Browsing the archives for the Uncategorized category.

Flaubert’s previous lives


flaubertAs part of his famous correspondence with George Sand, Gustave Flaubert wrote the following about reincarnation:

I don’t experience, as you do, this feeling of a life which is beginning, the stupefaction of a newly commenced existence. It seems to me, on the contrary, that I have always lived! And I possess memories which go back to the Pharaohs. I see myself very clearly at different ages of history, practising different professions and in many sorts of fortune. My present personality is the result of my lost personalities. I have been a boatman on the Nile, a leno in Rome at the time of the Punic wars, then a Greek rhetorician in Subura where I was devoured by insects. I died during the Crusade from having eaten too many grapes on the Syrian shores, I have been a pirate, monk, mountebank and coachman. Perhaps also even emperor of the East?

Many things would be explained if we could know our real genealogy. For, since the elements which make a man are limited, should not the same combinations reproduce themselves? Thus heredity is a just principle which has been badly applied.

On Twitter


I’ve neglected to mention here that I’m on Twitter. Because I don’t already have enough to do online. Really, it’s a great way to rapidly disseminate links, thoughts, and info when you have a near limitless number of interests. I’m covering books and lit, of course, but also government docs, freedom of information issues, investigative reporting, food, health, religion, mysticism, drugs, art……

excerpt: 32 Famous People Involved in Triads


bol-cover-smThe following was originally published in my book, The Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format.


32 Famous People Involved in Triads

A triad is to three people what a couple is to two people. In other words, a relationship among three partners. It’s sometimes called a threesome or ménage à trois, but these two terms have a primarily sexual connotation, usually being applied to a physical encounter that doesn’t involve a long-term commitment.

This list is indebted almost completely to the amazing research of Barbara Foster, Michael Foster, and Letha Hadady. Themselves a triad, they went through history with a fine-toothed comb, digging up numerous examples of famous people involved in triads. The resulting book, Three in Love, is an unprecedented chronicle of this formerly unacknowledged type of relationship. (All quotes below are from this groundbreaking and highly readable book.)

sundance-and-etta1. Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid

Wild West outlaws Butch Cassady and Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) committed crimes with Etta Place. All three of them lived together; details of the relationship are sketchy, but it appears that they thought of themselves as a family. (At left, Etta and the Sundance Kid, via Wikipedia.)

2. Catherine the Great

Imperial Russia’s most famous Empress formed a triad with two of her closest staff members, chief deputy Gregory Poterakin and secretary Peter Zavadofsky.

3. Friedrich Engels

Benefactor of Karl Marx and coauthor of The Communist Manifesto, Engels lived and loved with two sisters, factory-workers Mary and Lizzie Burns.

4. Jacob Epstein

Called “one of the leading portrait sculptors of the 20th century” by the Encyclopedia Britannica, Epstein lived with his wife and mistress.

countess-guiccioli15. George Gordon, Lord Byron

The archetypal Romantic poet was involved for several years with Countess Teresa Guiccioli (left, via Blupete). He was her cavaliere servente, which is basically a combination of errand-boy and male mistress. Count Guiccioli was fine with sharing his wife, a not uncommon attitude among Italian aristocracy of the time.

6-7. Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici

King Henry II was married to Catherine de’ Medici and openly loved the aristocratic beauty Diane de Poitiers, who knew Henry since he was nine.

8. Victor Hugo

The French novelist who wrote Les Miserables was married to Adèle (née Foucher) and was involved for most of his life with a gorgeous but minimally talented actress, Juliette Drouet. (He routinely cheated on wife and mistress with other women.) For years, Adèle hated Juliette, whom Victor always set up in a nearby dwelling. However, the two grew to like and respect each other, with Juliette eventually running the household. Victor remained with both women until their deaths; his relationship with Ms. Drouet lasted exactly 50 years.

9. Lenin

Soviet leader Lenin was part of a fully cooperative triad involving his wife Nadezhda and mistress Inessa. The two women formed a friendship, and all three comrades worked together to further the revolution.

