About two hours south of Palm Beach lies one of the most intriguing sites in America.
It is Coral Castle - a garden of monoliths weighing over 1,000 pounds incorporating enormous slabs fashioned into astrological instruments, artistic sculpture and mundane items such as chairs.
Most astounding is these objects were excavated, lifted and arranged by a diminutive Latvian immigrant named Edward Leedskalnin between 1920 and 1950…without modern machinery.
How did Ed do it?
Of course, that’s the mystery. Few ever saw him in the act and the ones who did claimed he levitated the stones. Leedskalnin himself never explained other than to say he “knew how the Egyptians did it”.
Ed did self-publish a few books which are variously described as nonsensical or incomprehensible. Many believe these texts are metaphorical tomes in which he uses symbols as a reference for his system.
Whatever one thinks about magnetic powers, lost knowledge or esoteric building methods there is something peculiarly salient about Ed’s books…modern versions are not the same as originally written.
Someone – at some time after Leedsklanin died – changed the text without notification or explanation.
Why do so? Who was responsible? What was Ed saying they don’t want us to know?
For some, that’s even more intriguing than how Coral Castle was built in the first place.
Roald Dahl was author of many beloved books for tikes – Matilda, The BFG, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach and perennial Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Personally, I never much cared for Dahl…but I was enamored of his wife Patricia Neal (even if he didn’t get her until 10 years after her prime…i.e. Staircase scene in The Fountainhead.)
Moreover can you believe this guy left Pat for Felicity Crosland!?!...I mean, what…the…giant peach was he thinking!?! (In defense, Liccy does seem enchanting...despite no ermine-lined velvet dress…)
Be that as it may, Dahl acolytes were recently upset to find publishers “revising” his texts…then a few days later became infuriated when the digital “books” were surreptitiously updated for New Speak absent their consent.
Much like Leedskalnin before there are evidently some concepts The People simply are not permitted to know. Opinions they are not allowed to consider. Things they are not tolerated to think.
Later the Gatekeepers of Good Graces conceded they would deign the unwashed masses to read what Dahl actually wrote…but only at a New and Improved…higher price…
No, Mr. Bond – I Expect You to Die!
You aware Ian Fleming was a real spy? Seriously, he was an honest-to-goodness secret agent.
When he got home from World War Two, Fleming went right to work making a million quid telling about what he experienced and what he had been told by others who experienced even more.
It helped the Second Place Finishers of Evil – those cold-hearted Soviets – could be stand-in antagonists.
Alright…maybe Fleming was more of a Planner for secret agents than a secret agent himself…but that’s close enough to the genuine article.
What is not anywhere near authenticity? Total revisions to his James Bond series announced last week.
We’re getting all new scenarios..all new physical descriptions…all new tastelessly palatable tripe!
To be fair, Fleming himself lived long enough to be forced to “revise” his earlier works for American audiences. (Because, as everyone knows, Blacks love James Bond as much as Whites love Shaft.)
While still distasteful at least one could legitimately make the argument an original work is the property of the artist so such revisions can be viewed as permissible…even when experience demonstrates they nearly always make the product a lesser version of itself.
This Stalinist artistic “revisionism” is a relatively new-ish phenomenon in America…but not quite new.
In 2018 a coven of supposed librarians took it upon themselves to denounce Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer of several books describing her own childhood on the prairie during the early days of the United States.
This was ostensibly done because Wilder was not sensitive to “Native Americans” at a time when Injuns were busy slaughtering settlers and burning their way across the Midwest.
Most disgracefully – and typifying the cowardice of this Modern Era – when the American Library Association (also referenced as Asinine Literary Alarmists) stripped her name off the “Laura Ingalls Wilder” Award they paradoxically claimed it was NOT an attempt to censor the woman or her work…
This excuse was nothing but a craven attempt to circumvent public anger. As with much of contemporary America, sincere defenders of the downtrodden want all of the accolades without any of the criticism.
At the very least, when British Publishing decided to go the way of Stalin-ism and evoking “Former People” the Brits owned their authoritarianism.
It is a peculiar brand of American Empathy which denies silencing you when simultaneously cutting your throat.
Of course, some element of artistic license has always been with us.
The Light that Failed (one of the best books ever written, by the way) had its ending revised by Kipling when publishers felt the original too dour for Victorian readership.
The Hobbit (initially released as a children’s book) had not-inconsequential alterations made by Tolkien while still alive to bring it more in conformity with The Lord of the Rings he was then forging.
Speaking of which, Childhood’s End (definitely for adults) was substantially reworked by Clarke as he became more insistent upon “hard science” as the structural foundation of his texts.
Even Fight Club has been wildly transformed throughout several foreign markets according to its author Palahniuk so that it fits the (divergent) finale which appears on screen in the film version.
Occasionally justified, changes even well-intended often reduce the original work…although admittedly, concerning the last entry above it was probably wise to remove the formula for nitroglycerine…
On a more personal note, I can speak with some authority on the matter of Censored Literature.
What seems a very brief time ago (which for those of a certain age, generally equates to 15 years) I used to go on that prominent auction website you are all familiar where I would pick up “forbidden books”.
One of the best from a purely literary vantage was Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail. It is beautifully written, well-crafted, and topical. Probably, it is the best novel of the past fifty years.
Naturally, this made it strictly Verboten!
Critics decried the work and Controlled Media excoriated it as “dull” or “trite” or even “juvenile”. All of these claims were lies as “Liberal Arts” (and particularly modern “English” majors) don’t read anymore.
In any case, our hyperventilating paladins of the faithless would have done better to simply tell the truth – Camp of the Saints is by a very wide margin the most depressing novel you may ever read…because it’s all true and it’s all coming true.
For a period I gave new copies to personal friends in government (including a Treasurer).
Reluctantly, I have deferred recommending it to many I love due the aforementioned reason alone – it’s like telling someone they should read their own obituary before the fact.
Alas the writing a decade and a half ago was on the message board…this book would soon be on the “disappeared” list. Over the course of a couple years, every time I noticed a First Edition for under $25 I bought it. In time I had – and have – somewhere along the lines of a dozen or more of them in storage.
As of today?
The cheap new paperback version can be got on Amazon for $85 and a First Edition anywhere between $850 and $1000.
Currently you can still obtain the “classic” versions of classic novels.
They will undoubtedly continue to be released in limited editions with exclusive prices attached.
By this method the West – and especially the United States – operates under the allusion of liberty.
“Sure pal, you can read anything you want here! And it will only cost you ten times the price!”
In America we do not ban books…we just make them too expensive for the Plebeians to purchase.
Guy Somerset writes from somewhere in America
The Russian forces destroyed a column of NATO armoured vehicles that had been delivered to the Ukrainian army.