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Copyright © 2001 Semiotext(e) All rights reserved. We gratefully acknowledge support from the California Arts Council Literature Program towards the publication of this book. Semiotext(e) 2571 W. Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90057 www.semiotexte.org
TH E COL L ECT E D INTERVI EWS 1960–1997
501 Philosophy Hall Columbia University New York, NY 10027
Distributed by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, England
ISBN: Printed in the United States of America
SEMIOTEXT(E) FOREIGN AGENTS SERIES
Foreword by Sylvère Lotringer On Editing This Book by Sylvère Lotringer
The Old Lines Are Breaking Down: American Celebrity
Semiotext(e), Schizo-Culture John Giorno, Almost Miss America 182 187 209 217 227
Introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen, These Our Actors...”
William Burroughs, The Beginning Is Also The End 18
Georges-Gérard Lemaire, Terrorism,Utopia and Fiction Michael White, Astral Evolution Sylvère Lotringer, Exterminating
A Burst of Silent Fireworks: The Early Years
William Burroughs, Came From Nowhere Joseph Barry, Burroughs After Lunch Allen Ginsberg/Gregory Corso, The Time-Birth-Death Gimmick Conrad Knickerbocker, White Junk 26 28 33 40
A Landscape I Never Saw Before: Dreams, Paintings, Afterlives
Jay Murphy, Nothing Is Inevitable Before It Happens 256 William Triplett,Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Intellectual Gunman 260 Brion Gysin, Port of Entry, 1960 Nicholas Zurbrugg, Space Art 265 271 282
Erasing the Policeman: Verbal Revolutions
Jeff Shiro, Revolt! Felix Scorpio, Tactics of Deconditioning Jean-Francois Bizot, Establishment Garbage AM/PA: Inspector J. Lee of the Nova Police Bob Palmer, Rolling Stone Interview Angelo Lewis, The White Threat 76 104 118 129 136 176
Simone Ellis, Observing the Unknown
Coda: “I Have Done Everthing That I Could Do”
Victor Bockris, Invasion 292
Footnotes Bibliography Index
His awkward dialogues with celebrities like David Bowie or Patti Smith show a more vulnerable. Usually. Burroughs’ mind could be sharp. idiosyncratic in his tastes and unabashedly sentimental about his cats. He feared he would never be able to summon all that could be said at the moment. his friends Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg attempt to bring out the Burroughs they knew to the reader. In his second interview. he had a heightened sense of the art of conversation. although at times his impatience with stupidity got the better of him. he always made sure he had some routines up his sleeve to cover up the lapses and the blank spots. published by City Lights.The interview as an oblique manipulation: Burroughs was acutely aware of the fact that he had to hold the reader’s attention. On the other hand. even adolescent side. attitudes and voices. would take the form of an interview. The tone may 6 7 . Being a natural comedian. Genet. E ri c Mottram. And yet the interviews reveal much more than he himself would have expected. when I visited him in Lawrence. An English pro f e s s o r. of his personality. In “ T h e Beginning Is Also The End. meant to address someone.” he set up a dialogue where his knowledge of drugs could be refracted through his characters . the various t r a n s c ripts of u n g u a rded conve rsations with locals or close friends in Lawrence also included in this volume show him witty and relaxed. There are as many “William S. Always the genial host.I t ’s interesting that this. B u rroughs gave his first interv i ew to himself. the first interviews were encounters with a certain “type” as perceived by mid-century journalists. even cutting at times. he could change color according to the context.discovered tapes of Burroughs interviewed on the BBC while the controversy around the banning of Naked Lunch was r a ging in The Times Litera ry Supplement . and often spent a great deal of time putting his interviewer at ease. one of Burrough’s first literary texts. Because Burroughs was known as a phenomenon long before he was known as a writer. Adept at adopting roles. But while he may have maintained some control of the subject-matter within most of these interviews. BURROUGHS FOREWORD William Burroughs hated giving interv i ew s . knowing I was teaching French literature at Columbia University. Kansas in 1988. of course. He was capable of being rattled by fame. Burroughs” as there are interviews. as a means of trying on multiple characters. as if he already had intimated that all interviews are fiction.” Raised as a gentleman. but a cut-up of sort s . he pre-selected the topics he would explore in each encounter. what’s fascinating is the portrait that emerges of Burroughs summoning himself up for these “occasions. He used them much as he used writing. and that fiction is never a statement but a performance of sorts. he showed up with a copy of Edmund White’s recent biography of Jean Genet to fuel our conversation. or moving through history in different garbs. and inters p e rs e d Burroughs’ remarks with his own commentary.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. was also one of his favorite writers. maybe as a way of keeping his distances. Actually the first serious interview about his work was not an i n t e rv i ew.
