Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Forbidden Book

**A special Guest Post is provided below also... just for The Dew!**

The Forbidden Book
Joscelyn Godwin and
Guido Mina Di Sospiro
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Disinformation Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2013)
Original print 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1938875014

Book Description:
Here's a new novel that's a literary esoteric thriller -  The Forbidden Book by Joscelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro.

In The Forbidden Book, Professor Leo Kavenaugh’s and Orsina Riviera della Motta’s lives are changed forever after Orsina invites Leo to Italy to help her study a private family edition of “Il Mondo magico de gli heroi” (The Magical World of the Heroes) – a mysterious treatise of alchemy that supposedly teaches one how to attain the “Tree of Life” and make a man into a god. At first oblivious to the mystical world behind their studies, Leo and Orsina do not realize Orsina’s uncle is using the text in ways that will endanger thousands of innocents across Europe.

Mina di Sospiro’s extensive knowledge of Catholic history and practice and Godwin’s authoritative studies of the Western Esoteric tradition help set The Forbidden Book apart from many other occult thrillers --- as does the fact that “Il Mondo magico de gli heroi” is a real 1603 volume about alchemy and magic. Underlying the fast-paced action, the reader will find a profound treatment of moral and political dilemmas, the conflict of religions, and the frightening possibilities of the occult.

Idgie Says: 
The description could throw you off, making you think it's a deep religious philosophical argument type of book but it actually is a novel with a strong story line.  It's a murder mystery dealing along different sides facing off with religion as the meeting and/or breaking point.  

I would recommend this for someone who wants a novel that you need to study, think hard about what's going on, perhaps need to backtrack a bit and for someone who has a strong interest in the history of religion.  Not a "skimming" read.  You will want to take your time with this one.


On the advantages and challenges of co-writing a novel – by Guido Mina di Sospiro
In this special piece for Dew on the Kudzu, Guido Mina di Sospiro, co-author of THE FORBIDDEN BOOK, shares the advantages and challenges of co-writing a novel.

The motivations for writing THE FORBIDDEN BOOK with Joscelyn Godwin were many and manifold, not least the... play element.

Both Joscelyn and I have been trained as musicians since our early years. While Joscelyn continues to play all sorts of instruments, from the harpsichord to the viola da gamba, and I have essentially stopped, we approached the writing of The Forbidden Book not as writing but as playing—a quattro mani, Italian music jargon for “piano four hands.” This explains why we’ve never argued, and never will. I remember saying as much to a literary agent who was representing us at the time, and she, with a suddenly very worried expression, said, “You have no idea what I’ve experienced from co-authors…” That must be the norm; I myself have read of co-authors fighting for days over a comma. But we, we were playing music…

Joscelyn and I wrote mainly via electronic mail. The anticipation experienced before receiving each other's bits put all the fun back into writing: we were, really, playing. Sometimes it felt like opening not a new e-mail, but a Christmas gift when we were children. Every time a piece arrived, it was a minor celebration.

Occasionally we waited for the most propitious time to read one's new contribution. Then we would pick up the phone and discuss whatever needed elaboration, then edit each other, send, re-write, re-discuss, etc. The idea of writing sequentially was never realistically entertained (does anybody still write sequentially?): we kept jotting down whatever inspired us that day and then we'd put it "on the shelf," as Joscelyn would say, to be used whenever we needed it.

From time to time, we'd connect the dots and fill in the gaps. Our bits blended into one another and by now we couldn't quite distinguish who wrote what. Working together was not working and writing together was not writing – it was too much fun, we were playing. Of course, there was a lot of editing, revising, rewriting, etc., but neither one of us knew that writing could be so much fun. We became a symbiotic duo, putting down ideas constantly and at the oddest times. Our friendship, which was solid before our project together, has grown tremendously. It's been an adventure.

Joscelyn is not only a brilliant mind and a great scholar – we all knew that already. He is also, and maybe above all, an artist, and as such he has contributed many highly creative ideas to the plot, characterization, dialogue, etc. He's also supremely unassuming and, in short, a wonderful and very special man, one of those rare persons whose presence and activities make the world a better and more interesting place.

In candor and in retrospect, I only see advantages in co-writing a novel—at least with Joscelyn. As a young man I trained as a classical guitarist, and also played in a guitar duo. It has been many years since, and this experience felt the same way, even better, in fact, as we weren’t playing someone else’s music, but our own composition. A duo of musicians welcomes each other’s contributions. One knows when to take the lead and when to listen and accompany. And, last but not least, it is all play.

Mankind’s heavily repressed urge is no longer sex, but... play. An urge as irresistible as it is seemingly inexplicable.

We humans have been optimistically classified as Homo sapiens, knowing man. Judging from the history of our proud species, one would think that homo in-sapiens might be more fitting, unknowing man. But the establishment, with the cultural canon it implements, works ever so assiduously at persuading us that evolution has been a great success, while the honest ones among us may suspect otherwise.

Therefore one wonders if the official name that science has assigned to us, or the unofficial one, its opposite, should not be exchanged for something more descriptive and encouraging: homo ludens, i.e., playing man.

The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, author of the seminal book Homo Ludens on the role of playing in culture, wrote: “Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.” Indeed, homo ludens, playing man, free from the superimposed and abstract aspiration of being the brilliant result of an extraordinarily long evolution, would be able to delight in the most harmless and fun of all activities: play.

Such a simple notion, if properly conveyed, would give all school children reassurance that, once they grow into adults, the activity that's most dear to their heart – play – shall never have to cease. Like Huizinga, I too believe that it's possible for play to be the primary formative element in human culture.

In addition to that, the alchemical motive of ludus puerorum, child’s play, was very present in our minds as Joscelyn and I wrote The Forbidden Book. Esoteric writings on alchemy often state that once the primitive materials of the Philosophers’ Stone have been obtained, the rest of the Great Work is a simple labor, or “child's play.”

In fact, we mention child’s play in the novel in as many words. In Ch 19: “Leo, therefore, would take the ceremonial way. Immediately he noticed the sculpted figures on the banisters. Their attributes mimicked the garden sculptures of the Villa Riviera and, from what he could remember, they had the same inscriptions, but they were all putti, cheerful toddlers aping the gestures of their elders. Was this a way of saying that the Great Work was nothing but child's play?”

And again in the same chapter: “Feeling ready for anything, and wishing that he'd been this bold hours before, he entered the north range and passed through the dining room and kitchen. His heart leapt as he came to a corridor, with a door leading inwards. Perhaps it was child’s play, after all, he thought as he entered the dark room.” Leo is risking his life but above all he's trying to find and rescue Orsina, the woman he loves, who may well be more in danger than he is.

Having never been a man of action, he’s incredulous that he should be doing well, and the notion of play, child's play, in fact, keeps coming up though he couldn't be more serious and terrified. And toward the end: “‘Like that,’ thought Leo, ‘no customs, no immigration, no passports checked. Child’s play.’” The popular understanding of play differs from the one of the alchemists. We think of it as something puerile and harmless. In fact, it couldn’t be more serious, and knows no age.

The Forbidden Book 
by Joscelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro
Disinformation Books; April 1, 2012
You can view a book trailer at: