Art History in “Communion: A True Story” by Whitley Strieber

Before I begin, I would like to point out that the paperback I purchased from a used bookstore has pages where the text was near to completely erased off the paper.  Some of the erased parts occurred when the story was heightening to something big but then was denied to me because the someone wiped out the author’s words.

I know, strange.

I read it anyway and I am still going to review this book.  I found the erased parts added something special to this book’s subject matter.

While Whitley Strieber wrote about his multiple UFO abductions, he also introduced me to an artist I have never heard of.  A person known as Budd Hopkins. 

In the book, Strieber praised Hopkins for his warmth and compassion in helping the author decipher his personal mystery.  In fact, whenever Strieber had a therapy session,  the licensed therapist lead the sitting while Hopkins asked only a few questions.  Near the end, Hopkins did a much more extensive interview with Strieber’s wife regarding the abductions. However, the text does point out that Hopkins made mistakes during those sessions. 

While reading (and putting together this entry), I looked up Hopkins’ output and this link  I embedded cites a long history of museums exhibiting his work.

“Saturnus VIII, 1973″

By Carol Rainey [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

From what I have seen so far, I can honestly say he did good work.  I like the way he handled shapes and found his color schemes quite pleasing and imaginative.  I admit I had never heard of this man before reading Communion, so imagine my surprise that he hung out with artists I did know of.  By the way, has anyone analysed his constant use of round objects in his art?

“Guardian LX, 1986″

By Carol Rainey [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The book also introduced Ted Jacobs, the artist behind the compelling, yet unnerving illustration found on the book’s cover. The big black eyes, the strange nose, the Mona Lisa smile, it makes a face that overshadows any other depictions of the Grey Aliens.

Honestly, I don’t really know if Strieber experienced an actual alien abduction. Something traumatic probably did happen, but I am not sure what. What I gleaned from this book was a possible mass cultural osmosis that combined Chosen One narratives and Cold War fears that seemed to influence his and other alien abduction stories found in this book when the nuclear apocalypse seemed real during this time.

When I first bought the book years ago, I was curious about alien abduction accounts.  However, what I did not expect was Strieber’s theory that the aliens could be ancient gods. This in-depth exploration reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and the omnipotent characters taking on different forms in the different cultures they appeared in.  As of this publication, I recently read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow out of Time, and similar to Strieber, the narrator finds himself haunted by ancient beings.  At the beginning of one section, Strieber references the William Blake poem titled Night.  Furthermore, as I inspected the permission section at the beginning of the book, I learned that Clement Greenberg, when not writing about art, deciphered Kafka’s books into English.  

Near the end of the book, Strieber talks about the alien with enormous eyes and how they could be old Mesopotamian gods.  Mesopotamian art is plentiful with people with huge eyes.  He, of course, references Egyptian pyramids and their significance for people housed in them. When further writing about old Gods such as Hecate, he mentions her ties to the Trevi Fountain in Italy.  There was one scene in the novel that reminded me of another book I read and reviewed on this site.  When traveling abroad, Strieber goes into a trance that has him traveling through Europe.  When he snaps out of it, he vaguely mentions seeing Strasbourg Cathedral.   In my mind, I imagined him running into Tommy Wiseau.

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