Sunday, January 8, 2012

Feral House: The Only Books That Matter

Sure, it’s a take on old slogan CBS Records once used to describe The Clash. I’ll never forget the sticker on Sandinista!, which described the group as “The Only Band That Matters.” Well, screw ‘em, I doubt they are going to sue me over recycling it. In the case of Feral House, that cliché is probably going to taken as an insult though. The books they publish certainly “matter,” but they go far beyond that silly term. As a publisher, Adam Parfrey is absolutely fearless in what he chooses to release. Daniel Ellsberg was once called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” That’s a little closer to what J. Edgar might have said about Parfrey, but who knows? The old cross-dresser may have had him locked up on general principles by now.

Adam Parfrey has been kicking at the barn doors for some time. The only problem is that most of the sheep inside are content to watch Two And A Half Men or the occasional “political” debate. You know, the ones where we pretend there is a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Judging from a few of Feral House’s titles, my guess is that Parfrey sees right through the political show, and knows full well who really runs the country. Of course books such as Babylon’s Banksters and Inside The Shadow Government are always dismissed as paranoid conspiracy theories - and the authors are painted as dangerously demented. Or they are simply killed, as was apparently the case with Danny Casolaro - who was researching what he termed The Octopus. This was to be his connect-the-dots expose of the ongoing vast conspiracy between government, industry, and all sorts of free-lance mercenaries. Feral House’s The Octopus: The Life and Death of Danny Casolaro is just one of the many “must reads” in their catalog.

My apologies for the digression. The number of Feral House’s books in-print is over 100, and each one could be called a “must-read” for various reasons. This is beginning to sound like a lengthy advertisement for the company, but I assure you - I have never even met Adam Parfrey. I did talk to him on the phone once, for about 30 seconds, and it was pretty clear he was extremely busy filling orders and such. So there's the old "full disclosure" business - out and in the open. Regardless of any of that though, I have read at least ten Feral House books, and can say without reservation that each one has exceeded my expectations. A couple of links to my reviews here might help illustrate this:

American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Stephen Blush

Speed, Speed, Speedfreak: A Fast History of Methamphetamine by Mick Farren

Since this is an entry in my personal blog, I get to say whatever the hell I want, without worrying about what or how an “editor” might deem appropriate. So I am going to take a moment to explain where the interest, and this resulting piece came from.
Does anyone remember The Church of the SubGenius, “led” by Rev. Ivan Stang? In 1988 he published a book titled High Weirdness by Mail - A Directory of The Fringe: Mad Prophets, Crackpots, Kooks & True Visionaries. Today it would be called High Weirdness by E-Mail, but back then, you actually wrote out letters to the places that interested you, and requested info and items from them. I went nuts - must have sent off at least 50 inquiries, some with a dollar or two inside - most of them with nothing but a return address.

My mailbox became a treasure trove of truly strange fun. Hell, I even subscribed to the Flat Earth News for a while.

This is where I discovered Amok Press, who published a book I had been searching out for a long time. You Can’t Win by Jack Black is one of the greatest tales I have ever read. William Burroughs called it his all- time favorite book, which was what set me out "on the trail" initially. I must confess to having read that book a good ten times over the past 20 or so years. I’m not going to review it here - just trust me on this one. It is fantastic.

Anyway, since I was so impressed with that purchase, I decided to order another Amok item: Apocalypse Culture - edited by Adam Parfrey, and featuring an awesome cover painting by Joe Coleman. It is another five-star item, and there is even a second volume, which I intend to order one of these days.

Besides the discovery of Amok, High Weirdness also introduced me to the dearly departed, but beyond description Loompanics catalog. I am a life-long resident of the Seattle area, and when I found out that Loompanics were based in Port Townsend, WA - I was thrilled. That small, very artistic community is only a ferry-boat ride away. Or you can drive the roughly 50 miles to it over the Narrows Bridge.

About a year ago, I interviewed J.G. Thirlwell aka Foetus (among many other pseudonyms) here. We talked off the record for a while, and Adam Parfrey’s name came up (as a friend of Thirlwell’s). I was shocked to discover that he had located Feral House (he calls it “Feral Acres”) in Port Townsend, WA. Not that it matters, but I wonder - out of all the possible spots he could have based his business at, why there? Maybe it has something to do with Loompanics, or maybe not. Who knows, and basically who cares? Just fodder to fill my blog with I guess.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell a very long story about how and why I think Feral House is so cool. My blog gets oh… maybe one reader a day - but thanks, I wish I had something to offer you, maybe an old issue of The Flat Earth Society newsletter, huh?

If you have had your fill of Oprah’s Picks (or what the fuck ever), The Fringe is a pretty cool place to visit. From what I can tell, Feral House is the best place to go for the “out of the ordinary” type of material that I crave.

There is actually much more to the story of Amok, Adam Parfrey, and the whole underground scene he continues to be a major part of. His connection to J.G. Thirlwell is obviously something interesting, and from what I understand, there is also another publishing firm under the “Feral Acres” umbrella. We get a lot of rainy Sunday afternoons here in Seattle, which tend to entice me to write more about what I consider to be a very unique time in the "underground" 20 or so years ago. Check back in, and check out Feral House. as well.

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