Should I read Burroughs?

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  mother_he 4 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • 14 May 2017 at 2:39 pm #9387

    DarlBundren
    Member

    Good evening everybody,

    As the title suggests, I’m here to ask you whether I should read Burroughs or not. I know that William Vollmann holds some of his novels in high esteem (the ticket that exploded and Junkie) and that some of his ideas can allegedly be found in McCarthy as well, but at the same time I have a deep-rooted dislike for both Bukowski and Palanhiuk with whom Burroughs has been sometimes associated (perhaps mistakenly?). So, what do you think? Is Burroughs a serious writer? And if yes, what should I read first?

    Thanks


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    15 May 2017 at 7:37 am #9396

    Candy Minx
    Member

    William Burroughs is most definitely one of the most amazing and profound writers. He is in the top four greatest American writers period. With what Burroughs did with his work… Burroughs just was there first and longer and his work has the uncanny force of affecting the world. Burroughs art changed the world and is still changing the world. He is like Picasso, Pollack, Buddha, Jesus, Einstein.

    But…he is not for everyone. His works challenge readers sense of taste so he is either someone you love or hate. If you don’t enjoy Bukowski, Palaniuk I don’t think you will like Burroughs. Not because of their direct style….it’s a content thing. What those writers might have in common is content.

    So no… I don’t think you should read Burroughs. However if you do decide to read something I suggest Cities of The Red Night and The Place of Dead Roads to begin.


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    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  Candy Minx.
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    15 May 2017 at 9:36 am #9399

    mother_he
    Member

    Just do a cold read of Naked Lunch and don’t think so much. You won’t regret it.


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    15 May 2017 at 11:22 am #9401

    Richard L.
    Member

    Well, William Burroughs, like all the other Beats, has certainly dated. The supressions, repressions and expressions they rebelled against are not the same as those faced today. Homosexualism, for instance, was nearly invisible then and “queer,” and now it is almost everywhere normal and gay, a word not even thought of back then.

    Of course, if you wanted to read Burroughs in his current incarnation, you should read Cormackian Peter Joseph.


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    15 May 2017 at 11:31 am #9402

    mother_he
    Member

    Richard L.: William Burroughs, like all the other Beats, has certainly dated.

    With all due respect, I have to disagree with this, or at least the part about his work aging like that of “all the other beats.” Burroughs’ work was hugely predictive of the world we live in now, and he wasn’t mired in the directionless hedonism and cheap mysticism of his peers. The strangeness and the brutality of his books far exceeds the accomplishments of Kerouac, Ginsberg & co.

    In an America where opiate addiction is climbing, where objectivity and facts are losing more and more ground in the halls of power, where the popular culture grows more debased and frivolous by the minute, Burroughs is more relevant than ever. His sexual exploits might not be shocking anymore, but there is a different sort of Puritanism afoot in this country now that his work is a perfect antidote against.


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    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  mother_he.
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    15 May 2017 at 12:36 pm #9409

    Candy Minx
    Member

    I agree with how you put this Motherhe.

    More than ever Burroughs is classic. We do not live in a world where sexual equality is the norm at all. Especially in the United States where sexual prejudice is found all over the cultural landscape. The United States for all the optimism and diversity in some of the big cities is a different country outside Chicago, NY or LA.

    I wouldn’t even classify Burroughs as being a Beat…although he sure was working with that practice in some of his earlier works. Burroughs is the perfect example of art emerging during late collapse as we are witnessing now.

    It’s true that when someone has not read all of Burroughs work (god is there enough time in one lifetime to read everything and discuss and watch it?? His peer is Shakespeare!) I wouldn’t have thought of articulating his relevance because of the opiate crisis in the United States…..because I don’t consider Burroughs as just dealing with addiction although of course its so true.

    Just if we look at culture in U.S. apart from the drug addled rural areas….the use of drugs in the city is more sanctioned since people have to be so high functioning in order to pay outrageous costs of living in these cities…..they have to be highly functioning addicts. That is quite relevant to Burroughs.

    But Burroughs work although one if its layers of meaning and themes is addiction…it is also about post-war and war. So that is something also relevant due the the terrible ongoing war the United States has been waging for over ten years now. The early novels (as well as later ones) are exploring the unconscious and how we come to integration with our spiritual selves versus the failed ego self. Burroughs also explores the culture of crime and sexual adaptations to crime, to the life of convicts and ex-cons. Again, the systemic program to continue to keep African Americans as edslaved by supporting a prison culture s also something of value to consider in Burroughs work. Poor whites have been included in that systemic class war too now. Outlaws motherfuckers. If you want to know what freedom is you need to read Burroughs.

    Burroughs said “language is a virus” thirty years before McCarthy didn’t give him credit for that idea.