which heavily relied on the cut-up method discovered by Brion Gysin in 1959. In 1965. in 1975. as Burroughs realized. Interviews also gave him a way of coming up with thoughts he would not have had a chance to express otherwise. published five years later. years before it was finally published in the United States.T h ey saw capitalism as a creative and free-wheeling machine. but the purpose was highly polemical.This control. acknowledging the carny and carnivalesque aspects of his work often misread as sour and dark and unduly transgressive.Towards that end. The Job. to teach at City College. Kafka. This approach would later be pursued more exhaustively by the French critic Daniel Odier in a long interview (not included here) that was eventually adapted—or reappropriated—by Burroughs himself into a full-fledged book. it seemed to me that the most exciting philosophy being done in America was taking place outside of academe. (Burroughs and James Grauerholz eventually paid Michel Foucault a visit in Paris in the early 1980s. in 1974. Since the publication of Naked Lunch in Paris in 1959. Speaking with this serious literary journali s t . and paved the way for his uncanny penetration of the rock ‘n’ roll world in the late 1970s. The Ticket That Exploded (1962) and Nova Express (1964). And yet. When I arrived in New York from Paris in 1972.B u rroughs was freed from having to recite his sensational autobiography. Céline. But in New Yo r k . but through more subtle mechanisms involving word and image. the association between Burroughs and continental theories. which happened to be close to his ow n . and decided to stay in America. BURROUGHS bedoctoral. he was perceived as a relic of the early 1960s. At that time. Naked Lunch had recently been published in America. Finally. His work had not yet crossed over into academe. Burroughs rightly saw the interview as an opportunity to p resent himself in a more sustained and re f l e c t ive fa s h i o n . I invited the French philosophers to meet William Burroughs and John Cage at the “Schizo-Culture” conference. and he had little connection with the contemporary art world. Exiled in London. Swift. was no longer exerted directly. he was able to describe his literary references.B u rroughs seemed to have fallen out of favor. the great satirical tradition. His subsequent novels— The Soft Machine (1961). Conrad Knicke r b o c ker interv i ewed Wi l l i a m Burroughs for The Paris Review. binarism. bewildered the readers and received little attention in traditional literary circles.The topic was prisons and madness. I was then interested in forging connections between some French “artists” in concepts like Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze and their counterparts in the American art world. Mottram was the first person to publicly acknowledge Burroughs as a writer with a system of thought and a vision of history. led by Edmund White). in 1969. he had a huge intellectual following in France within the Rimbaldian modernist tradition. Burroughs managed to give these transcripts the skeletal form of a literary text. digital language. Semiotext(e)’s first public event. By cutting in essays and out-takes and fictional fragments. suggested a new context for reading his work. Much later on Deleuze borrowed Burroughs’ name to characterize the new “control societies. Another great interview with Robert Palmer for Rolling Stone in 1972 gave him a chance to address the young generation and sketch a strategy for revolutionary change. begun at this conference. Mostly. While the French were quite familiar with Burroughs work. But it was the more baroque and self-conscious interview he had with David Bowie a year later for the same magazine that effectively introduced Burroughs’ work to the culture at large.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. trying to endlessly tighten its grip in order to maintain a precarious balance. I was amazed that so few people here had heard of William Burroughs. depressed and isolated. he himself had no knowledge of their neo-anarchistic ideas about capitalism and schizophrenia. through confinement and disciplines.” but Burroughs kept resisting their ideas with Yankee can-do fervor as overly intellectual. Burroughs always said that the “cut-up” was an artificial production of schizophrenic speech by chance mechanisms. 8 9 . his career was going downhill until he returned to New York.
” Sylvère Lotringer 10 11 . “was scattered. towards the end of putting Burroughs’ work back on the map in his own country.” reports Burroughs’ biographer Ted Morgan. the possession. punk resistance and literary experimentation. The inside. for Burroughs.” a three-day event that mobilized the art. Suddenly. I suggested to Grauerholz that an event might be c reated along the lines of the “ S c h i z o . and tried to get away from. resulting in Bockris’ publication in 1982 of With William Burroughs: Report From The Bunker. His bullish insistence may appear at first clownish or obnoxious. punk rock and academic worlds in lower Manhattan. (“The applause. he said. after taking ailing Burroughs to an exorcism ceremony performed at his intention by an Indian shaman. The Place of Dead Roads (1984) We s t e rn Lands ( 1 9 8 7 ) . The last dozen interviews were mostly about his new creative medium.Towards the end of his life. fatalism. His paranoia. the one who shot Joan. something that would be present in the Last Words. In 1983.” everything he himself belonged to. It’s all in his work. Is there. BURROUGHS Early in 1977. he speaks in the interviews with great unconclusiveness and candor about death and aging. fragility and singularity of Burroughs’ life.C u l t u re ” c o n f e re n c e. a few of which are presented here in extenso. by choosing an exile from himself. the hostile force—managed to gain access. Burroughs was fascinated with Dutch Schultz’s last delirious statements because they left us guessing.The presence of Allen Ginsberg as “interviewer”-stage mother recurs throughout Burroughs’career. wasn’t just a riff. affirming of Burroughs’ intents and importance. So by the time the second trilogy. could only be exorcised. the interviews become more academic: he discusses his work with the scholars Nicholas Zurbrugg and Regina Weinreich.” the moment at which the spirit—the virus. by “facing the whole of American capitalism. Cities of the Red Night (1981). Tennessee Williams.” Burroughs also wondered what his own writing was in terms of his life. ‘What are your secrets?’ Death replied. however hard he tried to rub them out. Rockefeller. the interstellar mob. ‘I have no secrets. Interviews—salons.” Burroughs recalled. the author had already de-emphasized his writing and was spending a great deal of his time making gunshot paintings.” And yet by then. C h ri s t o p h e r Isherwood.The invasion by the Ugly Spirit. Deborah Harry. Burroughs openly discusses his nightmares and state of constant fear with Victor Bockris. The interviews contained in this book document the paradox of someone who continually denies being anyone except the various voices that traverse him. really—set up between Burroughs and cultural luminaries Susan Sontag. work and presence.“as to what these words referred to in terms of his life. Devo and others by Grauerholz and the journalist Victor Bockris—followed. In “The Seventh Seal. is there an “ultimate secret. we staged “The Nova Convention.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. or to answer. or in every word he ever wrote. Far from affirming his persona as “El Hombre Invisible. but a philosopher. he said. like Lady Macbeth? But this may be too simplistic a question to ask.”) But from this point on. yet he repeatedly makes interviews designed to straighten the record. Burroughs was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters.’ No writer has any secrets. Ginsberg wondered in 1992. With the collaboration of poet and visionary impresario John Giorno. Kansas by the London Sunday Times with his face on the cover: “Portrait of the Author as Gunman.” the interviews remind us of the incredible specificity. was completed. Burroughs became an embodiment of what mattered at that moment: a mixture of drugs. “the man asked Death. And yet what a writer he was. being profiled at his home in Lawrence. Burroughs had finally become more accessible to mainstream. could always be found outside and it is this that made him not just a writer. the CIA. a series of edited transcripts.
