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Burroughs, William

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  • Burroughs, William

    In case anyone's interested, well I am, I saw today that the Calder bookshop on The Cut in London SE hosts a talk on March 10 by John Calder himself, reminiscing about his early encounters with William Seward. Plus readings by actors from early and I guess other work.

    Only three quid. Sounds well worth it to me. He might not be to everyone's taste but IMHO he turned literature upside down, and not before time. "Like having your nose nailed to someone else's lavatory" was what one member of the bourgeois literary establishment said of Naked Lunch. Well, that's a good enough testament for me.

    Moorcock, Ballard and in America, Burroughs. These three post-war I could not do without.
    xxx

  • #2
    During that famous controversy I seem to recall that Edith Sitwell said that I wanted to nail her nose to a lavatory seat. This image was enough to stun me to silence, at least for a bit. I had a Peakian image of the notoriously long-featured lady with a lavatory seat attached to her nose by a long nail... Victor Gollancsz joined in on Dame Edith's side, too.
    It appeared in the Times Literary Supplement as the 'Ugh' controversy in, I think, 1963. John Calder also had a couple of stories in NW. The publishing firm was rather famous for not coughing up royalties to various stalwarts including Beckett and Burroughs... But maybe we shouldn't rake all that up again now, since two of the parties, at least, are no longer with us.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
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    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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    • #3
      There's a scan currently sitting in the Limbo section of the Image Gallery that I did of the cover of the 1982 Calder edition of The Naked Lunch, which includes MM's letter to the TLS from Nov 63, as well as the rest of the 'Ugh' correspondence.

      MM of course did his own 'tribute' to Burroughs in the story The Deep Fix and you'll also find a scan of the first edition of the anthology bearing that title (which was dedicated to Burroughs) in the Books section.
      'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

      Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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      • #4
        I thought it was a Sitwell. The quote was brandished alongside others on the frontispiece pages of the first post-Calder Naked Lunch paperback editions (were they Pan? can't quite recall and mine are elsewhere. Do you remember the ludicrously lurid covers they came up with for, I think, Ticket That Exploded? )
        Maybe I should hint at Calder's relationship with his luminaries in any Q&A on March 10......!

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        • #5
          Panther did some early Burroughs paperback editions, followed in the 70s by Corgi...
          'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

          Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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          • #6
            It's the Corgi editions I'm thinking of - I think. Though the lurid cover was in fact for "Dead Fingers Talk" - sinister hippy junky with hypo jabbing into his arm looming on the stairwell of a public lav - and that might've been Panther.
            Did you ever meet Burroughs, Michael? What did you make of him?

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            • #7
              I've actually only read The Naked Lunch, but it's a favorite book of mine for sure. I'd imagine it wa probably shocking for quite a few people, but it's so over the top I just found it hilarious. The SF element was quite good though, and I like the way it weaves in and out of narrative. Despite Burrough's claim that you could start or finish at any point, I can't really imagine not having at least at first experienced it the way he put it together.
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              • #8
                Burroughs' experimental fiction is really a matter of taste, too weird for many but also very funny in places. Some of his other books are more normal - Queer (written about the same time as Junky but not published till the 80s) and later works like Cities of the Red Night and The Western Lands. There's also non-fiction stuff such as The Yage Letters, The Job and The Third Mind which explain some of his techniques. Once you know more about how Burroughs wrote his early books it makes them more accessible, but the relentless homosexual stuff puts a lot of people off. I've always found it interesting that Burroughs wrote all this stuff about drugs and gay sex but looked like a businessman...
                'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

                Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

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                • #9
                  Re Ginsberg, I don't know the bordello story, but assuming it's a true account and not some dodgy fantasy, I can't say I blame you. I always thought Ginsberg was gay. I met him once after a concert in Leicester where he had three thousand people singing Blake's Nurse's Song ("And all the hills echoed") as he thrummed the harmomium, which was a memorably uplifting experience in itself: and he seemed quite personable, in a gnomic sort of way.

                  Of Burroughs' later fiction, "Place of Dead Roads" is haunting and elegaic, and "Exterminator" the driest of his satires. I liked the very experimental early novels.. exhilarating and funny, despite the uh spurting members and so on.

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                  • #10
                    In a minor way I'd helped organise the event but was in effect part of the crowd, albeit at the front. A much-loved, now late friend of mine who was a poet and writer on the Beats, name of Dr Chris Challis, had helped bring Ginsberg over for the concert, which was of readings and self-accompanied singing staged in the Leicester University Students' Union, to a huge audience of at first perhaps partially rather bemused, but finally touchingly rapturous, students. I can't remember if there had been a support band. On reflection three thousand people is an overstatement. More like a thousand.
                    :roll:

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                    • #11
                      I shared a similar distaste for Ginsberg and, of course, witnessed that appallingly self-indulgent appearance with Macca at the Albert Hall poetry gig where I also made an idiot of myself. A very close friend of mine, who is gay, was horrified when Ginsberg, a good friend of hers up to that time, tried to strong-arm her into having sex with him. Her account had put me off him for some years before that gig and though I'd met him in the past, I couldn't bring myself to talk to him at the Albert Hall.

                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just time to add this link to an article by Will Self, about Burroughs and his first novel, the semi-autobiographical, Junky.


                        William Burroughs - the original Junkie

                        On the centenary of William Burroughs' birth, Will Self on why he was the perfect incarnation of late 20th‑century western angst – self-deluded and narcissistic yet perceptive about the sickness of the world

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                        • #13
                          More Burroughsania. A Guardian review of the new Burroughs biography, Call Me Burroughs, by one of the founders of the 60's alternative paper, International Times, Barry Miles.

                          http://www.theguardian.com/books/201...y-miles-review

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                          • #14
                            Passing this one along -

                            BBC Radio4 has an Archive Hour programme on Burroughs, to celebrate his Centenary.

                            http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03v9p0x

                            Seven days to listen.

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