Some schools of occultists are inordinately fond of merit badges, hierarchic ranking, fancy dress, special handshakes, Excel spreadsheets brimming with esoteric codswallop, and the like. In certain lodges, club houses, and initiatory chambers, these folks are hailed, by their peers and underlings, as magus maximus, etc., etc., but in the wider world they are usually identified as bores, gas giants with pretensions to some new, much speedier, mathematics. Beware the man who soliloquizes on “infinite delight.” He has a set of manikins in the basement, which is fine for his own private hours, but shouldn’t be confused with what he’s preaching about nor passed around, in sticky pieces, to houseguests.
This little collection of what are inexplicably self-identified as “prose poems” suffers from something of this larger problem of blabbing on about the occult and thus stripping away from it its very useful occultation–useful in the sense of actually inspiring a sense of power, mystery, creepiness, or allure. What we have instead, here, are bits like: “Mighty Moloch, book ablaze, to you do I sacrifice the word-born babes of my fevered brain, hoping to glean from their silent wails the golden secrets of the Infinite Self.” Good luck with that. There’s some saying somewhere about wisdom and its relation to keeping ones mouth shut from time to time, but you won’t hear that alluded to in Diary of a Gentleman Diabolist. You will, however, hear plenty else, with accompanying sigils, or squiggles, an alphabet of energies, as best I can figure it, that drains a little more ink in the printing process but otherwise adds nothing to the book. “All of his bad Latin was entirely intentional,” it is said, of a certain character, a certain type. “Sometimes he even confused it (both purposely and purposefully) with Italian, Spanish, and French, having learned long ago the potent effect of such pseudoscholarly inscriptions on minds of a particular stripe.” This “particular stripe” of mind might find Diary of a Gentleman Diabolist worthy of a half hour or so. Others most likely will not.
There are some genuine spooky bits (any stuffed toy monkey is a terrifying stuffed toy monkey) and some watery reproduction Lovecraft and some fan fiction for the new religious revival of the old religions–“The hatchling Prince, his ways Loki-wild, his words Odin-wise,” etc.–grimoires get eaten, things happen to trees involving semen, and there is an eye, deliciously, in a candy jar, “pressed hard against the glass by a crush of gobstopping spheres made all the more horrific by the fact that they were sweet.” But the book is in desperate need of an editorial hand. Must we really endure such weary declarations as that hell is a woman “every warlock worth his wand” wants to stick his stave into or that “She stood like a phantom before me, like a dream of a ghost in the mist, but her smile was the smile of a sunrise, and it reached to the core of my soul, the core of my Stygian soul”? Again, a “particular stripe” of mind will surely dig this, and feel some excitement, too, over the fact that “The wrath of the nigromancer is like a hairtrigger rifle of unlimited range in the hands of a fickle sniper,” but it is a rather limited “particular stripe” to feel anything from lines like “I am…the thing under your bed, the hate in your heart….” No spell is cast by such deflated clichés. That scent isn’t brimstone, it’s just something stale.