On first looking into Crowley’s Crowley

The latest book chosen at random from my unread-books shelves is The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. I'm curious about the man, but not curious enough to read all of this thousand-page “autohagiography”; but I did read the first 30+ pages before starting to skim.

On the one hand, he writes more engagingly, even entertainingly, than I had expected. For example, I was charmed and amused by a footnote on his first page, in regard to the county where he was born: “It has been remarked a strange coincidence that one small county should have given England her two greatest poets—for one must not forget Shakespeare (1550-1616).” A great deal of the book so far maintains that tone, a sort of self-aggrandizement that (I suspect intentionally) avoids making entirely clear the degree to which it's tongue-in-cheek.

On the other hand, the detailed recitation of small incidents from his childhood and youth, given enormous import and weight, are already starting to wear a little thin. The general pattern seems to be that he's persecuted by a wicked and/or foolish person in a position of authority; although he sees his own skill at some endeavor (such as chess or mountain-climbing) to be nothing out of the ordinary, he happens to turn out to be the Best Ever at whatever he turns his hand to; foolish people think he's not actually the Best Ever; in the end, he proves them wrong, and scathingly criticizes and/or mocks them (and, often, their religious beliefs; he was raised in an extremely strict religious family). And there are other occasional unpleasantnesses mixed in, including a dash of misogyny.

So I'm skimming now. But I'm enjoying the prose more than I expected to; if I didn't have such a huge backlog of unread books awaiting my attention, I might be more interested in lingering a bit more on this one. Not a lot more (it would take a lot to get me to read any thousand-page book in full), but a little.

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