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Book Review: Charles Fort

If you’re unfamiliar with Charles Fort, then this book by Jim Steinmeyer might not be for you. However, if like me, Fort is one of the “patron saints” in your pantheon, this is a must-read.

gordon with Fort book

I was introduced to Fort through the writings of Robert Anton Wilson. Furthermore, the primary reason I subscribe to Readly is to have regular access to the UK magazine Fortean Times. Fort’s work, and the worldview that has evolved in the 100 or so years after his death, is not for every taste. This posthumous description by his publisher sums it up nicely:

Most would read Fort’s books with repugnance and fear. Others would cast them aside with a smile and call them childish fairy talk. A few would shudder with delight, recognizing the poetry, the truth, insight and the marvelous intelligence of Fort’s conception.

I’m a shudder-er.

The book, subtitled “The Man Who Invented the Supernatural,” does a wonderful job of putting Fort’s work in a cultural and social context. This was perhaps my biggest lesson from the work — I honestly had little sense of when, where, and how Fort lived.

Steinmeyer includes some excellent quotes from Fort, both from his published works and private correspondence. These, and other observations that stood out, include:

  • Fort had invented a new kind of ghost story, in which it is the cold, hard data that haunts.
  • “I cannot say that truth is stranger than fiction because I have never had acquaintance with either.”
  • “I can’t think why anybody should go to Indiana. Thought everybody cam away from Indiana.”
  • “I believe nothing of my own that I have written. I cannot accept that the products of minds are subject-matter for beliefs.”
  • In Darwinism, there is no place for the influence of the future upon the present.
  • Fort was a regular correspondent with John Reid of Lovelock, Nevada. Reid was involved with the discovery of red-haired giants, the remains of which were witnessed by a member of my family. Six degrees of separation, sort of.
  • One thing that both science and religion agree on is the suppression of witchcrafts.
  • Fort coined the word “teleportation.”
  • Fort is the infant terrible of science, bringing the family skeletons to the desert table when distinguished guest are present.
  • If you’re on-trend with zettelkasten, you’ll be envious of the tens of thousands of notes and filing system that Fort utilized.
  • I was tickled to learn that Fort would hide pennies and other “treasures” for people to find in the future. A practice that I heartily endorse.
  • Steinmeyer’s end notes are as interesting and illuminating as the main text, and I was tickled to find my friend William Pack acknowledged for help with research.

Although it was published a few years ago, the book is still in print and available in hardback, paperback, or bytes at Amazon.

Comments

Craig Conley

Great bullet list of standout tidbits! I read Steinmeyer's introduction to the volume of the complete Charles Fort, and this biography is still on my to-read list. Sounds well-worth pursuing, so thanks for the reminder!

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