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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2002
Crowley has always been a figure deserving of a good biography but untill now he has only ever been portrayed as a charlatan and a pervert. Sutin has tried to draw up a picture of the man without exaggerating or overdramatising him. He never mocks Crowley's vocation and reports on his rituals and experiments with admirable impartiality, giving more credibility to the man as a whole. Overall, Crowley does not come across as a likeable person; he is arrogant, misogynous, intolerant, xenophobic etc But he is also shown as intelligent and capable and, in some cases, justified in his arrogance. Importantly the book never becomes boring, Sutin does not dwell on the more lurid details nor does he resort to reporting anecdotes or rumours. Some well known stories about the man are notably absent from the book. Probably the main problem about with this biography is the lack of concrete fact about Crowley. A good deal of the information in the book is drawn from Crowley's own autobiography and, as Sutin points out, Crowley is not always to be believed.
Overall the book is an enjoyable read, although those looking for sensational and lurid stories may want to look elsewhere, those with an interest in the magickal philosophy of Crowley, will be glad to see that it is presented with the respect that maybe it deserves.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2003
Having read nine other biographies of A.C. I consider this to be in many regards the best. Sutin has here managed a thorough and fair treatment of the head spinning character that is Crowley, whom we follow up mountains, through deserts, into psychedelic discombobulation and beyond. Sutin has a great style which carries the reader smoothly through A.C.'s incredible life, never relying too much on extracts from the 'Confessions' as others have done. I feel Sutin's dedication to this book was immense; it really is a superb addition to the library dedicated to Crowley, oozing high quality research and sanity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2015
If the works and life of Aleister Crowley have ever raised the slightest curiosity about why he still remains a thoroughly controversial figure then Lawrence Sutin's biography is definitely worth reading. As neither a follower of Thelema or an amateur Crowley scholar; this work balances fairly well a view of the man and his works, although a strong interest in religion, mystical belief and Crowley's own view on 'magickal operations' is definitely needed as it is not an easy read unless you already have some sound knowledge of Hindu yogic practise, Buddhism, Western magical societies and the Freemasons.

Sutin cuts through a lot of nonsense by leaving out the salacious and more virulent gossip or rumour that surrounded Crowley, but still retains somewhat of a critical approach to his general behaviour and treatment of friends, partners and others, which can be beyond abhorrent. What I appreciated most about the writing were the inclusions of the context of Victorian cultural, religious and societal values that Aleister Crowley was brought up with, and in some ways seems to never truly managed to escape as influences. In giving these mentions to that background it offers the opportunity to understand some of the formative influences that could shape such a personality.

The drawbacks: the writing style can slip into a rather repetitive approach. I lost count of the amount of times that the words "…and that will be dealt with/mentioned later in this chapter" were written, which is unnecessary when only a couple of paragraphs are between one reference and the next. Although Lawrence Sutin does aim for a level of non-judgemental description in Crowley's magickal works, some of his sexual life and other matters, for me he does try a little too hard to sell his achievements in poetry and mountaineering. The underlying impression is of a keen mind and thoroughly impassioned interest in poetical form, but the examples quoted in the text do not give the particular impression of an unfairly neglected or overlooked example of brilliance. It may be a fairer view that his shunning in established English mountaineering circles on some of his achievements are a sign of the antipathetical attitudes towards Crowley that were there from a fairly early stage of life. However, given his attitude towards most other climbers, but especially his explosively violent, sadistic (even if entirely common as a Victorian colonial view) actions towards indigenous peoples I don't think a lack of recognition is necessarily undeserved in the annals of mountaineering history.

Overall; as demystification on why Aleister Crowley still retains the reputation, and influence in some areas, that he does this is an excellent way of finding out.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2010
Perhaps you are a member of the Fine Madness Society that keeps you interested in Crowley, or perhaps you just want to understand the motivation behind the man that was Aleister Crowley. In either case this is the best biography to date. Lawrence Sutin has done his homework and has researched through letters and interviews the whole of Crowley's life. In particular the section on his childhood and adolescence is longer and better researched than John Symonds. Symonds was a friend of Crowley's and in his book The Great Beast he seems to have written what he was told or known through others. Sutin has read all of Crowley's work and magical workings to give us a greater sense of the real Crowley. He distinguishes the real Crowley from the media image and Celebrity image Crowley himself was apt to spin around him. He puts the flesh on the skeleton Symonds has offered us. I was particularly glad that Sutin has been at pains to reveal the reality behind the myth of Crowley's link to the Third Reich. He was not acknowledged by Hilter, though Hilter may have read a book of Crowley's - nor was he a spy during World War II. It seems that underneath his malevolent claptrap Crowley was a patriot and as photos have shown, a supporter of Winston Churchill. His friend and a great support in Germany, Germer had to flee to New York after a time imprisoned by the Nazis. Crowley's homosexuality is here revealed by Sutin during his long sexual career when he was as attracted to men as to women. In particular his great love at Trinity College and his bond to Victor Neuberg and their magical workings. The loyalty of Leah Waddell is described as well as the fact that he was not involved sexually with Frieda Harris who was 60 when he first met her. Crowley died in 1947 and you are aware at the end of how he might have lived for another 20 years if it were not for his drug addiction and deteriorating health due to this. Like a dead Star he burnt out early.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2015
This book is excellent as a comprehensive source on the life of Alister Crowley. But be warned, this is not just a bit of light bedtime reading material for the faintly curious. It goes into such depth, occasionally off on barely relative tangents, that I'd recommend this primarily for educational purposes or for the most die heard Crowley enthusiast.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2010
Very very well written -- apart from some minor proof-reading errors which are obviously not the author's fault.-- full of extra tit-bits detailing AC's bizarre nature and reactions to situations. Vividly brings the character of AC to life and is written intelligently in a flowing style that makes it as much a page turner as the best 'thriller'. One of the best. Read in conjunction with 'Secret Agent 666' Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occultyou have a more complete picture than is possible with either book alone.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
Whether you think this is the best Crowley biography or not it's certainly a "must read" for anyone seriously interested in the man and/or his magick .... but be warned, if all you want is a quick tabloid style bio with a lot of "sex and satanism" you'll be bored after the first few pages.

Comphrehensive and admirably unbiased this fat book gives you as balanced a picture of Crowley's often complicated life and equally complicated magickal philosophy as is possible today when so many of the details suffer from exaggeration and hearsay -Crowley's death being a classic example.

You should certainly understand Crowley better after reading Sutin, even though you still might not like him.
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on 20 December 2013
A very well written and researched book. If you want to find out more about Crowley and have ever wondered what the reality was behind this divisive and controversial individual this is a great introduction. Surprisingly easy and enjoyable read. I highly recommend reading this before attempting to read any of his own works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2015
A kind appraisal of Crowley's life..93
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on 7 November 2015
one of the best books about AC..tells it as it is
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