The sardonic prose lyricism that Charles Fort aims at in his rather astonishing and decidedly amorphous performance The Book of the Damned is entertaining for fifty pages or so — and then the reader, being quite satiated with the odd qualities of Mr. Fort's subject, gives a thought to the monotony of his methods. The reader, in fine, becomes aware that there is rather less lyricism than jaggedness. Mr. Fort writes prose that is so consciously artificial that it actually restrains the reader from admitting the author's promises and considering his arguments in due fairness.
His book, as he says, "is a procession of the damned." Lest the reader imagine that he is about to dip into a new Inferno written by another Dante, let it be explained that by "the damned" Mr. Fort means the odd bits of data that science has refused to accept in her considerations of the question whether or not there is life elsewhere and otherwise than we see it upon this earth. In his words:
"So, by the damned I mean the excluded.
"But by the excluded I mean that which will some day be the excluding.
"Or everything that is, won't be.
"And everything that isn't, will be —
"But, of course, will be that which won't be —
So there you are! That is what the book is about.
To be more explicit. The author takes such phenomena as blood, black rains, hailstones as large as eggs, yellow matter, carved stones, all queer things falling from the skies, and offers them as objective proof of matter existing in conscious states beyond this earth.
He has dug into all sorts of research annals and out of the way minutes of scientific societies and gathered an enormous mass of apparently explicable occurrences, which he seems to accept at their face value for the very reason that most authoritative scientific organizations have either ignored or rejected them. If the reader will approach the subject in Mr. Fort's frame of mind, he will probably find much to stimulate conjecture. Mr. Fort does not set out to prove his thesis in a positive manner. He offers his facts for what they are worth, without stating explicitly what they tend to prove. And so he lets his thesis develop obliquely of itself.
Theodore Dreiser is reported to have pronounced the book "wonderful." So it is in more ways than one, but principally because of the indefatigable zeal with which the author has dredged the murky depths for his material.