John Cowper Powys, the author, was another founder of the Fortean Society, and also, like Harry Leon Wilson, a seemingly late convert. This comment of his on The Book of the Damned comes from The Fortean (January 1942). Thayer is cagey about the provenance, but it reads like a letter--not a review--written to a friend (Dreiser? Thayer?
“I am indeed struck sharply and starkly by the curious genius of Mr. Charles Fort; and here in the ‘Times’ of yesterday or today comes on the front page an allusion to one of those ‘red rains’ with its automatic explanation of ‘African sandstorm’ blamed exactly as Mr. Fort points out, with his exquisitely humorous ‘up on one place, down in another place’ of the conventional rendering (The Determinant: The Dominant) by hide-bound, excluding and damning scientists!
Mr. Charles Fort’s book does not only liberate the mind from those sublimated herd-dogmas of science along the particular lines he deals with in his enormous pilings-up of evidence to the contrary, but it also liberates the mind from all sorts of other prepossessions and idolatries of the market place. In fact, his ‘Book of the Damned’ is a book that sets a person’s intellect with a wholesome jerk upon its own feet. From this book, with its drastic mental ‘keel-hauling,’ a person learns to think for himself and to look at the whole of life with that direct physionomic [sic] eye which Spengler so significantly praises Goethe for using. One is left after reading ‘Book of the Damned’ wit that open-mind towards the mystery of life which allows for all manner of strange and even ‘improper’ occurences [sic]. Such occurences [sic], suggesting that there are super-human if not supernatural, agencies at work, seem to me most powerfully suggested if not proved by this extraordinary book, and this their proof, so shocking to the mind enslaved by the ‘Dominant’ or the pseudoscientific code, seems to afford a wonderful liberation to my mind, such as few books bring.
The style of the book, too, with its laconic humor and sardonic implications, seems exactly the right one to give the reader the sort of disconcerting shudder (or pleasing shock) that creates that curious awe in the mind, int he presence of this inexplicable universe, which Goethe in ‘Faust’ declares to be one of man’s noblest attributes. In fine, I haven’t read for a long while any book that has given me more of mental and imaginative ‘shaking up,’ and that’s the kind of thing, like butting your head into ice-cold water, that is wonderfully good for the human intelligence, so apt to fall into dull, flat, planed-out grooves and to take the smooth, casual, conventionally explained procession of events for granted.
I hope that the author will receive encouragement enough make him go on and go still further.”