This is what I wanted to do as well with these interviews taken as a whole since they were never meant to fit together under the same cover. but to shape the heterogeneous material translated from several languages and collated from France. Like all rituals. strictly speaking. Each interview is a little drama played between two people for an invisible audience. and they can only achieve their purpose if this form is found along the way—or after the fact. My intention wasn’t to present a straight compilation of William Burroughs’ interviews. Accordingly. though. Germany. This is what many interviewers achieve by editing the transcript in various degrees. or like music. never was and yet encapsulating what may have been present there in a virtual state. BURROUGHS ON EDITI NG THIS BOOK I always liked the interview format because it challenges the mind to come up with ideas in real time. England and America into something that could be read like a book. I took the liberty of trimming from the 12 13 . Ideally what is being published is the exact transcription of what happened and some of the interviews reprinted here retain the rush of this original exchange (“Invasion”). interviews have a form.creating an event that.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.
at times. I am indebted to Barry Miles and Ted Morgan.” Burroughs said. or remain un-available.The past and the future are contained in the present. interviews but scenes snatched from life (“Snack”). had to be reinvented from the context in order to maintain the momentum of the dialogue. 1988) for the biographical sketches provided in front of each of the four parts carved out of Burroughs’career. 14 15 . Kansas (1987) one year after Gysin’s death in Paris finally gave the old writer license to be a young painter. Some questions. Countless friends and assistants in New York and Los Angeles have participated in this endeavor. Grove Press.” as he once himself described it. of asking him questions that one would have wanted clarified. Quite a few of the interviews have never been published before. in order to fit the overall format. and they all should be thanked here for their trust and enthusiasm. Burroughs: a Bibliography.” (This could have been written by Gilles Deleuze). or repetitive. S.“I’ve always thought of the past as a meaningless proposition.The lengthy bibliography at the end of this volume is the first one of its kind after Barry Miles and Joe Maynard’s ground-breaking William S. 1988) which stops eight years before Burroughs’ death. some ephemeral and often impossible to locate.The other reason for a book like this is to offer what no biography. biographer of William Burroughs. 1992) who generously provided most of the material published in England. or that had been waiting to be given a final form (“The Wishing Machine”). however detailed.And yet I didn’t want to be a slave to chronology. can: the possibility of spending time in the company of the writer. “It’s always the present. including translators. Others have been transcribed from radio programs or from private audiotapes. worked as it raised to the challenge and strove to spell out what had remained latent in his work—what his sensitive antennae picked up unconsciously when tuning to the various currents of his time. some of them thanked by name. El Hombre Invisible (London:Virgin Press. Burroughs (New York: Henry Holt and Company. catching glimpses of the way Burroughs’“intricate kind of mind.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. buried in the book. Several interviews. One of the functions of a book of this kind is to salvage from oblivion material that would otherwise be lost.This includes discussions or dialogues involving Burroughs that are not. 1953-1973 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. or have been completed and checked from original manuscripts. This volume roughly respects the chronology of William Burroughs’ interviews and provides easy cross-referencing to Ted Morgan’s biography. At both ends of this book—The Beginning is The End—interviews are organized more in terms of their emotional effect than in a strict order of succession. By the same token the initial dialogue of Burroughs with Brion Gysin about his painting (“Port of Entry. and who has the last word. strictly speaking.1978). or recasting them in a question and answer mode whenever it was possible or fair to the interviewer. And it is fitting that it would be Allen Ginsberg who would provide an introduction to Burroughs’ Collected Interviews with an interview of his own.L. published in the more popular press. This book has been 12 years in the making and has crossed the American continent from East to West and back in boxes several times over waiting for the last ditch effort that would finally pull it all together. more topical or of limited interest. Literary Outlaw: the Life and Times of William S. occasionally re-editing them to make them more fluid. Special thanks are given to Barry Miles. were also collapsed and re-edited into one stronger statement. others.” 1961) in the Beat Hotel in Paris is made to preface the “Drawing Dialogue” with painter Philip Taafe in Burroughs’ house in Lawrence. but also to James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg (Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader. BURROUGHS interviews everything that could appear too redundant.
. These Our Actors..” .Introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen.