10. Lothar, King of Gaul

In the sixth century, Lothar was married to sisters Ingund and Aregund.

11. Harold Macmillan

As Three in Love sums up: “Harold Macmillan, the Conservative prime minister of England from 1957 to 1963, overlapping the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, lived in a thirty-year triad that included his wife Dorothy Cavendish and her lover, his closest political connection, Bob Boothby.”

12. Marquis de Sade

The man whose name gave us sadism lived and loved for a while with his wife Renée and her sister, Anne. The sisters “performed together in the marquis’s lost plays, playing his heroines who acquiesce in the acts perpetrated against them.”

taylor-harriet13. John Stuart Mill

One of the leading philosophers of freedom, Mill founds his soulmate in the intelligent Harriet Taylor (left), who happened to be married to merchant John Taylor. After some initial friction, John came to accept the triad. After he succumbed to cancer, Harriet and John Stuart married and spent the rest of their lives together.

14. François Mitterand

President of France from 1981 to 1995, Mitterand equally loved his wife Danielle and his mistress Mazarine, fathering children with both of them. The families knew of each other but lived apart, though sometimes the triad would vacation together. Both women and all three offspring attended François’ funeral.

15. Jawaharlal Nehru

The first Prime Minister of independent India formed a threesome with Louis, Lord Mountbatten (British Admiral of the Fleet) and Edwina, Lady Mountbatten.

16. Admiral Lord Nelson

One of history’s most brilliant naval commanders, the man who saved England from France was famously involved with Emma, Lady Hamilton. Less known is the fact that her husband, Sir William Hamilton, approved of the relationship. In 1802, the triad sent cards bearing the greeting: “Sir William Hamilton, Lady Hamilton and Mr. Nelson desire to wish you a merry Christmas.”

17-18. Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin

In perhaps the most well-known triad, pioneering erotic writers Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin formed a complex, rocky threesome with Miller’s wife, June, in which all three were having sex with each other. Nin’s husband stayed on the sidelines of this powderkeg relationship.

nusch-picasso119-22. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst

Poet Paul Eluard, his wife Gala, and painter Max Ernst formed a triad that lasted several years. Gala’s second husband, for 53 years, was Salvador Dalí. She had numerous affairs with artists he knew, which apparently didn’t faze him.

Meanwhile, Paul Eluard became great friends with Picasso and married a Parisian prostitute, Nusch. She shows up in many of Picasso’s paintings (including the one here), and they formed a triad that lasted a decade, until Nusch’s death in 1946.

23-25. Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke

One of the great lyric poets, Rainer Maria Rilke was emotionally and sexually involved with Louise “Lou” Andreas-Salomé, who later became a disciple of Sigmund Freud and a minor contributor to psychoanalytic theory. Lou at the time was in a sexless but loving marriage with an older scholar, F.C. Andreas. The three of them lived and traveled together, and Lou became Rainer’s hands-on muse, helping him find his voice.

nietzsche-andreas-salome-reeThis was actually the middle of three triads that Lou would form. In the first, she was in an emotional but chaste threesome with philosophers Friedrich Nietzshe and Paul Rée. (That’s the three of them to the left.) (Nietzsche had been in a previous sexless triad with Richard and Cosima Wagner.) In the last triad, Lou and Freud became very attached, though they never slept with each other; that honor was for the third party, psychoanalyst Victor Tausk.

26-27. Percy Byssche Shelley and Mary Shelley

Romantic poet Shelley had quite the complicated lovelife, with two aborted triads, one probable one, and an almost quadrad (i.e., involving four people). Early on, Shelley wanted to form a triad with his first wife Harriet and his best friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, but Harriet would have none of it. Later, he fell in love with Mary Godwin (daughter of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft), who would write Frankenstein. He proposed that he, Harriet, and Mary shack up, but again his wife said no.

Shelley and Mary went to Europe to frolic; accompanying them was Mary’s half-sister, Claire Claremont. We don’t know for sure, but it appears that Percy and Claire started hooking up, with Mary tolerating it.

