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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by ping-ping-clicka, Jan 24, 2021.

  1. ping-ping-clicka

    ping-ping-clicka Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jun 28, 2019
    left coast

    By William S. Burroughs.

    In "Naked Lunch" and "Nova Express," William Burroughs locked huge themes into radical fictional forms. Nobody quite knew how he did it until, in a Paris Review interview with the late Conrad Knickerbocker, he explained something of his purpose and technique as a writer.

    His purpose, Mr. Burroughs said, is to "make people aware of the true criminality of our times, to wise up the marks." Technically, he is "quite deliberately addressing myself to the whole area of what we call dreams... I've been interested in precisely how word and image get around on very, very complex association lines." Both aspects of his work come together in a desperate obsession with power and control, and an obsession with addiction and how it can be cured.

    His basic equipment for studying "complex association lines" includes scissors and pastepot and a bank of tape recorders wired in tandem. With these tools he produces what he calls "cut-up": words- mostly his own, some from other writers- reorganized into evocative, surreal fragments. Thus, from "The Ticket That Exploded": "What summer will I will you?... cold summer will exactly... He lifts his hands, sadly turns them out... Brother can't you spare a dime? ...dead finger in smoke pointing to Gibraltar... the adolescent shadow..."

    Fragments like these he lays over a pulp science-fiction plot in which alien forces are attempting to blow up the planet by setting everyone on earth at everyone else's throat. Their weapons include sex, to Burroughs a "biologic weapon"; the "feedback" of insults of which the archetype is any barroom brawl; and permutated electronic and biologic con games. Finally, the author threads through the narrative-cut-up a robust, carny comedy that features such characters as "Mr. Bradly, Mr. Martin," Green Tony, Hamburger Mary, Dr. Benway and Izzy the Push.

    His cut-up techniques may or may not be taken seriously. Film editors and computer programmers do cut-up every day, and the only reasonable measure of its worth is its result. The result from Burroughs is an uneven, exhausting fiction that evokes vast possibilities, as in some four-dimensional chess game where solutions flash into view only to disappear around an invisible corner. At best, cut-up actually knocks out logic and makes sudden room for images not seen in the vicinity of fiction before.

    His intention to "wise up the marks" should probably be taken seriously, because he has been down the lonesome roads we "marks" seldom travel and has learned when to shout "Hey, Rube!" The facts and fantasies of global power are timely. Massive, diabolic forces work late into the night on our planet, and Burrough's nova-bent cops and robbers seem plausible. "Time-Life-Fortune" may well be "some sort of police organization." It is certainly "one of the greatest word and image banks in the world." Manipulating words and images for control purposes is central to the confusion that confounds our national life.

    For Burroughs, the "true criminality of our times" is addiction. He elaborates the implications of that word as relentlessly as did Robert Burton the word "melancholy" or Melville the whiteness of the whale. In the universe escalating toward nova, all are addicted: the police to power; women to the sexual enslaving of men; men to devious crime; nations to remorseless expansion; the tribal god who rules our destinies to words and images, which are a kind of crystalline virus that infects us all. Such focal vision can only reveal. It presents the same inner logic as the inner logic of the schizophrenic, confounding good sense, ridiculing compromise and temporarily installing a higher sanity.

    Burrough's fictional ambitions are vast; he has embarked on great themes. But "The Ticket That Exploded" barely moves forward. It is the first American edition of a book originally published by the Olympia Press in 1961 and "revised and augmented" in 1963. In the Grove Press edition, it has been revised and augmented again. The latest augmentations fill out the plot and bring the book more into line with the science fiction of "Nova Express." A long coda explains the mechanics of tape-recorded cut-up.

    Still, adding the new "The Ticket That Exploded" to the other novels, the author has come out ahead. He is progressing toward fewer experiments and greater control of his medium. He is filling in his grand comedy, a comedy trip-wired with con-men and shagnasties, cowardly astronauts and leering Venusian secret agents, screeching suburban moms permanently in estrus, heavies who forget to zip their flies, junkies with panache.

    The comedy ultimately wins the reader. It's the authentic American kind that manages to make the best of the worst situations, swearing all the way. It used to be the exclusive property of Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe. William Burroughs, if he moves on from obsession, is eligible to inherit it. There is reason to believe he will; near the conclusion of his Paris Review interview, he remarked that he wanted someday to write a straight Western novel that would enlist all his carny crew. So, he may be lining up a showdown between old Clem and Bradly Martin right now. Doc Benway's sure to be on hand with his poppy-flower patent medicine. It'll be one hell of a good fight.

    Mr. Rhodes is a reviewer and essayist, specializing in modern fiction.

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  2. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    This was published in ‘67–and Burroughs did eventually write that Western (A Place of Dead Roads). Meanwhile, I’m still trying to assemble Gysin’s dream machine...
    blackguts likes this.
  3. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2007
    I have a friend who tried making one of those; he said it was a nightmare.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
    BorderRadio likes this.
  4. Rocky058

    Rocky058 Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 31, 2009
    Clearwater Florida
    Bill Burroughs: Good writer - lousy shot.
    That Cal Webway likes this.
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