CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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Go Out in a Blaze of Glory

October 10, 2018 (permalink)

We're delighted to hear this early reaction to our book of 112 spooky drink recipes, Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead.  Even better, a copy of our book was gifted to Chicago's Club Lucky by a time traveler!
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October 3, 2018 (permalink)

Quimby's Bookstore in New York says: "Just in time for your Halloween party, a new book from Prof. Oddfellow full of death-themed cocktails. Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead is full of dark libation recipes. Yum!"

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September 25, 2018 (permalink)


We're honored by this new review:

Machinarium Verbosus: A Curiosity Cabinet of Gadgets to Transform Any Book & Reader, To Be Sure really should be used as a workbook in college courses. And not just Literature courses but all manner of Philosophy, Psychology, even business and advertising. It's a great exercise book to get the right brain flexing some muscle and exerting a bit of power over the left brain. Get the creative energy flowing... I'm reminded of Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Creative Artist Within. —Adam McFarland



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September 6, 2018 (permalink)

"None of those swarming millions saw the godlike shape that hovered over them—none could—."  From Astounding Stories, 1934.
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August 31, 2018 (permalink)

We were delighted to spot our How to Be Your Own Cat in a wedding registry, between low-alcohol cocktail recipes and Grateful Dead lyrics, and beneath a "gun belt" of 20 bottles of herbal bitters.  Sounds about right.  Kit Kilmartin and Steven Cavagnet, may your union be blessed with nine lives.
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August 26, 2018 (permalink)

Revealed:
The Secrets to
the Spontaneous Expansion
of One's Quivering Entangled Vibrations

 

[For Clint Marsh.]

In 1929, the occult Welsh novelist John Cowper Powys, who wrote his magnum opus on Myrddin/Merlin (Porius), revealed his mystical secrets for the spontaneous expansion of one's quivering entangled vibrations.  We say "revealed," but these secrets are actually hidden and dispersed within the novel Wolf Solent.  For the first time, the varied elements of the technique are here coalesced and adapted for present-time adventurous spirits who wish to direct their own inner lives in their own peculiar fashions.

This technology is best practiced in the countryside, leisurely, from the passenger seat of a moving automobile, train, bus, or mountainside gondola.

Preliminarily (root word limen, "threshold"), stare through the open window and allow the passing telephone poles or trees to induce a mild hypnotic state.  Allow yourself to feel indulged by the peculiar pleasure in this luxury of simply taking in the environs.

The first step, when you're ready, is to imagine yourself to be a prehistoric giant running alongside your vehicle with effortless ease.  Leap over hedges, ditches, lanes, streams or ponds.  Let the noisy mechanical vehicle be deftly rivaled by the silent, natural-born speed of your giant.

Second, watch this other self, this leaping giant, with "the positive satisfaction of a hooded snake," as Powys put it, "thrusting out a flickering forked tongue" from coils that shimmer in the sun.

Third, notice that your real self is neither the giant nor the snake but rather that tree over there, "still in the rearward of its leafy companions," whose hushed grey branches throw such contorted shadows.

If you happen to see a cow eating grass in a churchyard, watch it for a quarter of a minute as it gathers to itself "such an inviolable placidity" that its feet seem "planted in a green pool of quietness" older than life itself.

If you happen to see a church tower, wonder whether the religions of the world are "nothing but so many creaking and splashing barges," whereon the souls of humanity ferry themselves over "lakes of primal silence," disturbing the swaying water lilies that grow there and frightening away the timid waterfowl.

If you happen to notice that a bluebottle fly is your traveling companion, fix your gaze upon it as it cleans its legs and wonder whether from church tower to church tower there might be sent, on "one gusty November night, a long-drawn melancholy cry, a cry heard only by dogs and horses and geese and village-idiots, the real death-cry of a god—dead at last of extreme old age!"

Whatever you happen to see, draw into your lungs the lovely breathings from damp mosses, cold primroses, hazel wood, or whatever foliages in question, breathings that seem to float up and down valleys on airy journeys of their own.  

And then begin the practice of "sinking into the soul," a device that supplies one with the secret substratum of one's whole life.  This is accomplished by summoning-up to the surface of your mind a subconscious magnetic power from your early days, from that time when you watched the glitter of the sun or moon on the waters—a power that seems prepared to answer such a summons.  Allow a bit of arrogance, the idea that you are taking part in some occult cosmic struggle, between what you like to think of as "good" and "evil" in those remote depths.  See the magnetic impulses as resembling great vegetable leaves over a still pool of blue-green water, "leaves nourished by hushed noons," as Powys put it, "by liquid, transparent nights, by all the movements of the elements—but making some inexplicable difference, merely by their spontaneous expansion, to the great hidden struggle always going on in Nature between the good and the evil forces."  Let the worries of daily life become faintly-limned images in a mirror.  Let the true reality exist in your mind, "in these hushed, expanding leaves—in this secret vegetation—the roots of whose being hid[e] themselves beneath the dark waters" of your consciousness.

