If someone were to write a book The 100 People You Must Meet Before You Die, Trevor Blake would be on the list.
A fixture in underground and alternative publishing for over two decades, Blake’s zine-cum-blog OVO is a repository of heretical thought and just plain weirdness. I had the privilege of meeting him when I lived in Portland; actually describing the experience of hanging out with Trevor is difficult. He’s not a particularly imposing man. His voice is on the soft side. But when he speaks, his thoughts are so concrete and well-articulated that I can’t help but hang on every word.
I’m half-convinced he isn’t even human, but has been sent to examine the creepy, bizarre inhabitants of planet Earth before reporting back to his masters in Dimension X.
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays is a difficult book, not because it’s hard to understand, but because it gives no leeway to anyone. With surgical wit and wisdom, Trevor deconstructs every pretty lie of modern America, even the pretty lies that he himself is susceptible to. Organized religion and atheism, feminism and patriarchy, anarchism and statism; nothing is off-limits. Like a modern-day Socrates, Trevor Blake chucks dynamite at sacred icons just because, because one spoonful of truth is worth a bucketful of lies.
If you enjoy scorching prose and left-field opinions, Confessions of a Failed Egoist is a necessary addition to your collection.
What sets Trevor apart from his intellectual forbears (H.L. Mencken, Robert Anton Wilson and other anti-collectivist writers) is his willingness to critically examine his own beliefs. The eponymous essay kicks off the book, a logical defenestration of the worldview closest to Trevor’s heart:
Egoism builds a shanty, not a shelter, on the plateau of heresy. Egoism stakes a claim and keeps moving. Most people muddle through the day. A minority seek to rule the muddle. A smaller minority still seek to reform the rulers, and a smaller number seek revolution, and a very small number repudiate the revolution, the reform and the rulers alike. Egoism is in that smallest minority, the imp of the perverse and the bur under the saddle, nobody’s friend and its own worst enemy. Egoism isn’t the boy who laughs and points at the naked emperor, it’s the boy who laughs and points at a naked empire.
This excerpt also captures the delightful prosody of Trevor’s writing. His prose has a whimsical, poetic feel to it, winding through alliteration and developing a meter all its own. It’s worth noting that his writing isn’t as strong in some of the book’s older essays (some of the works in Confessions have been recycled from previous issues of OVO), but the book remains an enjoyable read throughout thanks to Trevor’s dry humor and laconic approach.
Another example: “The first Objectivist I met was in college. Now he’s doing hard time for statutory rape.”
Confessions of a Failed Egoist is organized in what some might think is a haphazard style. While the initial essays have a sensible layout—Trevor includes a review of The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays, that long-despised demolisher of libertarian golden calves, as well as the free speech missive “My Crowded Fist Theater Shouting Fire at the End of Your Nose”—some of the essays seem wildly out of place. For example, “Co-Remoting with the Thunderous,” an entertaining profile of Baltimore artist tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, doesn’t seem like it fits. “Infinite Material Universe,” another essay, reads like something out of The Law of One:
The universe is the sum of all the partially overlapping and contradictory regions of space and time. What is impossible in one time and place is common in another time and place. Infinite possibilities includes those possibilities where what is possible in one region and impossible in another will overlap. The marvelous will meet the mundane. Gradually. Suddenly. Just once. Today, tomorrow.
The second half of Confessions is where Trevor truly hits his stride. “Really,” one of my favorite selections, takes a sledgehammer to the pseudo-Freudian psychoanalysis that passes for debate today (ex: “If you’re acting like a man you must be a misogynist.”). “Why Should I Speak of Them?” discusses one of Trevor’s past jobs as a used book dealer and the bizarre characters who frequented his shop, from a homeless Nazi to a guy who walked around with an “influencing machine” in his pocket. The crown achievement of the book is “Triumph of the Wilt,” a blistering attack on everyone from socialists to feminists to the idiots on both left and right (though as Trevor points out, one of the crucial differences between the two is that “the left can make a joke, but the right can take one”):
You must never think of a woman as a baby machine, and you must never forget that a woman is a baby machine. Women need public funding to go to college but if they drop out to be mommies, that’s okay too. Women are the same on the job as any man but if they need time off to be mommies, that’s okay too. Put it all together: women need access to all academic fields to gain the specialized knowledge needed for specialized careers involving heavy investment from employers, but if they want to have it all to be mommies, that’s okay too.
What’s the endgame of all this idol destruction? Does there have to be one? The truth is an animal all its own, one that serves no man or ideology, though some of both come close. Everything that mankind touches is tainted, and a nice takedown of the freaks is necessary to keep the social digestive tract working.
That’s what Confessions of a Failed Egoist is: an enema for the mind, with a side of Vicodin to keep the pussies from screaming.
It’s only after you’ve finished Confessions that the seemingly off-topic essays such as “Co-Remoting with the Thunderous” and “So You Want to Meet an Alien?” (about The Skin Horse, a documentary on the sex lives of retards and cripples) make sense. Trevor seeks to celebrate the individual, the person who strives for excellence in a world where mediocrity dominates. A guy like tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE may be a total weirdo, but you can’t deny that he’s unique or that he hasn’t succeeded at his life goals. Yes, egoism might have its issues, just like every other belief system, but the will to succeed and achieve is certainly real.
You just need to get off your ass and do something.
For these reasons, I highly recommend Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays. While you may disagree with it—in fact, it’s all but guaranteed—it’s a book that takes a taser straight to your brain. In a world where upholding pretty lies is a lucrative endeavor, Trevor Blake’s book stands as a ray of sunshine peeking down from the clouds.
Click here to buy Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays.
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