An intolerable situation you will agree. This illness has an incubation period of two weeks. And let me take this opportunity of replying to my creeping opponents. The other members of the crew… well… you understand… uh sooner or later… So I decided to act sooner. I am blind. young man. I am reality and I am hooked on reality.What you call the history of mankind is the history of my escape plan. Not all of my negatives develop by any means. how did all this start? How did you get here in the first place? If you found conditions so distastful why didn’t you leave at once?” “God questions I mean good questions. Having taken one shot it becomes mathematically probable that he will take another given the opportunity and I THE BEGINNING IS ALSO THE END 1963 “I am not an addict. What I feel is not hate. The accident in which I lost my sight. I take a picture or rather a series of pictures of you with hepatitis. I am junk and I am hooked forever. (Room for one more inside. The addict I invented to keep this show on the junk road. My arrival here was a wreck. Give me an old wall and a garbage can and I can. sir). Now I put my virus negatives into your liver to develop. I don’t like animals. But you find a way to make the insects bring you junk. It is not true that I hate the human species.” QUESTION: “Mr. I have nothing to sit on. Consequently since my arrival some five hundred thousand years ago I have had one thought in mind. Not far to reach: remember I live in your body. So if I know when the virus is in (and I do because I put it there) I know how you will look two weeks from now: yellow. by God. I was the only survivor.To put it another way. I don’t want ‘love. And I have acted sooner ever since.That is I need a human host. Obviously I am not omnipotent.’ I don’t want forgiveness. sit there forever. Still I must live in and on human bodies.All I want is out of here. I can’t look at anything. BURROUGHS years living there you still feel that basic structural distaste for your insect servants. In your verbal garbage the closest word is distaste.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I am all the addicts and all the junk in the world. Even after thousands of 18 19 . I will explain briefly how this is done. Well that is exactly the way I feel about my human servants. Now this is a simple operation. Now I am using junk as a basic illustration. To make that situation clearer suppose you were stranded on a planet populated by insects. It takes maybe sixty consecutive shots before I can welcome another addict. I can’t sit anywhere. Extend it. The ship came apart like a rotten undervest.n ow back to basic junk.You are a drug addict.You feel it everytime they touch you. I just don’t like human beings. I am the addict.You are blind. Because I am the wall and I am the garbage can. The entire human film was prerecorded. Some character takes a bang of heroin for the first time. Take a simple virus illness like hepatitis. Martin. The whole hepatitis film is prerecorded two weeks before the opening scene when you notice your eyes are a little yellower than usual. All ri g h t .
So you walk out of your body and stand across the ro o m .Well perhaps I didn’t take it serioulsy at first. It should now be obvious that what you call ‘reality’ is a function of these. Human activities are drearily predictable. tell us something about yo u rs e l f. And the usual do-good missions talk about educating the natives for selfgovernment. People who got too close one way or another.You cannot leave human form in human form. Next thing the blockade on planet earth is broken.To really leave human form you would have to leave the whole concept of word and image. Martin. Anywhere else. Now what could louse up a pre-recorded biological film? Obviously random factors. Martin.’ I could by God sit there forever if I had a self to sit in that would sit still for it. Always keep as many alternative moves open as possible.Almost in the next sentence you say ‘All I want is out of here. Take along a few good natives to stock the new pitch. You have taken great trouble and pain (believe me there is no pain like flesh withdrawal consciously experienced) and you have gotten precisely back where you started. And I planned it painless.N ow what form would the being that walks out of your body have? Obviously it would have precisely your form. So all you have done is take the same form from one place to another. And some hick sheriff from the nova heat charging me with ‘outrageous colonial mismanagement and attempted nova.” QUESTION: “Mr. If a man makes a certain amount of money by certain means he will go on making more money by the same means and so forth. In short the cut up method of Brion Gysin which derives from Hassan I Sabbah and the planet Saturn. Explorers moving in whole armies. That’s not nova that’s manslaughter.’ Aren’t you contradicting yourself?” “You are confused about the word ‘self. in the face of the evidence. Having taken two shots it becomes more probable that he will take a third. Second degree.There was Rimbaud.And maybe I wanted to hear what he had to say about getting out. Early answer to use on anyone considering to interfere.What I planned was simply to move out the biologic film to planet Venus and start over. Now you see me. M a rt i n . BURROUGHS can always arrange that. Disturbs my medications. So why didn’t I stop Mr. because they are pre-recorded human activities.” QUESTION: “Mr. Broke them all down to window dressers. Now there you sit in your so-called ‘self. precisely predictable.’Well they can’t hang a nova rap on me. It’s the old army game.And a lot of people you never heard of for good reasons. And you cannot think or conceive in non image terms by mathematical definition of a being in my biological film which is a series of images.A s soon as I move in on any self all that self wants is to be somewhere else.There was Tristan Tzara and the Surrealist lark. Some people can incidentally. One negative developed makes others almost unavoidable.Well I’ve had a spot of trouble before but nothing serious.The reports reek of nova.Tricks I learned after the crash. I don’t encourage this but it happens and threatens to become pandemic. I don’t . You cannot leave the human image in the human image. Gysin in his tracks? I have ways of dealing with wise guys or I wouldn’t be here. I dislike screaming. and for the rest. no one can deny that nova was planned.’ Suppose you could walk out of that self.That is someone cutting my word and image lines at random. now you don’t. I soon threw a block into that. Do you have any vices other than junk? Any hobbies? Any dive rs i o n s ? ” 20 21 .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.” “It will be obvious that I myself as an addict can only be a determined factor in someone else’s equation.” QUESTION: “Mr.The same procedure can be applied to any human activities. you say ‘give me a wall and a garbage can and I can sit there forever. total disposal. Does that answer your question? I thought not.