When you're ready, feel your body in that water, like the body of a tree or fish or animal.  Feel your hands and knees "like branches or paws or fins."  Notice that floating around your body is a thought, "'I am I' against the world."  Let this "I am I" include a new purpose and include your will toward this new purpose.  Contemplate Powys' contention that there is no limit to the power of the will as long as it is used for two purposes only: to forget and to enjoy.  "The stream of life is made of little things. … To forget the disgusting ones and fill yourself with the lovely ones, that's the secret."

When you're ready, look above the surface of the pool, over the high tops of the trees, until your gaze loses itself in the blue sky.  "Millions of miles of blue sky," Powys said; "and beyond that, millions of miles of sky that could scarcely be called blue or any other colour—pure unalloyed emptiness, stretching outwards" from where you sit, "to no conceivable boundary or end!"

And, as you exhale into that vastness, say aloud, "Not dead yet!"  And then recite this passage from Wolf Solent: "Good is stronger than Evil, if you take it on its simplest terms and set yourself to forget the horror!  It's mad to refuse to be happy because there's a poison in the world that bites into every nerve.  After all, it's short enough!  I know very well that Chance could set me screaming like a wounded baboon — every jot of philosophy gone!  Well, until that happens, I must endure what I have to endure!"

---

See John Cowper Powy's Wolf Solent (Simon and Schuster, 1929) and Janina Nordius' "I Am Myself Alone": Solitude and Transcendence in John Cowper Powys (Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1997).

---

—Craig Conley is author of HarperCollins’ One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, Weiser Books’ Magic Words: A Dictionary, and The Young Wizard's Hexopedia.  His more arcane publications include A Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound, a guide toSeance Parlor Feng Shui, and a manual on The Care & Feeding of a Spirit Board.  He is co-author of New Star Books’ Franzlations: The Imaginary Kafka Parables.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, Publishers Weekly, The Associated Press, and dozens of others.

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August 25, 2018 (permalink)

An ardent (from the Latin root "to burn") collector of our books received a strangely warm package in the mail.  He said that by the time he dropped it, "the package had gotten really hot and sort of burst open on its own and was emitting a bright creepy light."  Indeed, this is not unheard of when How to Believe in Your ElfMagic Archetypes: The Art Behind The Science Of Conjuring, and Puzzling Portmeirion: An Unconventional Guide to a Curious Destination come into close contact and are also inverted (the collector lives Down Under, you see, where everything is upside-down).  "I was guessing that there are either some pretty powerful secrets in Magic Archetypes," the collector wrote, "or perhaps these sinister books of yours really are forbidden in Australia."
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August 24, 2018 (permalink)

When the occasional hater leaves us a bad review of one of our books or other creations, we're left seeing stars — literally!  We were recently given "two stars" by someone we've never heard of, for the extraordinary non-gimmicked magical card deck we created for Las Vegas headliners who seek to leave people with genuine wonderment.  (You can read about the deck here.)  At first those two stars left us astonished.  Then we realized: those two stars are "Azha Al Naam," meaning "Ostrich Nests."  There are dual luminaries in the legs of Sagittarius, one of which the Arabic astronomers of old said was an ostrich going to water, and the other an ostrich returning from the water.  The neighboring two stars are the ostriches' nests.  This constellation is described in the nearly forgotten book Urania: Or, a Compleat View of the Heavens (1754).  So, yes — our remarkable card deck is indeed a cosmic ostrich nest.  But we didn't tell that to our critic, figuring that if she didn't have eyes to see the self-expanding wisdom of the cards, how could she discern ancient ostrich nests in the heavens?  Her third eye perhaps sensed those glimmers, but had she been consciously aware of them, she'd have then seen more stars in a grander constellation.  Instead, realizing that our critic was admitting to be cut off from deep intuitive understanding, we gave her a wish by way of E. E. Cummings: "Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
Previously, in a review of our Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound, we identified a single star as the one Sappho called "the fairest of all the stars."
If you'd like help identifying the constellations of your own product reviews, let us know!

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August 23, 2018 (permalink)

We're deilghted that the latest review of our Magic Words: A Dictionary calls the book a "critter"!  This is a Retroactive Lifetime Goal!*  "This critter will definitely expand your vocabulary and repertoire."  Thanks, Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Bernie (Xyzzy)!
Our illustration is from Kosa, 1906.
*The phrase "retroactive lifetime goal" is used with the kind permission of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.
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August 20, 2018 (permalink)

Thanks to Jaybee for letting us know: "Your last video really, REALLY helped me. I was in tears. Seriously. I struggle with that. Very. Thing. A lot. But your video helped me remember that I’m not here to win a popularity contest."
She's referring to this video, in which I reveal my secrets for landing a major book deal, even if you don't have a best-selling idea, weren't born into the right families, and don't work very hard: https://youtu.be/GuvJpPTawGs
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August 13, 2018 (permalink)

From Jugend, 1929.
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July 30, 2018 (permalink)

Here are my secrets for landing a major book deal, even if you don't have a best-selling idea, weren't born into the right families, and don't work very hard: https://youtu.be/GuvJpPTawGs
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July 18, 2018 (permalink)

Our new publication offers 52 wishes for wayfarers before they take that first step, one for every bone of the feet.  Some might be called blessings, others prayers and positive affirmations for those who would travel by foot.  There is also a trio of ancient foot talismans from the Far East.

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July 6, 2018 (permalink)

Having already seen the world through rose-colored glasses, we're now enjoying the view through lurid Jello-green flexi-discs!  The grass is definitely greener on the flip side!  We're celebrating the Retroactive Lifetime Goal of having our voice recorded onto a lurid Jello-O green flexi-disc in the new issue of Fiddler's Green magazine!

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June 28, 2018 (permalink)

The slim pink volume on the left side of the shelf is our How to Be Your Own Cat.  We're honored to be part of the magical library of U.K.-based artist Clare Simmonds!

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June 27, 2018 (permalink)

A retroactive lifetime goal: to have one of our magic spells recorded onto a "lurid Jell-O green" flexidisc in the latest edition of Fiddler's Green magazine!
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June 6, 2018 (permalink)

At daybreak we ignited prayer flags to make a holy fire for transmogrifying sensitive documents and used a thrice-struck lightning rod as a poker.

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June 5, 2018 (permalink)

An entire book of front matter than never technically gets to chapter one but which instead picks the locks of the great sercrets of the universe?  It's happening.  We previously noted how a reader has begun using our blank book Let's Do and Say We Didn't to create more of that blank book's front matter (along with some additional front matter from our book on Seance Parlor Feng Shui, too!)  This reader is turning the blank book into an entire book of front matter.  There has already been an alchemical transformation (black wet ink transmogrifying to dry blue pencil, so as to avoid bleed-through on the cheap paper that nothing is written on).  And this book of front matter is reading its own mind: page 14 accurately predicts what page 15 should have done better, before it even happens.
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May 29, 2018 (permalink)

We're delighted that an avid reader found a rare copy of our Divination by Punctuation in a remote corner of the world (though in his Dictionary, Samuel Johnson's 3rd definition of "corner" says "every corner is the whole" because a corner implies the utmost limit, the extremities).
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May 28, 2018 (permalink)

A devoted reader ingeniously overlapped two diagrams from two of our books and applied them to the human body, illuminating a remarkable new tool.

Page 7 of Let's Do and Say We Didn't contains a map for constructing the elements of a believable lie.  Upon this template, our reader doodled out a version of the Chinese bagua map from Seance Parlor Feng Shui.  He noted: "They go so well together, one could easily conclude that you have illustrated the Feng Shui of Lying."  But then our reader had a brainstorm — what if this new map were laid over the human body?  The correspondences are uncanny.  For example, the top left shoulder of the human body corresponds to both the "fortune" aspect of the bagua and the "alibi" of the lying map, and it is indeed fortuitous to have an alibi.  One hand of the human body is associated with the "new beginnings" of the bagua and the "once upon a time" aspect of the lying map, appropriately writing or typing out the beginning of a story.  The other hand is associated with "elements of truth" from the lying map and "creativity / metal" of the bagua, recalling the old proverb that "truth is golden."  The two legs of the human body are also quite intriguing: one leg is associated with the bagua's "mentors" and the lying map's "second thoughts," and surely one's advisors offer additional thoughts and perspectives.  The other leg is associated with the the bagua's "wisdom" and the lying map's "characters," and isn't it wisdom that gives a character a "leg up" or "legs" in terms of success?  Also intriguing is how the human body's head is associated with the "obstacles" of the lying map and the "reputation" of the bagua, as it's commonly said that the stumbling blocks we face in life turn out to be mental constructs.

Our reader said, "Now what I believe you have done here is explain both physical Feng Shui (bagua map) and cerebral Feng Shui (story map).  Place these over the body, and with a basic understanding of the difference between right and left brain activity, conscious/subconscious, I think you have discovered the holistic nature of Feng Shui.  Body, Mind and Spirit.  Prof. Oddfellow, I believe you are on the precipice of proving that all existence can be explained with the simple concept of Feng Shui."

We're crediting that as a Retroactive Lifetime Goal!

We also like how the reader has begun using the blank book Let's Do and Say We Didn't to create more of that blank book's front matter (along with some additional front matter from Seance Parlor Feng Shui, too!)  It could turn into an entire book of front matter ... and then a second blank book would be required, with "Book 2" written onto the front cover, to restore the whole thing as a blank book.  Yet the process would have to continue -- a new blank book added every time one is filled.  But there's a hack to this vicious circle -- merely retain a single blank page at the very end of the first book, and it will technically still be a blank book (merely one that demands very careful consideration on how the reader/writer might fill in that limited space).

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Original Content Copyright © 2018 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.