The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Memorable Magazines (2): Doubt

May 6th, 2013 · 5 Comments

The Fortean Society was founded in 1931 to promote the work of that indescribable author Charles Fort.  The founders were: Theodore Dreiser, J. David Stern, Tiffany Thayer, Ben Hecht, Booth Tarkington, Aaron Sussman, Burton Rascoe, Harry Elmer Barnes, Alexander Woollcott, John Cowper Powys, and Harry Leon Wilson.  Sussman was a book designer, and Stern a publisher; the rest were writers.

Fort died in 1932, and the Society lay somewhat dormant for a while.  In 1937, Thayer decided to start a magazine.  His first step was to quarrel with Dreiser, who withdrew from the Society.  He then started publishing The Fortean Society Magazine, which, after 11 issues, he retitled Doubt.

Beginning with that 11th issue, too, Thayer put his name in big letters on the cover.  For Doubt, although inspired by Fort, was full-throttle Thayer.  Fort’s ruminations on the interconnectedness of all things, his flights of fancy, and his satires on confirmation bias were replaced by Thayer’s noisy denunciation of all authority and dogma.  Art Castillo’s cartoon from #25 summed it up well.  Dogma was a slavering Cerberus of Church, State, and Science: “all three are merely Orthodoxy in a different set of clothes.”

DOGMA

Latter-day Forteans usually document scientific anomalies; Thayer was more interested in political issues: government waste, compulsory vaccination, atheism, the Indian aristocracy, pacifism, scientific boondoggles.  He also promoted the activities of the society’s members, who were often doing interesting things: Caresse Crosby, Buckminster Fuller, Henry Miller, and others.  There were 61 issues; the magazine folded in 1959 with Thayer’s death.  It was consistently irritating, sophomoric, puzzling, and profoundly entertaining.

You can read a longer article I wrote about Thayer for The Fortean Times over here; and below is a sampling of covers.

DOUBT1

DOUBT2

DOUBT3

DOUBT4

DOUBT5

DOUBT6

DOUBT7

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Ephemera · Forteana

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Derek // May 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I’ve posted a link to the article on Farcebook

    JC Powys is one of the greats, have you read him?

    Highly recommend his novel WOLF SOLENT.

  • 2 Doug // May 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I’ve only read short pieces by Powys. I have a copy of Wolf Solent, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thayer, I’m afraid, was not one of the greats, but he did put out a fun magazine.

  • 3 Win // May 8, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I was a teenage fan of Powys. Actually the fascination lasted through to the end of my 20s. When I think of him now, he seems like the missing link between PG Wodehouse, W Joyce and JRR Tolkein. One of the truly great crackpots of his age. Reading the long novels is a tremendous experience, akin to slathering oneself with lard and swimming the English channel, but the pieces that stuck with me longest are the short later excursions, such as The Brazen Head and Two and Two. You feel you are inside a timeless mythopoeic space when you wander into those books. Oh well…

    Those sample Doubt covers are delightful, Doug. What a treat it would be to have a subscription to such a rag today, and find comparable treasures in one’s mailbox at regular intervals.

  • 4 Doug // May 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I’ll have to read some Powys. I pulled out some essays; I have a few other books to finish before I start Wolf Solent.

  • 5 name Membership in the Fortean Society // May 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    […] activities of the Fortean Society, apart from Tiffany Thayer’s magazine Doubt, are somewhat unclear.  Perhaps that was intentional; as Thayer said, with his usual bravura, […]

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