    Burroughs work teaches us how to take apart and analyze control-systems. Fuck, he may have even coined the term “control-systems.”

    I don’t know if there is anyone who understands how language works more than William Burroughs. He knows because he actually knows how it relates to the unconsciousness.

    What Burroughs teaches us to this day…is that addiction isn’t just about finding a way to deal with pain. But addiction is about control. Trying to eek out a sense of control in a world of madness. In fact if anyone loves math….they would be hypocrite to dismiss Burroughs as “beat”. This is the man who coined the phrase for addiction as “algebra of need,” Stick that in your algorithm. His work had two censorship trials. He changed the way we discuss censorship. In my profession that is life changing. That is fucking shop talk.

    There is no end sight of discussion of the nature of reality, the unconsciousness and freedom in his work. It will never stop being critical for young people. For artists and innovators and creative people. You know…the people who keep the human race from being overtaken by AI. Burroughs predicted everything we see right now. He predicted Richard and Mother-He arguing on the McCarthy forum.

    Burroughs also has a brilliant portrayal in novel after novel about power, politics and oppression. In a word his explorations portrayal of the oppression from bureaucracy. The depiction and results of bureaucracy are detailed as Freeland, Interzone and the medical community/Big Pharm. The marketplace of Burroughs is completely predicting and still describing the world we live in…especially in the United States. Burroughs describes a society that focuses on sexual activities versus the political oppression and morality imposed….while turning it’s back on slavery and drug addiction. Exactly like the United States does right now. Have you heard of the battle of public washrooms? Gender wars? Cultural appropriation issues? His style of writing and using “hard-boiled” as a genre has only grown in popularity. Every genre he works through has been a satire in his novels so well done one can almost not see it as a satire it is so frightening. Every awesome edgy tv show in the last ten years owes a debt to Burroughs. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. The Walking Dead. Re-vamp of Twin Peaks. House of Cards, Sense*, The OA, Mr. Robot, Ex Machina, Alien, Sherlock.

    If you don’t think Burroughs is still relevant I suggest investigating these issues…which his novels.paintings, poems, cut ups are expertly deconstructing the forces of power and the collapse

    Planned Parenthood
    Transgender rights
    Border crossing
    Chrystal meth usage across all the little towns in U.S.
    Chronic (I mean blunts, not illness)
    Iraq
    Iran
    Veterans
    War protestors
    Murder
    Guns
    Violence
    Nazis
    Ennui
    depression
    terrorism
    Sex
    Convict culture
    Ex-con culture
    Crime
    language
    Mexico US relations

    AI
    robots
    Narrative structures
    Coprpoate culture
    Alternative economies
    Outlaws and black market economies
    Law
    Spirituality
    Love
    Friendship
    Morality
    War on drugs
    The Depression (both the one in 1929 and the one in 2008)

    This contemporary list of our issues today in the United States is the stuff of expertise exploration in Burroughs body of work.


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    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  Candy Minx.
    15 May 2017 at 2:19 pm #9412

    robmcinroy
    Member

    I would recommend listening to Burroughs on audio book, read by a professional. You truly realise what an extraordinary writer he is that way. I remember travelling from England, where I live, back to Scotland where I come from and listening to The Wild Boys on CD and having to stop at the side of the road to listen again to some of it because it was stupendous. The force of his words, the poetry of it, the driving pulse of it, comes across in the spoken word much more than the written word.

    Then listen to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album. It was influenced by The Wild Boys.


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    15 May 2017 at 3:51 pm #9414

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Diamond Dogs is one of my very favorite Bowie albums!!!!

    I love your description of driving and listening to “The Wild Boys” being read.

    I would love to listen to any three of those read by an actor or professional voice artist. Was the version you listened to by Luis Moreno…I just looked on amazon, thats why I ask heh heh.

    I’ve seen William Burroughs read live. Cathy Acker opened for him. It was one of the most stunning experiences. I loved Burroughs delivery. My husband listens to him all the time. We have several docs about him, photos of him…and I always have “The Red Night Trilogy” beside reading chair.


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    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  Candy Minx.
    15 May 2017 at 3:56 pm #9415

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Oh…I mean it’s just mind boggling when you start thinking about Burroughs and his bizarre handle on our times and the world we live in….it’s influenced my whole day so far…

    And..oh yeah…right…he predicted AIDS.


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    17 May 2017 at 12:36 pm #9448

    DarlBundren
    Member

    Thanks everyone for your valuable contribution. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Candy, I liked how you were able to convince me that reading Burroughs would be both a bad and a fantastic idea haha. I’ve added Cities of the Red Night to my list. Richard, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard about Peter Joseph. Is there anything in particular that you would like to recommend?


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