Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained

Since I mentioned this book recently, you get another Raw Feed from the past.

Raw Feed (2002): Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained, Damon Knight, 1970. 

A disappointing biography. 

To be sure, there are some interesting details about Fort’s early life, quotes from his sole novel, The Outcast Manufacturers, and some details about his later life. However, there is not much about his life from the publishing of his The Book of the Damned to his death in 1932, and Knight spends far too much time and space quoting from The Books of Charles Fort which might have been fine for a newcomer to Fort but was boring to me since I just read them all. 

He also spends too much time trying to prove the “Prophet” of the title and talks about UFOs, cycles affected by astronomical events (though he admits that some of Fort’s criticisms of astronomers in New Lands is embarrassing) and even the virtues of Velikovsky (probably more relevant in 1970). 

He also spends a fair amount of time talking about the history of Fortean magazines and societies (Fort refused to join the Fortean Society) up to the book’s publishing, and he also talks about some science fiction influenced by Fort (he admits his own famous story “To Serve Man” exemplifies Fort’s famous quote: “We are property”). That part was interesting but not relevant to a biography. I suppose part of the problem is that most writers live a life of the mind — particularly true of the library-haunting and antisocial Fort — and their external life is boring so you have to talk about their work. [Update: Fort and his wife were actually fairly social.]

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