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.
Craig Conley, bless him, has given us plenty of literary treats - but his Magic Words: A Dictionary is one of the excellentest. The entries are essay-style, so they're fun to read (like I would ever recommend anything that wasn't), and feature words and symbols from around the world - each with its own etymology, as well as mythical, historical, and cultural background. Illustrations of symbols and icons are included where applicable. Bippity boppity boo.
Puzzling Portmeirion: An Unconventional Guide to a Curious Destination, by one Mr. Craig Conley (author of Magic Words, featured above), is a remarkably creative and inspiring new approach to travel guides. Can't stand all the bloggers trying to market themselves as "travel writers" of the same freaking places, over and over and over? Or perhaps you're one of this sorry pack and are looking to break free of the rut? This book will set you down right on the path to revolution! YEE FREAKING HAW.
A delightful collage of carefully curated quotes, relevant and whimsical illustrations plucked right out of history, and thought-provoking original prose, Heirs to the Queen of Hearts made me laugh out loud regularly, gave me old-fashioned practical advice as well as avant-garde practical advice, and echoed many sentiments that had been kicking around in my head. It was an excellent source of new perspectives as well as a fine reinforcement of perspectives I already held, but appreciated some confirmation of. A breezy and approachable read, Heirs to the Queen of Hearts nonetheless packs plenty of punch in the conceptual arena, and is absolutely a purchase well worth your time and money. —K.G.
You may recall our 3-minute proof that you are related to Merlin:
While staying in a Los Angeles hotel casita, we were surprised to find our dictionary of one-letter words sitting atop a Bible. (Is it an ironic pairing of a best-seller with a non-starter? Or is it a visual joke, like "Alpha[bet] and Omega?) We recall Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (with its charming, time-bending solution to the true authorship of the Shakespeare plays) in which a motel drawer features a Gideon Bible, the teachings of Buddha, Thoughts Of St. Zvlkx, and the complete works of the Bard (among other things).
We're honored and astonished that one of our books has been described as engendering the Magician archetype and allowing the reader to touch the face of God. (No kidding!) From "The Magician" chapter of Naked Tarot(coming this autumn):
In the laboratory of life, experimenting with words and meaning can yield incredible insights. My friend Craig Conley, who wrote the Foreword for this book, is someone I consider a modern Magician. I mean, the guy is awesomesauce. Not only is he the smartest person I know, he’s light years ahead of most people in terms of creativity. (Don’t believe me? Go to Amazon.com and put his name in the Search field. His books are just mind-blowing in their inventiveness.) One of those books is The Young Wizard's Hexopedia: A Guide to Magical Words and Phrases. I guarantee if you get that book, and experiment with the exercises, you’ll be as close to the Magician archetype you could possibly get. Who knows? You may even touch the face of God…or rearrange it altogether in a Cubist image of your liking.
(This qualifies as a Retroactive Lifetime Goal, as coined by literary scalawag Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.)
We're honored by this review of our unique book on dice divination, Astragalomancy, over on Amazon.
Reviewed by R. Bakhtiari
Every time I roll dice while playing a board game, I notice how the little spots on the cubes sometimes seem to form pictures. There's the dreaded "snake eyes" of two ones, but I've also wondered about the pictures formed by other dice combinations. Searching online for information about dice meanings, I encountered this book on Astragalomancy. What impressed me was how this book's illustrations show you HOW to see the meanings in the dice. And I also like how the interpretations can serve as very positive affirmations, so that you can do a simple dice roll and get a new perspective on your day or on a particular circumstance. There are 21 different meanings to memorize (if you wish to do a dice reading but don't have the book handy), but I found the symbolism to be self-apparent (once you know what to look for). There's some interesting bonus material, too, about how to use blank dice (for more esoteric readers, I think) and on how to design your own custom dice (I found this part very intriguing and inspiring).
You had me at Hex-o. This book is 1/4 tongue-in-cheek, 1/4 harry-potter-ishness, 1/4 traditional magic, and 1/4 this-is-so-crazy-it-just-might-work. Very creative retellings of spells, enchanting illustrations, and a writing tone that sucks the reader into a world of plausibilities and possibilities. There are several points in the book where even a serious occultist will be intrigued at the techniques. I adapted the Magic Square technique into some simple spell-working and was delighted with the easy and speedy results. So, I wouldn't cast this book aside too quickly as a joke. I could easily teach a 10-year-old simple spell-working out of this book. But it is not just for young wizards, either. Creative, and charming. I bow in humility to the genius of Professor Oddfellow.
By the way, the story of how The Young Wizard's Hexopedia came to be is just about as unlikely as the book itself. One November morning, a stranger wrote from out of the blue, asking for assistance with an extraordinary book of magic. The stranger turned out to be the CEO of a publishing house specializing in the world's quirkiest subject matter, in search of a grimoire that didn't technically exist. His own research had somehow determined that I was the one with the know-how to bring this lost book back from the depths. It seems that he had seen a window display of an esoteric bookshop and had noticed that the lost book in question wasn't there. The problem was that no surviving copies of the book are known to exist. My task was to rediscover and recreate the entire document from quotations and implications in magical literature. The stranger provided me with some crucial scraps, trusting that the whole work might be holographically contained within the parts. Knowing the title and a rough idea of the table of contents, I set to work hunting through cryptic volumes in private libraries of magic (whose locations I'm not at liberty to reveal, though I can say that I visited Hollywood's Magic Castle). Suffice it to say, I left no philosopher's stone unturned. The process was very much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in a dark room, with only a flickering candle for illumination. To my own surprise, the lost book began taking shape almost immediately. Restoring fragments into sentences and arranging them into paragraphs proved less challenging than one might suppose. For example, you can surely divine what the last word of this sentence will [...]. Whenever a passage seemed to have something almost tangibly missing, like the absence of a vital book in an esoteric shop window, I knew to keep digging. The moment it was clear that the entire Hexopedia was restored, I verified the accuracy of my work with three highly gifted wizards of words: a playwright in New Hampshire, a poet in Pennsylvania, and a teacher of magical arts in Nevada. Then I sent the restoration to the stranger, who flabbergasted me by suggesting that the book should not come back into print at all but rather remain hidden in shadowy slumber until a more enlightened era. (Apparently the trickster merely desired a copy for his personal use!) Having worked so intimately with the text for so long, I felt convinced that the world was ready once again for the Hexopedia ... that it shouldn't rest only in the private library of one megalomaniacal* publisher. And the rest, as the former, is history. Here's a random page from The Young Wizard's Hexopedia.
*Note that "megalomaniacal" is an anagram of "ole magi almanac," so it all seems to be part of some mysterious tapestry, eh?