Things got even more complex and ambiguous later—Percy, Mary, Clare, Lord Byron, his married lover, and her parents all lived under the same roof, along with Jane and Edward Williams, who had children and lived as a married couple though they weren’t. (By this time, Harriet had committed suicide, and Percy had married Mary.) Percy fell in love with Jane, and it is likely, though arguable, that they got physical with each other. Percy and Edward became fast friends, sharing Jane’s affections. Meanwhile, Mary also fell in love with Jane, who didn’t return the feelings. Confused? Imagine how they felt!

voltaire28. Voltaire

The witty philosopher (left) was deeply involved with the Marquis du Chatlet and his wife, Emilie. “The two men shared not only one woman but their money and influence at court.”

29. Orson Welles’ parents

The director of Citizen Kane essentially had three parents—his biological dad, Richard Welles; his mother, Beatrice Welles; and her lover, Dr. Maurice Bernstein, whom little Orson called “Dadda.” The big, happy family lived together.

30-31. Victoria Woodhull and Henry Ward Beecher

Through the middle of the 1800s, Beecher was America’s preacher, basically the Billy Graham of his time, except that he had progressive views. The most progressive he kept under wraps—he was an advocate and practitioner of free love. For many years he was involved with the wife of close friend Theodore Tilton, a situation that pleased all of them.

After a while, Tilton took a more active role in another triad when he began bonking pioneering feminist Victoria Woodhull. Her husband didn’t mind; together he and Tilton wrote a biography of Victoria. Beecher enters the picture again, when Victoria started getting it on with him, plus Tilton, not to mention her husband. It also looks as though Victoria, her husband, and her sister Tennessee Claflin formed an emotional triad that may or may not have been sexual. Further complicating the issue is the fact that Victoria took on various lovers throughout the years. If you find these overlapping triads, quadrads, and even pentads confusing, you’re not alone.

32. Emile Zola

French novelist Emile Zola split his time between two households—that of his wife and his mistress. The women tolerated each other, then became fast friends after Zola’s death.

Others: Marguerite Duras; Joseph Goebbels; Graham Greene; Ernest Hemingway; Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Carolyn Cassady; Frida Kahlo; D.H. Lawrence; Georgia O’Keeffe; Ezra Pound; Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; and Oskar Schindler.

Kudos and a break


I’m honored that the redoubtable Readerville has selected Books Are People, Too as its site of the week. Thanks, Karen!

Now, it’s ill-advised to take a break when I’m just starting to get some momentum going, but due to unforessen circumstances I’m having to move out-of-state in a matter of days. Hopefully new posting will start late next week. In the meantime please check out the archives, and subscribe to the RSS feed so you’ll know as soon as things fire up again. Now, I have to get packing….

books of the day > Oxford Books of Death & Dreams



The Oxford Book of Death, edited by D. J. Enright (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Amazon | excerpt

From the publisher:

The inescapable reality of death has given rise to much of literature’s most profound and moving work. D.J. Enright’s wonderfully eclectic selection presents the words of poet and novelist, scientist and philosopher, mystic and sceptic. And alongside these “professional” writers, he allows the voices of ordinary people to be heard; for this is a subject on which there are no real experts and wisdom lies in many unexpected places.

Also: The Oxford Book of Dreams:

In this rich anthology, Stephen Brook has collected hundreds of dreams recorded by authors, poets, psychologists, and everyday dreamers since pre-Christian days. Ranging from Artemidorus’s crude, 2nd-century analysis to Freud and Jung’s dream psychology, and including works by Coleridge, Yeats, Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Heller, and many other authors, The Oxford Book of Dreams offers an intriguing and varied sampling of humanity’s collective unconscious. It explores the inexhaustible fascination of dreams and their power as a great source of literary inspiration.

Scientology bookshelf


Operation Clambake has an illustrated, annotated listing of pretty much every unauthorized book about Scientology ever published in English. They host or link to the full text of many of these books, including all the most important ones.

See also: The Secret Library of Scientology

Upcoming books from Gaiman, Byrne, …


gaiman-deathStart saving your pennies….