Martin I gather that your plan to move the show to planet Venus. I still beat you to the draw. That there is no time in space—that what goes up under such auspices must come down—that the beginning is also the end. M a rt i n . these our actors. just look aro u n d . you have just heard an interview with Mr.w h e re will you go.The lot of you. Mr. uh. You see I’m on the undesirable list with every immigration department in the galaxy. Is that correct?” “Yeah. if you go?” “That’s quite a problem. I manipulate.That’s why I’m still here. Just look around. it looks that way. And I feel reasonably sure that if the other crew members could be here with us tonight they would also do a pretty good job of lying. M a rt i n . bu s t e r.” QUESTION: “Won’t you have to come to some sort of terms with your. Blind and paralyzed. Ladies and gentlemen. miscarried.The entire film is clogged. Martin.You think I can’t read your stupid virus mind lady? And you. when you have to kill your audience every few years to keep them in their seats it’s about time to pack in. bid you at long last good night. Martin. Sex is profoundly distasteful to a being of my. Well.” QUESTION: “Mr. Martin.” QUESTION: “Who are these others?” “There was an army colonel. No one wants friends unless he is shit scared or unless he is planning a caper he can’t pull off by himself. uh. Diversions? I enjoy a good show and a good performer.’ QUESTION: “Mr. Hobbies? Chess. has.” QUESTION: “In that case. But please remember that nothing is true in space. And you. waiting to shoot me in the back.” “Ladies and Gentlemen. a technician and a woman. I found that out after the crash. Martin has been called The Man Of A Thousand Lies. but do not share. You were all set to cross me up for the count down. you technical bastard with your mind full of formulae I can’t read. There are accomplices. Just an old showman.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Mr.Well he didn’t have time for a thousand but I think he did pretty well in the time allotted.” QUESTION: “Mr. sole survivor of the first attempt to send up a space capsule from planet earth.There are no friends. former accomplices?” “To my disgruntled former associates I have this to say. don’t you have any friends?” “There are no friends.” 22 23 . There are allies. what sort of place did you people come from?” “What sort of place did we come from. mineral origins. Well if you want the a n swer to that question. Colonel Bradly.They are sitting right here.” QUESTION: “Mr. other than junk. what about the others who were involved in this crash? Aren’t they still alive somewhere in some f o rm ? ” “You don’t have to look far. BURROUGHS “Your vices. ‘Who him? Don’t let him out here. I found that out before the others. uh. when you go.
A Burst of Silent Fireworks: The Early Years .
Soft sidewalks. by the force of their attacks on things they don’t like about the world. has developed a formidable boardinghouse reach with an Old China Hand. to say what they would like for the ‘60s. China Boy (good mud runner):Too little and too lately known. Official in Absentia William Seward Burroughs 26 27 . My ears stopped with dust. steps. and China Boy kicked his brains out at the first hurdle and re-relegated him to his Club Seat in Not-Self.The Ju d g e s ’B ox is empty. translucent but decently opaque—in the right places— p l a s t ic.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.Whatever one may think of them. Is it fragile? Will it break? The Colonial Dames are invited to drink the bitter tea of general Yen. sealing wax. Please accept My Most Distinguished Sentiments. for the Pause T h a t Refreshes. I won’t be there for the finish. Stratosphere Purple has become a household world. Bet my last Not-Self coupon on South Sea Bubble (unknown s t a bl e ) : Came from now h e re in the Stretch and crossed the Finnish Line in a burst of silent fireworks. all hues. all mute and odorless.S.Yen pox is opium ash taken with hot tea. BURROUGHS CAM E F RO M N O W HE RE Paris. Foul claimed. i nviting carn ivo rous disaster into Gre e n Pastures. losing stratosphere tickets in Pari-mutuel. or perhaps just plain need. which swept across the track in a black wave of protest… Photo Finish.Helicopters and every kind of motor vehicle.10 Purple and other Not-Self debris. Gadgets. not self? REPLY: Chère Mademoiselle. 1960 Mademoiselle asked some headstrong people who have made names for themselves. W. Burroughs is an American in Paris whom the Saturday Review describes as “a writer of great power and artistic integrity. Safe in Not-Self. floors. lively and idiosyncratic. certainly if more voices like these speak up. (Yen means opiumneed. I have nothing to lose. I firmly extol the virtues of every horse until starting time: High Metal (carrying a lot of we i g h t ) :C o nversion and Peace. i n f l a t a ble and deflatabl e. I could not hear the cheers. establishing an ominous pre c e d e n t . I am placed by you in the otherworldly selfless and detached position of a losing better before and/or after the race. if any.) Will they accept? He shrugged and reached for his yen pox. Houses of flexible. contrivances in dazzling number and variety. Outraged spectators forced the living horse to eat his jockey. we may look forward to the decade with cheerful curiosity.” [Mademoiselle] CABLE: What do you want in next decade for world.
English Book Store.Went to school in St.Two chairs. Louis. It’s the poker face that gives him the Keaton look—reserved as an old-fashioned Mississippi gambler. in St. So went to signing Rue de Seine. None over bed. and two taperecorders. room 30. et al.Worn tweedy topcoat with worn velvet collar. [Ghost of a smile or smile of a ghost. boxes of used tapes spilling out on shelf like Krapp’s Last Tape.] Eliot has lost his. Still interested in latter. I live here because it’s cheap. but I still have a Midwest accent. BJ: Did you ever become a pilot? WB: I was turned down for physical reasons. Eliot. Sheet of paper in it with typing on it. One window looks across narrow street to chimney pots. etc. Just a room. notebook and all. 9 rue Gît-le-Coeur. I don’t read much. Louis and Los Alamos. WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Like T. Has one now—out of order. maybe not.1 9 1 4 . and books.Table with old Spanish portable. A slightly stooped 5-foot-11. BA in English Lit. one room strictly for work.Walk up to fifth floor. Olympia (“Lolita”) Press. JB: Do you read a lot? Paris. $40 a month. material for fold-ins. tapes.S. which is about to be sold and character changed. Washstand in other.Wardrobe with maybe one change of suit. WB: No. lives at Beat Hotel. One naked light bulb hanging over table. 1963 Hadn’t seen Burroughs since that night with Beckett. BURROUGHS BUR RO UGHS AF TE R LUNCH When in Pa ri s.This time came to work. Burroughs signing The Ticket That Exploded. Did grad work at Harvard in anthropology and archeology. not disorderly. has pilot’s license. proofs.” Would like whole wall of files for his work. “For mss in progress. files. Has made average of $200 a month since Naked Lunch was published in Paris in 1959 by Oly m p i a . 5 . 1936. Room wa rm . Four wire file baskets hanging over table on wall. Home away from home for beats. Ralph Richardson hat —curled brim. JB: Do you enjoy living in hotels? WB: I would prefer my own apartment. Has two-burner gas stove on table in one corner.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.Tried to get into glider pilots during war. etc. JOSEPH BARRY: You were born on Feb. thin. Seedy British. 28 29 . A bed. thin-faced combo of Ralph Richardson13 and Buster Keaton. walls of books. Looks British anyway.S ays he does have tiny income from Grandpa Burroughs adding machine money. not neat. Harvard.
BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. you’re not free. Time story also mentioned Burroughs’ accidental shooting of wife in Mexico. six years. First wife was German Jewish refugee still living in New York. Discuss a paragraph describing him as a former drug addict and jail-bird who mutilated a finger joint when he was drafted. detective for three weeks—spotting embezzling clerks—got sick of it. not a bad job. I can’t. Agent circulated mss among American publishers. a con is a man convicted of a felony who has served time for it.Then Girodias16 of Olympia Press saw it. Especially Amazon region of Peru and Ecuador. I’ve been off for six years.15 Got hooked on junk in Tangier. JB: How did this finger-joint thing happen? WB: Skip it. Loves fog. generally charged with misdemeanor. Now I just don’t want junk. last winter by Grove Press. really beautiful. near Earl’s Court. JB: Does it take any will power? WB: If you have to use will power. I’ve tried 10 cures.“Green hell country. BURROUGHS Was pvt. Second wife? Leads into Time story on Burroughs and Naked Lunch . No charges made. Went to London for cure. less of your physical surroundings than without it. Authorities decided killing due to negligence.As WB: I dislike feeling I don’t remember anything. I’ve been in jail for a day or two waiting trial on narcotics. for cutting off finger joint. Became bible of the beat. Then I went to London and saw Dr. Married twice. Met Paul Bowles14. published it. JB: Back to Naked Lunch then. Dent17 to try his apomorphine treatment. London hotel like Pa ri s hotel. However. Back to Tangier to write Naked Lunch. Junk dims down the whole creative process physiologically. because there is no such a thing as will power. JB: Why? WB: I’m considering suing Time. Gets up late in Paris. Like a war experience. and I don’t remember much of that evening. Finds English food cheaper and better. JB: I heard you didn’t like that story much. Brion Gysin. Living in Paris and London. Beckett. Drinking was heavy. I’ve given that up since the night we were with Mr.”Then went to Tangier for five. Finally published in U. but none took.Were you on drugs at the time? WB: I was not on drugs when I wrote it. It couldn’t have been possible for me to write it on junk. Ex-con is false. About $3 a night. then the case was either dismissed or nolle prosse. But you should avoid alcohol. Has to get up early in London to get hotel breakfast. 30 31 . After war went down to Mexico and South A m e ri c a . No sale. a day’s work in two hours. Some can. I don’t know if it’s useful for anyone else. JB: Does junk make one see more? WB: You see less on junk. For me. working at travel agency. was bartender and exterminator— JB: How was that? WB: Killing roaches and bed bugs. Half and half. especially big one this winter. the whole experience of addiction was useful.S. that happened three years before America was in war. As amateur anthropologist. For a writer.
CORSO: Who manipulates the cloth? 32 33 .” you said. since he felt there was no communication between people.“You’re using other writers’ work!” he cried. Beckett. That is what politics is for.” WB: I don’t remember that conversation. BURROUGHS Recap evening for Burroughs. to teach you the cloth. But I don’t agree with Mr.B I RT H .“ T h e re are no answers!” Beckett shook and held his head. Beckett that there are no answers.“Our despair is total! Total! We can’t even talk to each other. teaches him to follow.There are.” T H E T I M E . anguish in his Irish voice and eagle face. And he said you seemed to believe that writers you used for fold-ins had answe rs . JB: But that night when I asked Beckett why he wrote. Bill?” I had asked. “To survive. obey the cloth. Mr. you interrupted (gently): “A reporter’s question. JB: Beckett had had two objections to your fold-in method. CORSO: What say you about political conflicts? BURROUGHS: Political conflicts are merely surface manifestations. “And why do you write. Just as the bullfighter teaches the bull. “To make bread. If conflicts arise you may be sure that certain powers intend to keep this conflict under operation since they hope to profit from the situation. That’s what I felt in Naked Lunch and why I liked it. He called it “plumbing” over and over again.” and Beckett just smiled and didn’t answer.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.To concern yourself with surface political conflicts is to make the mistake of the bull in the ring. you are charging the cloth.D E AT H G I M M I C K 1961 GREGORY CORSO: What is your department? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Kunst und Wissenschaft.
the mutation in consciousness. Now try breaking up part of the page like this: Are there or just we can translate many solutions? for example color word color in the soft typewriter into political conflicts to attain consciousness monopoly and control CORSO: Reading that it seems you end up where you began. don’t want no new consciousness? BURROUGHS: For any species to change. what step? womb you do not realize the word armor you carry. Gregory. I feel like I’m on a sinking ship and I want off. In other words. CORSO: How does one take that “forward step. control—so what kind of help is that? BURROUGHS: Precisely what I was saying—if you talk. I feel that the change. CORSO: What kind of advice you got for politicians? BURROUGHS: Tell the truth once and for all and shut up forever. CORSO: Do you feel there has been a definite change in man’s makeup? A new consciousness? BURROUGHS: Yes. and that they would do well to convert to mammal facilities—it would not lie in my power or desire to reconvert a reluctant dinosaur. I mean. when you read this page your eyes move irresistibly from left to right following the words that you have been accustomed to. at hand. I feel that the principal instrument of monopoly and control that prevents expansion of consciousness is the word lines controlling thought. feeling and apparent sensory impressions of the human host. will occur spontaneously once certain pre s s u res now in operation are removed. with politics and its nomenclature : c o n f l i c t . We can translate word and letter into color—Rimbaud stated that in his color vowels. s o l u t i o n . have suggested to the dinosaurs that heavy armor and great size was a sinking ship. Can’t go on much longer. I can give you a precise answer to that. you always end up with politics. it’s strictly from the soft typewriter. this is my subject and this is what I am concerned with. BURROUGHS: The forward step must be made in silence.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.” can you say? BURROUGHS: Well. if they are unable and are unwilling to do so—I might. I can make my feeling very clear. letters. Forward steps are made by giving up old armor because words are built into you—in the soft typewriter of the CORSO: What if people don’t want to change. color. other modes of expressions: for example. it gets nowhere. concepts. man must get away from verbal forms to attain the consciousness. for example. that which is there to be perceived. CORSO: Do you think Hemingway got off? 34 35 . words quote “words” can be read in silent color. It’s the time-birth-death gimmick. too many people are wising up. a t t a i n . ALLEN GINSBERG: What is death? BURROUGHS: A gimmick. We detach ourselves from word forms—this can be accomplished by substituting for words. monopoly. man. BURROUGHS BURROUGHS: Death. for example. GINSBERG: And if they are removed.
