In 1966, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen published his influential underground novel Beautiful Losers
. About ten years later, Bob Seger recorded an album and song of the same title, minus the "s" at the end. Although Ive never read Cohens book and never particularly cared for Segers music, I found that phrase running through my head as I read Big Machine
, a novel that plunks down a group of ex-cons and drug addicts (or "Unlikely Scholars," as they are known in their new realm) at an occultist institution called the Washburn Library in a remote part of Vermont. Each Scholar has been mysteriously summoned by a note that claims to have knowledge of his or her deepest secret, and each note includes a one-way bus ticket to Burlington. For Ricky Rice, a janitor trying to quietly scrape by and stay off heroin, this odd missive comes as the ultimate second...
Beyond the Book
Parapsychology vs. Skepticism
While the Washburn Library is a purely fictional invention, it does have an analog in the real world: the Rhine Research Center, once known as the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, and home to the Institute for Parapsychology until 2002. Formerly affiliated with Duke University, the Rhine now operates independently a short distance away from the campus and continues to conduct research into consciousness, specifically, those aspects that for many years have resisted scientific explanation. While the Center has moved beyond its original mission in the 1920s to conduct experiments on extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK), it still focuses largely on topics shunned by traditional science. For instance, the Centers...