Loompanics: A Trip Down Memory Lane
by Sean Gabb
In October 1988, Chris Tame gave me a copy of a book called Principia Discordia by Robert Anton Wilson. I thought it was a mass of nonsense, but the last printed page was an advertisement for the publisher’s main catalogue. All I had to do was post $US5. Curious, I sent off the money.
Six weeks later, a copy of the main Loompanics catalogue came through the door. I never did buy books with titles like How to be a Freelance Hitman, Grow Your Own Opium Poppies, Everything is a Lie, Tax Evasion for Fun and Profit, etc, etc. But the full descriptions of the books, plus the long essays carried in the catalogue, were enough.
According to the Introduction to the catalogue,
We know where we belong: we are the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement. Because we do not believe in laws, rules or regulations. We have contempt for censorship, secrecy and dogmatism. We don’t give a damn about being “respectable,” or Politically Correct. We don’t care about anything except having fun and your right to find out anything you want to know. Nothing is sacred to us, not even skepticism and self-reliance.
Until I opened this catalogue, I’d thought I was a radical libertarian. Loompanics introduced me to a loose body of ideas wilder and more radical than anything I’d considered possible. It was as if I’d spent my life so far in a cinema, watching second features. Now, without warning, the curtains had opened fully, and the wide screen was revealed. I could see a world of unlimited possibilities – many of them wicked, but always presented with a scathing contempt for those who tax and rule us. I was also alerted to something like the full immorality of our rulers.
As said, I didn’t buy any of the naughty books I saw described. But I showed the catalogue to Chris. By the time I was able to grab it back from him, he must have bought an eighth of everything on offer. We’d sit for hours, giggling over their more witty or shocking contents. Or we’d read the descriptions of books even he hadn’t dared import, rocking back and forth every time we came to the solemn disclaimer: “Sold for informational purposes only.” It was as if we had become little boys again, whispering rude words at each other and laughing at our boldness. Every so often, though, there was something striking and true.
Now Chris is dead, these books are all in a university library in Prague, where I hope they will turn a few heads in Central Europe.
Loompanics went broke in 2005. Long before then, Chris and I had so gorged ourselves on the more outre offerings of the Internet, that the catalogue itself had become almost respectable. But I’ve just found a complete copy of the 2003 catalogue, and it brings tears of nostalgia to my eyes. It really was “the best book catalog in the world.” Get it here. Otherwise, try this as a sample of its contents and its manner of description:
THE HUMANURE HANDBOOK
A Guide to Composting Human Manure
by J.C. Jenkins
This fascinating and practical book is about gardening, composting, sustainability, waste reduction, resource recovery, public sanitation, and sewage treatment. I.t is an uncommon work that takes on the controversial topic of safely recycling human manure for agricultural purposes, doing so with boldness and humor. It focuses on composting urine and fecal material at the single family level and using the compost for gardening purposes, contending that all organic material is resource material. It covers the issue of recycling human excrement from historical, philosophical, and scientific perspectives. It explains how human excrement can be rendered hygienically safe and returned to the soil without the need for expensive equipment, high costs, or professional expertise.
Chapters include : • Crap Happens • Microhusbandry • Deep Shit • A Day in the Life of a Turd • Composting Toilets and Systems • Worms and Disease • The Tao of Compost • And more.
This unique illustrated book is written by a composting practitioner, providing hard to find information that is potentially important to any adult. It is essential reading for anyone who lives without electricity or running water either by choice, culture, or emergency situation. It is of interest to organic gardeners and farmers, survivalists, back-to-the-landers, recyclers, public health and sanitation people, and anyone who defecates.
1999, 7×9, 302 pp, illustrated, indexed, soft cover.
THE HUMANURE HANDBOOK: $19.00
I will close by quoting the only words in the catalogue that the Libertarian Alliance is able to endorse:
Certain of the books and papers in this catalog deal with activities and devices which would be in violation of various Federal, State, and local laws if actually carried out or constructed. Loompanics Unlimited does not advocate the breaking of any law. Our books are sold for informational purposes only. We recommend that you contact your local law enforcement officials before undertaking any project based upon information in this catalog. We are not responsible for, nor do we assume any liability for, damages resulting from the use of information in this catalog.
All titles are sold for informational purposes only.
This catalog is for the use of adults only. Under no circumstances are children to view or possess it.
© 2012 – 2017, seangabb.
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