think it wise to say who it will be or just what force it will be that will destroy the world? BURROUGHS: You want to create a panic? That’s top secret— want to swamp the lifeboats? CORSO: O.b e f o re the bastards got there in the first place! That’s all— GINSBERG: What do you think Cuba and the FLN12 think about poets? And what do you think their marijuana policy is? BURROUGHS: All political movements are basically anti-creative—since a political movement is a form of war. Same thing as the Eichman case: he’s the front man who has got to take the rap. who has Affect.All political organizations tend to function like a machine. If all individuals were conditioned to machine efficiency in the performance of their duties there would have to be at least one person outside the machine to give the necessary orders. Elimination of all natural sciences—if anybody ought to go to the extermination chambers. GINSBERG: What kind of organization could a technological society have without control? BURROUGHS: The whole point is. so after a period of years problems arise. I got sympathy for him. comes before the question—in short . “You are not other men but my arms and legs—” Mr. Now that it has served its purpose of alerting us to the dangers of machine control. .they’ve got to have things real so they can get their hands on it.Well then. need for sanitation inspectors. definitely scientists. the better. the universe of scientists themselves—they’re realityaddicts. if the machine absorbed or eliminated all those outside the machine.” A s Captain Ahab said.H ow did them lifeboats get there in the first place? BURROUGHS: Ta ke. Parkinson’s law goes into operation—there’s need not for one cop but seven or eight. rent collectors . for instance. juvenile delinquency. Any machine tends to absorb. the machine would slow down and stop forever. “There’s no 36 37 . There comes along this sloppy cop with his shirt buttons all in the wrong hole. Anslinger 11 has a lot of arms and legs. GINSBERG: Who do you think is responsible for the dope situation in America? BURROUGHS: Old A rmy game: “I act under ord e rs . or do you. Affect. the more efficient the control. eliminate. as Gertrude Stein on her deathbed said.Yet the only person who can make a machine move is someone who has a motive. I’m definitely anti-scientist because I feel that science represents a conspiracy to impose as the real and only universe. c ri m e. So the question is asked:“What should we do about these problems?”The answer. [Next day] GINSBERG: What about control? BURROUGHS: Now all politicians assume a necessity of control. We have a great elaborate machine which I feel has to be completely dismantled—in order to do that we need the people who understand how the machine works—the mass media— unparalleled opportunity.e t c. or whoever is controlling him.Yes. I feel the machine should be eliminated. K . Poor bastard. BURROUGHS BURROUGHS: Probably not. Any unchecked impulse does. some Indians in South America I’ve seen.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. within the human body and psyche. to eliminate the unpredictable factor of affect—emotion. lead to the destruction of the organism. dope taking and traffic. CORSO: Could you.
tage in the so-called undeveloped areas that have a high birth rate and high death rate because.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. CORSO: Do you think Americans want and could fight the next war with the same fire and fervency as they did World War II? BURROUGHS: Undoubtedly.a n d I have written many pamphlets on this subject in the manner of Swift’s Modest Proposal pamphlet incorporated into Naked Lunch. they can plow under those mutations. it would be an alliance between America and Red China. because they remember what a soft time they had in the last one—they sat on their ass. because they’re healthier. these pamphlets have marked Naked Lunch as an obscene book. If there is any political move that I would advocate. In the event of atomic war there is a tremendous biological advan- BURROUGHS: The essence of White Supremacy is this: they are people who want to keep things as they are.A. GINSBERG: What do you think of White Supremacy? BURROUGHS: I’m against capital punishment in all form s . it is the exploitation for the workers. The attempt to maintain a static image. the Afro-Asiatic block is in the ascendancy—always remember that both Negro and White are minority groups—the largest race is the Mongoloid group. yes. GINSBERG: What advice do you have for American youth who are drawn to political action out of sympathy for the American revolution? BURROUGHS: “I wouldn’t be in your position”—old say. CORSO: I feel capital punishment is dooming the U. kindly stop horsing around.S.” “As for the smoking of marijuana.” Both favor alcohol and are against pot. even if it’s a good image. “Your writing activities will be directed.” that’s what they always say. CORSO: What about the Arab people—how are they faring? BURROUGHS: They’re stuck back thousands of years and they think they’re going to get out with a TV set. That their children’s children’s children might be a different color is something very alarming to them—in short they are committed to the maintenance of the static image. The country with a low birth rate and low death rate will be the hardest hit—and so the poor may indeed inherit the earth. will they make it—not only the ones in the South. 38 39 . BURROUGHS place for impractical dreamers around here. CORSO: What about the Negroes. if they’d have us. Most all methods of capital punishment are designed to inflict the maximum of humiliation—not attempts to prevent suicide. just won’t work. man. but everywhere? BURROUGHS: Biologically speaking.
