Our twenty-first-century milieu is partially to blame for this, as is Vizinczey’s stubborn mania for literary perfection, which all but congealed his creativity after the publication of An Innocent Millionaire, leaving him obsessing over his final novel, Three Wishes, which he eventually self-published as If Only.
That final novel – which Vizinczey declared his ultimate masterpiece – consumed the last third of his life, and he published virtually nothing else during that time.
The book was a major flop. The few reviews it did garner were scathing and ruthless. After I read the novel, I found myself marveling at the aptness of the title for all the wrong reasons. If only Vizinczey had abandoned the stillborn narrative instead of obsessing over it decade after decade. If only he had decided against publishing it. If only he had focused his creativity on something else. If only. If only.
Sharp criticism. Sure, I suppose, yet I remain one of Vizinczey’s most steadfast admirers.
Vizinczey is most famous for his self-published 1965 novel In Praise of Older Women, which challenged the “values” of the sexual revolution by boldly asserting that older women made for better lovers than young ones. That shocking assertion was enough to put Vizinczey on the literary map. It didn’t hurt that he was also a capable writer imbued with the skill of his most prominent influences, including Stendhal, Balzac, von Kleist, and Dostoevsky.
I consider his second novel, An Innocent Millionaire, his masterpiece. In addition to his novels, he published two non-fiction works – Truth and Lies in Literature and The Rules of Chaos. The former is a collection of his shorter pieces and essays that appeared in newspapers and magazines, while the latter could be called an outline of Vizinczey’s philosophy of life.
Vizinczey was one of those avowed atheists who enjoyed visiting churches, and The Rules of Chaos is one of those atheist-type works that hits upon many engaging metaphysical insights, albeit from a foundation of errant, limited, and misguided metaphysics.
The overarching movement of Vizinczey’s philosophical detour can be reduced to two essential propositions. The first resides in the book’s second title, Why Tomorrow Doesn’t Work; the second rests in the seemingly counterintuitive and antithetical assertion that power weakens as it grows.
Vizinczey’s major premise for both propositions rests upon the belief that “the decisive cause of every event is chance”, and it is through this that he presents his arguments concerning individual morality and freedom via the motif that the future is a blinding mirage:
We are confused, we often don’t know how to feel, what to do, because we’re looking for clues in the wrong place – in the place where there is nothing, neither air nor sunshine, in the place of tomorrow which does not yet exist.
The results of our feelings and our actions are unknown to us. We have our expectations, of course, but whether these expectations are to be fulfilled or proven wrong in the unforeseeable future, they are only fantasies at the present.
To decide what to do, we ought to try to resist the guidance of our guesses. The only way to cope with reality is to rely on what is real, and there is nothing so real in this world as your own being.
Those who cry “look ahead!” are fools, con men, or murderers who want us to stare into a vacuum until we start hallucinating.
The true password is “look inside!”
When I read insightful passages like this, I can’t help but wonder what inspired Vizinczey’s love for visiting churches. What was he looking for when he saw the light streaming through the stained-glass window of some sixteenth-century cathedral?
More importantly, what did he see? Most importantly, what did he think? Was he merely admiring the art and the architecture, or was he probing in the hope of discovering something more?
As pure conjecture, I would say visiting a church provided Vizinczey the opportunity to look inside, but he could not bring himself to see anything beyond randomness and chance.
Vizinczey is right when he says there is nothing more real in this world than our being, but he provides no meaningful insight into the true nature of our being.
Likewise in his declaration that we shouldn't look for clues in the future because it does not exist. He quite rightly states that understanding reality necessitates relying on what is real - the present - but how real is the present if one rejects God, Creation, or one’s own spiritual nature?
What does one hope to see when one turns away from the future and looks inside?
Vizinczey provides no satisfying answers to such questions. How could he?
Save for a few painful excerpts that barely rise above unadulterated positivism and a cringe-inducing examination of Eugene McCarthy, The Rules of Chaos remains an engaging read despite being very much a product of its time.
I’ll return to some of the themes in future posts because I find books like The Rules of Chaos engaging from a "fill in the blanks" perspective. That is, they provide many insights that ultimately require extensive fleshing out.
In the meantime, if only, Vizinczey – if only . . .