Rob Brezsny has just received a proposal of marriage. After speaking or, rather, pontificating and praying to a packed house at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, he has worked the crowd into a state of deep adulation. One audience member shares a highly personal dream he had about shit and sex. Another confesses she has flown to New York from Denver for some relaxation on the advice of Brezsny’s nationally syndicated Free Will astrology column (which appears in the Voice).
A third suggests they tie the knot.
“No, thank you. Not right now,” Brezsny replies, laughing, and one wonders if this self-proclaimed “fuckmaster” and honorary menstruator receives such offers on a regular basis. After all, macho feminists are few and far between.
“The predominant ethic that rules most art and media is that cynicism is the most intelligent form of analysis,” Brezsny told me on the phone from Marin County, where he lives. “In the tabloid press, paranoia and pop nihilism are the superior forms of thinking. I see my work as an antidote.” He propounds a philosophy of “Pronoia: the sneaking suspicion that the world is conspiring to shower you with blessings.”
At B&N, he explains that he’s lifting the veil of mystery that has until now surrounded his persona because “I have become myself. I have been able to access my soul’s code.” He’s hoping to inspire others to get in touch with “the blueprint that the Goddess gave you.” He’s also promoting his new novel, The Televisionary Oracle (Frog, $16.95), the hyperverbal rants of horny musician Rockstar and his destined love Rapunzel as they quest for orgasm and enlightenment. Rapunzel—the high priestess of the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail, whose coming-of-age tale parallels Rockstar’s narrative of emerging feminist consciousness—has also created the oracle of the title. It interrupts the story periodically with sermons that echo the humorous tone of Brezsny’s 20-year-old column: “We know it has all been said and done before,” says the oracle, “but the difference with us is that we’re not just out to manipulate you into giving us your adoration and money. We really love you unconditionally. Not sentimentally. Not ironically. Not as a joke or a con or with the disguised hope that you’re going to owe us big-time. We really do want to be in your dreams helping you carry the garbage out of your nightmares.”
Some of the mystery still remains, tangible though Brezsny is with his long, fuzzy hair and crisp white shirt. He will not tell his age, his lover’s name, nor much about his family of origin. He will reveal that he writes down his dreams first thing in the morning and often follows that by “whirligigging” about astrology (yes, he draws a chart first). He eats dinner twice a week with a “school of wild women.” What is the school, exactly? He declines to answer.
However, The Televisionary Oracle is explicitly autobiographical, and Brezsny’s writing offers intimate details of his sexual awakening and the evolution of his spiritual and feminist paths. After a childhood spent in Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey, he graduated from Goddard College and in his quest for altered states rejected hallucinogens in favor of meditation, drumming, and singing. Eventually, he settled on tantra: “Use of ritual eroticism as a means of penetrating the veil,” he explains. “Especially with certain kinds of women that I began to call wild women.”
Some of the wild women, however, were “psychotic.” The character of Rapunzel is largely based on the author’s own “freaky consort” (read: girlfriend), who guided Brezsny to a group who were not brazenly cruel, not wild in the sense of destructive. “[My lover is] a Wiccan priestess. She’s a singer, likes to fuck all the time, she’s had a lot of therapy. She’s got a totally integrated personality.”
In the book, Rapunzel teaches Rockstar that despite his roomful of books on the Goddess revival, he’s not much more than a randy egalitarian poseur. She helps him develop his idea of “macho feminism” by demonstrating the need for emotional vulnerability and pushing him to embrace ugliness as well as attractiveness.
The pervasive philosophy of pronoia makes the book less a novel than a strung-together series of sermons and visions. Heard aloud at B&N, it seems alarmingly funny and apocalyptic; read at home, it’s a bit more like the ravings of a manic show-off who nonetheless has something interesting to say to the cynical paranoiacs of New York City: “Happiness is not boring,” Brezsny intones, and people burst into applause. “Optimism is not for dumb people. It doesn’t mean you lack critical thinking skills. Dear Goddess, please nullify the black magic that has been cast on these wild and sexy geniuses.”