggestions, sometimes surprisingly grounded in psychological research, but for the most part deeply obvious. But in general the advice neglects one half of our humanity: our madness, or irrationality, that fine psychic chaos that liberates us from the merely mechanical. It’s important to keep one’s madness shipshape, lest it lose its fizz and render you that most pitiable of creatures, the bore, or, conversely, go unchecked and shred one’s rational cartography.

To this end, I prescribe J. Rodolfo Wilcock’s The Temple of Iconoclasts. Encyclopedic in form, in the tradition of Borges’s paramount A Universal History of Infamy and the inspiration for Bolaño’s mordant chronicling of fascist writers in Nazi Literature in the Americas, Wilcock’s pantheon features a strain of kaleidoscopic humor incomprehensible to those who confuse seriousness with solemnity. The book is a nutritive and irony-rich chronicling of special persons in what I would describe as Wilcock’s undeadpan delivery, and can be used as a daily corrective to sanity.

In its pages we learn of a man whose karmic cycle has accelerated to the point at which he is reborn as other people while he still lives. Elsewhere, Wilcock offers us a mechanical proof of the divine: a man by the name of Socrates Scholfield patented an apparatus that “consists of two brass helices set in such a way that, by slowly winding around and within one another ... they demonstrate the existence of God.” In another, a man builds a machine designed to discover all of philosophy via randomly iterating six-word strings until all wisdom has been produced.

The rest you’ll have to discover on your own -- that is, if you can find a copy.