This review of The Awakener by Kenneth Irving will appear in the October issue of Horoscope Guide, and is posted here with their kind permission. I’m putting it here rather than under Reviews for the same reason I put my analysis of Kerouac’s chart in an Astrological Appendix at the end of The Awakener: out of respect for the skeptics. But I look forward to the day when such subterfuge will no longer be necessary: when the science of the stars will once again be given the respect she deserves!
This refreshing and lively memoir is not about astrology at all, which raises the question of why a story about the life and times of a young woman from Scarsdale caught up in the Beat scene of the 1950s is under review here. The first answer is that Helen Weaver is the translator, [co-author, and general editor--hw] of a very good compendium of astrological terms and related matter, The Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology. When I was just starting my astrological career at American Astrology I recall a phone call from an editor at a New York publishing house who was looking for a lead on a translator for an astrological encyclopedia published in France by Larousse. I knew no one outside the office at that point and thus had no advice to give, but a year or two later, when a copy of the finished product arrived for review, I noted and remembered the name of the translator. Her modified and enhanced English edition of the encyclopedia turned out very well indeed, so even though the book itself is now out of print, it is still one of my most-used references.
Then one day my writer-editor-astrologer wife handed me this memoir and I found that Helen Weaver of encyclopedia fame has had a whole other life, and hung out with some very interesting people when she was young. Along with that story, she has included a really nice astrological appendix to The Awakener (publishers tend to have mixed feelings about such things). The book as a whole is really fine reading, and the first 237 pages of The Awakener tell us that Helen Weaver is a really engaging writer. Her memoir of being (at least at first) a small scoop of vanilla floating in the hot fudge sundae (with nuts) of Greenwich Village in the days of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, et al. (with special attention to the latter–Jack, that is, not “et”) is really a wonderful story, and fun to read.
And that little astrology section is an analysis of the four main people in the book, including Kerouac, Ginsberg, and “the two Helens”–Weaver herself, and her friend and roommate Helen Elliott. Her attention to the data is thorough and her analysis of the interlocking friendships among these four people is interesting for the light it sheds on the rest of the book. It is sad to see it kind of hiding in the closet way in the back, and it would have been nice to see more. In the end, I suppose, having it there is a nice balance between the leaver-outers, and the putter-inners, and it makes a book that is already well worth reading even better.
–Ken Irving, Horoscope Guide