Up until two weeks ago, if someone had asked me if I’d heard of Faust, I would have nodded in the affirmative. If pressed to provide more information, I would have said, “Some German guy who sold his soul to the Devil for fame and fortune. Written by some other German guy, an author, to demonstrate that spirituality, not material goods, is the way to true happiness.”
Then, as I usually do when I want to find out about something about which I know very little or nothing, I would have gone home and solicited the wisdom of Wikipedia, which knows everything.
If the previous events had actually taken place (they didn’t), Wikipedia would have informed me that “Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend who makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for knowledge.” And further down the page I would have discovered that “the origin of Faust’s name and persona remains unclear, though it is widely assumed to be based on the figure of German Dr. Johann Georg Faust, a magician and alchemist.”
As my grandfather used to say, “Close, but no cigar.” While surfing on the World Wide Web, I came across a book called Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World. It had a cool cover and looked like something written by a smart guy for other smart guys. So, since I consider myself to be a smart guy, I thought I’d check it out. Turns out there are actually two volumes to the thing, and I mean VOLUMES. Volume One is 434 pages of concentrated data. Volume Two is 701 pages of even more compact data. And all of it is about Faust. And miracle of all miracles – Lo and behold! It’s interesting to read. Okay, I admit it. It’s not a Vince Flynn thriller, but it’s pretty darn good, especially for what is commonly called a “book for brainiacs.”
Both volumes were written by someone named E.A. Bucchianeri. E.A. slices, dices and chops the legend of Faust into real historical fact. There really was a Faust, and he was really into the black arts of the occult. And there are all these other famous people – real people – who get tangled up in the legend, the reality and its various versions and interpretations. People like Christopher Marlowe, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler and even Martin Luther. E.A. doesn’t leave one stone unturned. Oh, and don’t forget the Devil in all his sundry disguises.
The book comes complete with poetry, quotes from the Bible (things like the Sin Unto Death, which is very cool) and, for you footnote fetishists, spectacular footnotes. I even used my day-glo yellow Hi-Liter on the footnotes. I won’t spoil it for you. All I’ll say is this: BUY this book! It’s entertaining, fulfilling and fascinating. When you finish it, you’ll be smart. And even if you don’t finish it, people will think you’re smart just because you’re walking about with ten pounds of book. So it’s a win-win situation.
E.A. self-published this book, which blows my mind for a multitude of reasons. For one, the text is smooth as cashmere, not herky-jerky like many highbrow books where you have no idea what you just read and really don’t care either. For two, whoever did the copy-editing, I want to meet, because I couldn’t find one single typo. How come Yale University Press or Knopf didn’t publish this book? Big, fat mistake. Because this is one of those books that will be around for the next 100 years and sell a minimum of two or three thousand copies a year. And I suspect that lots of professors of lots of Humanities Departments will make it required reading in their courses.
Do the math there Knopf editors and tell me you aren’t kicking yourself. And you – the reader – will be kicking yourself if you don’t read Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World.