What Does Woman Want?
By Timothy Leri
Reviewed By Robert Anton Wilson
from Science Fiction Review, No. 19, 1976
This book is presented as a manuscript which fell through a space-time warp from the Vidalian solar system in 2575. Timothy Leri, the author, is, in some sense, Timothy Leary, the Harvard psychologist, LSD researcher, counter-culture guru, international fugitive, etc. Timothy Leri is also a galactic agent assigned to a primitive and barbaric planet, Sol-3, with the assignment of mutating it from mammalian (emotional) consciousness to objective intelligence.
The work itself seems to be composed by Leri, not Leary, but has been edited and commented upon by various interstellar critics and scholars. Some passages are obviously incorporated by mistake (or by the conscious fraud and counterfeiting of texts that bedevils all scholarly attempts to reconstruct events in barbaric periods.
Timofiev, the “acid assassin” hunted by the Soviet secret police, is probably such a forgery. — unless Leri is the forgery and Timofiev is the real origin of this myth cycle. Then, again, according to other chapters, the real man behind the mythology may have been a baseball player having a bad session and being booed by the fans who once cheered him on…
Erudite readers will soon notice another set of problems beyond these obvious historical confusions. Leri, whoever he is, has become blended over the centuries with Dante, James Joyce and Julian the Apostate. (One of the most ‘dramatic verses attributed to him, “Midway through our Life’s life, I awoke on a dark planet,” is palpably a distortion of Dante…) It is even possible that the conspiracy which attempts to destroy him (i.e. either the MW or the infamous Nixon-Liddy Gang) is itself a fiction, modeled on Egyptian demonology or William S. Burroughs’ Nova Mob.
Behind this web of surface ambiguity (a deadly parody of academic scholarship), Leri’s story is, mercifully, straightforward, comic, and highly erotic. Commodore Leri, who may be an alias for Captain James Kirk of the S.S. ENTERPRISE, arrives in Switzerland pursued by more conspiracies than the bedeviled heroes of ILLUMINATUS!
An ambiguous anti-semitic millionaire offers to help him, a professional “information broker” (who sells state secrets of all sorts to the highest bidder) also appears as an ally, and a mysterious and bewitching creature, Joanna (raised by her step-father to be the most intelligent woman on Terra), is also helping him — or perhaps spying on him for the Vatican. It is also possible that all these allies are actually planning to betray him. In short, the context is, as Leri himself observes, “normal mammalian politics.”
In this melodramatic Spy Thriller ambience (which may be an actual description of the actual adventures of a real scientific dissident in our own time), Leri, like Captain Kirk, attempts to be courteous, kindly, and helpful in his dealings with the primitives. Nonetheless, the primate taboo-system is everywhere, and be finds him-self imprisoned in 29 separate jails and exploited by scores of lawyers who strip him of the local sacrament (“money”).
“The reason Kirk always gets out of jail in 58 minutes,” he reflects, “is that he’s always a million lightyears from the nearest lawyer.”
Then another interstellar voyager appears, an enigmatic UFO perhaps modeled on Celtic mythology or the Book of Job, maybe staffed by extra-terrestrial Lesbians (or, at least, that’s what the Male Supremicist underground claims.) The UFO announces that all Terran life will be exterminated unless humanity can demonstrate objective intelligence by answering a simple “neurogenetic” test-question which measures evolutionary sophistication. Alas, it is the very question which Freud himself admitted psychology alone can’t answer, the title question of the book, WHAT DOES WOMAN WANT?
It would be unfair to reveal any more of the suspenseful and surrealistic plot. It is enough to say that, mingled with the major theme of humanity’s search for an answer to the UFO riddle, we are also given (a) a coolly scientific analysis of the real “Timothy Leary’s” erotic history from adolescense through LSD and Tantra to the “alchemical mating” with the bewitching and mysterious Joanna, (b) bland instructions on how to brainwash a whole country with LSD, (c) a decoding of the evolutionary allegory hidden in the Tarot cards, (d) a series of shocking revelations about political and psychedelic conspiracies of the past two decades, (e) a whole new philosophy of sex, more radical than anything in Brown, Marcuse, Reich or Masters-Johnson, (f) the most brilliant satire on human chauvinism since Swift, (g) the answer to the title question, and (h) more— much more…
The last time I visited the imprisoned felon who created (or, as he says, “transcieved” this galactic allegory, I told him, “In this day of Women’s Liberation, no other male psychologist would dare to claim he knew the answer to WHAT DOES WOMAN WANT?” He flashed that world-famous Grin, which shows Cosmic Humor according to his admirers and Permanent Brain Damage . according to his critics. “Well,” he said gently, “other psychologists haven’t had as much experience with women as I have.”
There you have him in a nut-shell. Everything he does is hilarious, provocative, infuriating, dazzling original and sure to keep his fellow scientists arguing for a decade at least. WHAT DOES WOMAN WANT? is all of that, to the nth power.
Oh, yes, it also begins his outline of how humanity can double its IQ, triple its life-span and achieve space migration in this generation in this generation. That is to be continued in his next book, EXO-PSYCHOLOGY.