Friday, September 19, 2008

A Romantic Hero Over Whom The Symbolically-Minded May Swoon

The late James Shelby Downard's primal way of looking at things, which is the way I think ancient man perceived the world, encompasses a vision that detects every link and every symbol, beginning with the significance of names, then places and then the obsessive actions which stem from the confluence of the two and which have come to be known as ritual. Publisher Adam Parfrey, who first brought Shelby's work to a mass audience, states:

"In Downard's writings, the products of his subconscious bubble to the surface and catalyze painstaking research. The collision of the poetic against the logical works especially well in the field of conspiracy; it remains the freshest approach to a field of inquiry..."

I remember sitting in Shelby's airstream trailer in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1977, along with the great Fortean philosopher William N. Grimstad and Charles Saunders, a brilliant recluse who was a close friend of Jack Kerouac toward the end of the Beat writer's life (a fact missed by every one of Kerouac's numerous biographers; so much for biographers).

Shelby's conversation that day ranged from the occult significance of the Theremin musical instrument to the sorcerous implications of elevators, the relationship he had with an evanescent rabbit named Petey; the sinister connotations of the circus and the mystical topography of the American Southwest, which Mr. Downard knew the way you and I know our backyard.

As he fried our hamburgers, he regaled us in his prospector's drawl with the hidden wonders of a tapestry of coincidences which he wove from the seeming mundane details of everyday living, into a magic carpet of incomparable strangeness and peerless utility.

Parfrey spoke for many of Shelby's friends and associates when he stated:

"Downard has influenced me to look with interest upon the details and the fantastic convergences of life..."
-from the introduction to James Shelby Downard's essay King Kill 33

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