Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sax Rohmer, the Golden Dawn and Atlantis

Sax Rohmer - a writer who knew how to look the part - was born (under the more prosaic name of Arthur Ward) on this day in 1883. Scanning his Wikipedia entry, I note that the prolific creator of Dr Fu Manchu was (or was not - ever the man of mystery) a member of some branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Following the link to that fissile Order - of which, famously, Yeats was a member (he was, as Auden put it, 'silly like us') - I found a fine comic narrative of absurdity, delusion, squabbles and double-crosses. It gets funnier as it goes on, especially from the Golden Age section onwards. 'The Bradford and Weston-super-Mare temples remained loyal to him, but their numbers were few...' - and how wonderful that the last active temple was in New Zealand... Reading about the Golden Dawn chimed nicely with the novel I am enjoying at the moment - Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis, which tells the story of the rise and fall of the occult Gnomon Society of America. I intend to report more fully when I've finished reading it, but it could be a while - Masters of Atlantis is so funny that I keep reading sections over again and slowing down the better to savour Portis's exquisite deadpan comedy. I think it's the funniest book I've read in many years.