Phil Baker's wonderful biography of Cockney artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare is a joy to read. Baker succeeds in presenting a rounded, informed portrait of a character whose posthumous fame has brought him to the attention of a wide range of people interested in magick, artwork and automatism. He manages to gently and affectionately debunk some of the wilder stories about Spare - many of them peddled by Spare himself, and by his sometimes associate Kenneth Grant - without detracting from the overall impression of a unique individual of rare talent whose life story captures the zeitgeist. I can't recommend this highly enough - a pure pleasure to read! It's also very funny, shining a light on many other key characters in the story of British occultism, for example the 'Great Beast' Aleister Crowley:
'At other times Crowley liked to think he was magically invisible, and there are several stories of him parading around the Cafe Royal in full regalia, not catching anyone's eye, until a visitor or tourist asked a waiter who he was. Don't worry, said the waiter; that's just Mr Crowley being invisible.'
I knew very little about Mr Spareand his work, although I have known of him through the reference of others for many years. I found this book to be well written, informative and well worthy of a read if the art, or magical theories, of Austin Osman Spare have piqued your interest.
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Austin Spare, espacially the stories of his dedication to constantly working on his art, his 'pop-up' in todays jargon art exhibitions and his love and kindness to the cats. Phil Baker also seems to have recognised some humour in Spare and it comes across in the text so as we, the reader and the storyteller, all feel we are... singing from the same hymn sheet. So to speak. Some of Spare's work is truly great and always innovative, so I believe he deserves this book to place his memory and legacy into the history of art where he rightly belongs instead of being ignored by mostly ill-informed so-called experts.
This was a brilliant book superbly researched. Even if you're not drawn to the occult its an amazing insight into the life of a very original talent. I enjoyed the accounts of his friendship with my uncle in it too. Recommended for anyone on the left hand path.
It does indicate how the artistically gifted and talented Austin Spare went about doing his mystical activities both on the material and psychomystical levels. His history is fascinating to read, as also the connections he had with the society of the day and esoteric publishing dabblers up to the time of his death in, I think, 1976. He died in penury, so perhaps there may be a moral lesson to be learned from his life. The system he used is very enigmatic and the code has never been cracked by anyone, even though there are hints that erotic dreaming is a method of being able to contact 'subconscious levels'. Disturbing esoteria in some places and it is NOT for dabblers or the faint-hearted.