Absolute Death by Neil Gaiman

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

A Loaded Gun: A Biography of Emily Dickinson by Lyndall Gordon

Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back by Douglas Rushkoff

Everybody Must Get Stoned: Rock Stars on Drugs by R.U. Sirius

Evidence: Poems by Mary Oliver

Google Books optimizes 1.5 million books for mobile devices

Uncategorized, online/ebooks

Google Book Search has just announced that it’s made 1.5 million public-domain books easily readable on mobile devices, such as the iPhone. The book were already scanned and available at Google Books but could be hard to view on tiny screens. As always, access is free.

The main page for the mobile books is here.

The announcement is on Inside Google Book Search here.

Mengele’s twin experiments in Brazil?


mengeleArgentine historian Jorge Camarasa says that after WWII Josef Mengele kept up his genetic research into twins in a small Brazilian town. Unfortunately, it looks like his book, Mengele: The Angel of Death in South America, isn’t available in English.

He claims that Mengele found refuge in the German enclave of Colonias Unidas, Paraguay, and from there, in 1963, began to make regular trips to another predominantly German community just over the border in Brazil – the farming community of Candido Godoi.

And, Mr Camaras claims, it was here that soon after the birthrate of twins began to spiral.

“I think Candido Godoi may have been Mengele’s laboratory, where he finally managed to fulfil his dreams of creating a master race of blond haired, blue eyed Aryans,” he said.

“There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings, and that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins.”

Upcoming book from Vonnegut’s 40-year mistress & friend


Professor Loree Rackstraw has written a book, Love as Always, Kurt (due in March), about her 40-year relationship with Kurt Vonnegut. From the Times of London:

When Slaughterhouse-Five was eventually published, in early 1969, it was hailed as an antiwar masterpiece and became a Bible for Vietnam war protesters.

As Vonnegut basked in new-found wealth and celebrity, he wrote to Rackstraw: “This hilarious rise in my spirits, originating from a deep purple depression, began with loving you.”

Much of her book charts Vonnegut’s literary progress, from battling with his personal demons – his mother committed suicide just before he departed to war – to suddenly finding everything very easy.

“One thing that troubles me is that anything I write now sells like crazy and my publishers won’t tell me honestly what they think of my work, since their opinion doesn’t mean a damn thing commercially,” he wrote to her.

Hemingway reassures Fitzgerald about his great gatsby (Or: That’s why they call him Big Papa)

Uncategorized, canon, periodicals, sex

laphams-erosThe winter issue of one of my all-time favorite magazines, Lapham’s Quarterly (”Finding the present in the past, the past in the present.”), came out last month, and the theme this time is “Eros.” As usual, there are close to 100 text pieces from literary types, historical figures, and the occasional unknown - the contrib list this time includes Ovid, Flaubert, Goethe, Rumi, Nabokov, Nin, Dickinson, Henry VIII, a courtesan in India circa 1550, Aristophanes, Roth, Duras, David Foster Wallace, Foucault, Leonard Cohen, St. Augustine, Sappho, Aphra Behn, Kinsey, and Charles Mingus.

For an eclectomanic like me, each heavily illustrated 224-page issue (each one is really a square-backed softcover book) is an embarrassment of riches - a smorgasbord of ideas, insights, and experiences from across the millennia in one package for convenient mainlining into my brain.

Lapham’s posts only a fraction of each issue, apparently holding the strange belief that if you want to read a magazine, you should actually buy the magazine (I wonder if this approach will catch on).

hemingway_gunOne of the pieces they’ve posted for their sex issue is an extract from Hemingway’s memoir of 1920s Paris, A Moveable Feast. Papa is reassuring F. Scott Fitzgerald about his penis size after Zelda has attempted to psychologically destroy him. Here’s a portion:

“Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”

“Come out to the office,” I said.

“Where is the office?”

“Le water,” I said.

We came back into the room and sat down at the table.

“You’re perfectly fine,” I said. “You are okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.”

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