William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs

Perhaps one of the most colorful writers to emerge from the Beat period, William S. Burroughs has led an extremely interesting life.

Born in St. Louis, Mo. on February 5, 1914, Burroughs grew up under fairly comfortable circumstances. He attended Harvard University and graduated in 1936. He was well known for his openly homoerotic tendencies and frequently wrote about his experiments with narcotic substances.

In 1951 Burroughs, on a jaunt to Mexico, shot his second wife, Joan, in an accident where he reportedly attempted to mock a scene from the William Tell Overture. He then spent much of his life wandering through South America, experimenting with drugs and gathering research for his future writings.

Perhaps he is best known for helping establish the collage technique, a writing style many perceive to be pretentious and confusing. Most of his writing centered around the underworld and drug sub-cultures and his film, Naked Lunch, achieved cult status.

In addition to his numerous books, Burroughs once made an appearance in the Gus Van Sant film, Drugstore Cowboy where he played an older man serving as a momentary mentor to Matt Dillon’s character.

Many of his other titles include: The Ticket That Exploded, Nova Express, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, The Wild Boys, Exterminator, Cities of the Red Night, and Queer in which he explored his own homosexuality.

Many critics often question Burrough’s literary merit, observing that much of his work is mundane rambling that encourages and glorifies a world of drugs and immorality. Others admire him for his artistic integrity and cite his credentials as evidence of his status as a visionary.

Burroughs died at age 83 in 1997.

Quick Fix

To put the country simple, earth has a lot of things other folks might
want…like the whole planet. And maybe these folks would like a few changes
made. Like more carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, and room for their way of
life. We’ve seen this happen before, right in these United States.

Your way of life destroyed the Indian’s way of life.
The Indian reservation is extinction.

But I offer this distinction. I’m with the invaders, no use trying to hide
that. And at the same, I disagree with some of the things they are doing.

Oh were not united anymore than you are
Oh we’re not united anymore than you are.

Conservative factions is set on nuclear war as a solution to the Indian

Others disagree
Others disagree

I don’t claim that my methods are one hundred percent humane, but I do say,
if we can’t think of anything quieter, and tidier than that…

We are all not that much better than new earth aches.

There is no place else to go
The theater is closed

There is no place else to go
The theater is closed

Cut word lines
Cut music lines
Smash the control images
Smash the control machine.

The Place of Dead Roads (excerpt)

Kim has never doubted the possibility of an afterlife or the existence of gods. In fact he intends to become a god, to shoot his way to immortality, to invent his way, to write his way. He has a number of patents: the Carsons spring knife, an extension of the spring blackjack principle; a cartridge in which the case becomes the projectile; an air gun in which air is compressed by a small powder charge; a magnetic gun in which propulsion is effected by compressing a reversed magnetic field. “Whenever you use this bow I will be there,” the Zen archery master tells his students. And he means there quite literally. He lives in his students and thus achieves a measure of immortality. And the immortality of a writer is to be taken literally. Whenever anyone reads his words the writer is there. He lives in his readers. So every time someone neatly guts his opponent with my spring knife or slices off two heads with one swipe of my spring sword I am there to drink the blood and smell the fresh entrails as they slop out with a divine squishy sound. I am there when the case bullet tbuds home-right in the stomach … what a lovely grunt! And my saga will shine in the eyes of adolescents squinting through gunsmoke.

Kapow! Kapow! Kapow!

Kim considers that immortality is the only goal worth striving for. He knows that it isn’t something you just automatically get for believing some nonsense or other like Christianity or Islam. It is something you have to work and fight for, like everything else in this life or another.

The most arbitrary, precarious, and bureaucratic immortality blueprint was drafted by the ancient Egyptians. First you had to get yourself mummified, and that was very expensive, making immortality a monopoly of the truly rich. Then your continued immortality in the Western Lands was entirely dependent on the continued existence of your mummy. That is why they had their mummies guarded by demons and hid good. Here is plain G.I. Horns…. He’s got enough baraka to survive his first physical death. He won’t get far. He’s got no mummy, he’s got no names, he’s got nothing. What happens to a bum like that, a nameless, mummyless asshole? Why, demons will swarm all over him at the first checkpoint. He will be dismembered and thrown into a flaming pit, where his soul will be utterly consumed and destroyed forever. While others, with sound mummies and the right names to drop in the right places, sail through to the Western Lands.

There are of course those who just barely squeeze through. Their mummies are not in a good sound condition. These second-class souls are relegated to third-rate transient hotels just beyond the last checkpoint, where they can smell the charnel-house disposal ovens from their skimpy balconies. “You see that sign?” the bartender snarls.


“Might as well face facts … mv mummy is going downhill. Cheap job to begin with … gawd, maggots is crawling all over it … the way that demon guard sniffed at me this morning. . . Transient hotels … And here you are in your luxury condo, deep in the Western Lands … you got no security. Some disgruntled former employee sneaks into your tomb and throws acid on your mummy. Or sloshes gasoline all over it and burns the shit out of it. “OH … someone is f***ing with my mummy.. ..”

Mummies are sitting ducks. No matter who you are, what can happen to your mummy is a pharaoh’s nightmare: the dreaded mummy bashers and grave robbers, scavengers, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes. Perhaps a mummy’s best friend is an Egyptologist: sealed in a glass case, kept at a constant tempera- ture … but your mummy isn’t even safe in a museum. Air-raid sirens, it’s the blitz! “For Ra’s sake, get us into the vaults,” scream the mummies, without a throat, without a tongue.

Anybody buy in on a deal like that should have his mummy examined.

The Naked Lunch (excerpt)

“The Rube has a sincere little boy look, burns through him like blue neon. That one stepped right off a Sator-day Evening Post cover with a string of bullheads, and preserved himself in junk. His marks never beef and the Bunko people are really carrying a needle for the Rube. One day Little Boy Blue starts to slip, and what crawls out would make an ambulance attendant puke. The Rube flips in the end, running through empty automats and subway stations, screaming: “Come back, kid! Come back!”, and follows his boy right into the East River, down through condoms and orange peels, mosaic of floating newspapers, down into the silent black ooze with gangsters in concrete, and pistols pounded Hat to avoid the probing finger of prurient ballistic experts.”

And the fruit is thinking: “What a character!! Wait ’til I tell the boys in Clark’s about this one.” He’s a character collector, would stand still for Joe Gould’s seagull act. So I put it on him for a sawski and make a meet to sell him some “pod” as he calls it, thinking, “I’ll catnip the jerk.” (Note: Catnip smells like marijuana when it burns. Frequently passed on the incautious or uninstructed.)

“Well,” I said, tapping my arm, “duty calls. As one judge said to another: ‘Be just and if you can’t be just, be arbitrary.’ “

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