Thursday, March 09, 2006

William S. Burroughs and the Cut-Up

William S. Burroughs, readings from Naked Lunch

"I Can Feel The Heat Closing In"

"Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry"

"In Mexico The Gimmick Is To Find A Local Junkie With A Government Script"

"The Laboratory has Been Locked For Three Hours Solid"

"Dr. Benway Is Operating In An Auditorium Filled With Students"

"Fats Terminal Has Organized A Purple Ass Stick For Purple Motorcyclists"

"Hassan Is A Notorious Liquifactionist"

Before we close out the reading portion of Pure Dork Week, I wanted to take a look at the writing of William S. Burroughs, a close friend of Allen Ginsberg and a fellow member of the Beat Movement. However, like most classifications, it holds little weight. Burroughs and Ginsberg have little in common artistically, imo, but because they were in SF during the 50s and experimented with drugs and sexuality and were white males, put'em together, I guess. Like the Grateful Dead being lumped in with the hippie bands a decade later, the need for labels have eradicated the distinctness and radicalness of these writers.

Burroughs, in particular, seems a writer far out of league with Kerouac, Ferlinghetti and Corso, more prone to science fiction and experiments with narrative than this movement would have ever conceived of. Burroughs was not on a spiritual quest for enlightenment, far more in tune with the dark forces that lead to his junk habit and hustling.

You may wonder what connection Burroughs has to a blog that is ostensibly about hip hop music that honors women's booties. Well, Burroughs experimented with the notion of cut-ups in his writing, most famously in Naked Lunch, wherein he would write a page of prose, cut it into pieces, then rearrange randomly. Along with Bryon Grisin, Burroughs emphasized the power of the recombinant. It should remind you of a pivotal figure in hip-hop and dance music, the DJ who brings together various sounds and genres of music and creates a total piece. I know that Burroughs was working with words, and therefore it is natural to always highlight his heirs as Bowie and Throbbing Gristle. But, his heirs may also be people like DJ Spooky (named for a character in one of WSB's novels), Christian Marclay, dj/ rupture and anyone else who uses the turntable to remix and recombine musics.

-I came across a great Rolling Stone article from 1974 with a conversation between Burroughs and David Bowie, one of the most vocal proponents of WSB's cut-up technique. Can't imagine Burroughs in glam makeup and outfit. Actually, strike that, I think I can. [via themazz]

-The New York Public Library just purchased Burroughs' archive, an amazing addition to one of the greatest libraries in the world. [via LitKicks]

-We'll be moving onto the next nerd subject tomorrow, you'll have to tune in to find out what exactly that is. It was nice hearing some more book recommendations from readers, hope that some other people can let us know what they are working on now or what they consider essential reading. I'm working my way through Leaving Katya now, Philip Greenberg's novel about Russia and love and adulthood. Really good, hope I actually can make it through it this time without having to start over.


blackmail is my life said...

I was supposed to review the UK edition of Rip It Up, but I found myself taking the title too literally. As knowledgeable as Reynolds is, he's not quite as readable. Take for example statements like "gloopy lubricious basslines" and your head starts to hurt. It's almost too comprehensive - maybe the abridged American version has the necessary edits!

Jack said...

I kinda expected there to be lots of garbage like your quote, having read the Wire for quite a few years. You have me very worried though, as it appears to be the same book as the UK edition. I'm kinda into all of this music right now, so hopefully this will get me through the slow parts. BIML, did you publish a review of Rip It Up, let me know, will link to that jawn.

P.S. I'm totally going to start writing like that. Lubricious is so necessary!

Anonymous said...

I tried to listen to the Burroughs clips but says the file has expired. Is there a way you can re-post the file so I can quench my craving for Mr. Burroughs? Thanks very much.