by Jim Bishop. His expression is taut. thought he was a British diplomat.A friend of the interviewer. 1965 Firecrackers and whistles sounded the advent of the New Year of 1965 in St. by James Reynolds.The bright afternoon deepened. photographs and a scrapbook on which he had been working when the interviewer arri ve d . the kind of regionless inflection Americans acquire after many years abroad. its tone reasonable and patient. and a deep blue tie with small white polka dots. [C. clear bursts.] CONRAD KNICKERBOCKER: You grew up here? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Yes. and his features are intense and chiseled. In one of these homes.The temperature outside was 70 degrees. I went to John Burroughs School and the Taylor School. he is trim. Louis. BURROUGHS WHITE JUNK S t .The faint cries of children rose up from the broad brick alleys in which he had played as a boy. clippings from newspaper society pages. After a brief discussion of the use of the tape recorder to prepare cut-up interviews.L o u i s. He did not smile during the interview and laughed only once. and Ghosts in American Houses. Louis history. who had watched television alone that night. A Facit portable typewriter sat on the desk.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. once the most substantial neighborhood in St. Louis. charting the course of huge but anonymous fortunes. the warmest New Year’s Day in St. contained a great deal of paper. his accent is mid-Atlantic. The Day Lincoln Was Shot. The 12th-story room overlooked the ample roofs of the houses on a series of private streets with gates at both ends. At noon the next day he was ready for the interview. spotting him across the lobby. the room filled with smoke.They consisted of typed material. he settled in a chair next to a window. On the dresser of his room sat a European transistor radio. He wore a gray lightweight Brooks Brothers suit with a vest. and was out West for a bit. He smoked incessantly. 40 41 . a yellowjacket flew in and settled on the pane. He speaks elliptically. by Joseph Conrad. he had been born. he performs a complex abdominal exercise daily and walks a good deal. A Zeiss Ikon camera in a scuffed leather case lay on one of the twin beds beside a copy of Field & Stream. and the other two to general subjects. in short. One was devoted to Gibraltar. and then went to Harvard. and Romance. alternating between a box of English Ovals and a box of Benson & Hedges. at 4664 Pershing Avenue.K. As the interview progressed. His voice is sonorous.After an absence of 20 years. although neat. several science fiction paperbacks. a blue-striped shirt from Gibraltar cut in the English style. He might have been a partner in a private bank.H e had begun three scrapbooks several months earlier in Tangier. he had returned to his birthplace from Tangier. He opened the window. and gradually one became aware that the room. On the other bed were a pair of long shears. but he gives the impression of being capable of much dry laughter under other circumstances.William Seward Burroughs III. His manner was not so much pedagogic as didactic or forensic. was asleep in his room at the ChasePark Plaza Hotel. St. and printed matter en collage in French ledger books.Louis’ most elegant. and strip teasers ran from the bars in Gaslight Square to dance in the street when midnight came. His face carries no excess flesh. At the age of 50. photographs.
I’ve seen people try to throw themselves out of window s . I think drugs are interesting principally as chemical means of altering metabolism and thereby altering what we call reality. CK: Why and when did you start to write? WB: I started to write about 1950. Other 42 43 . Junky is not much of a book.And it gave me a little money. I sat in on Kittredge’s course. I was 35 at the time.Very simple principle. After I became addicted in New York in 1944.They can produce overwhelming anxiety states. CK: There seems to be a middle-class voyeurism in this country concerning addiction. and in the literary world downright reverence for the addict.Whiting. so I didn’t have to rush around. he didn’t exactly invent the adding machine. much more dangerous than heroin. I had been in the army four or five months and I was there on the GI Bill studying native dialects. a cylinder full of oil and a perforated piston that will always move up and down at the same rate of speed. WB: No.w h e reas the heroin addict is mainly interested in staring at his own toe. like most inventions. CK: What do you think of the hallucinogens and the new psychedelic drugs—LSD-25? WB: I think they’re extremely dangerous. CK: What did you do at Harvard? WB: Studied English Lit. but a little. but he invented the gimmick that made it wo r k . I lived in Adams House and then I got fed up with the food and I moved to Claverly Hall. Those are the main people I recall. moved to New Orleans and then went to Mexico. I went to Mexico partly because things were becoming so difficult with the drug situation in America. I got in some trouble with the law.You see. CK: Where was this? WB: In Mexico City. I was just bored. Writing gave me something to do every day. right around the corner from the University of Mexico. I don’t feel the results were at all spectacular. got married. I didn’t seem to have much interest in becoming a successful advertising executive or whatever. not much. and there wasn’t any pressure from the law.most of it is nonsense. where I lived the last two years. BURROUGHS CK: Any relation to the adding machine firm? WB: My grandfather. I knew very little about writing at the time. things began to happen. actually. there didn’t seem to be any strong motivation. John Livingston Lowes.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. or living the kind of life Harvard designs for you. which I would define as a more or less constant scanning pattern. Getting drugs in Mexico was quite easy. I simply was endeavouring to put down in a more or less straightforward journalistic style something about my own experiences with addiction and addicts. I was living near Sears Roebuck. CK: Why did you start taking drugs? WB: Well. CK: Why did you feel compelled to record these experiences? WB: I didn’t feel compelled. I had nothing else to do. You apparently don’t share these points of view.n a m ely. I didn’t do any writing in college.
CK: Have you had any relapses? WB: Yes. gardens.I’ll answer him at length. and the crackle of the universe. barbiturates. Van Goghish colors. As for visions and heroin.a n d I include in the lot alcohol.What the apomorphine did was to regulate my metabolism. It’s as simple as the way in which anyone happens to become an alcoholic. John Yerbury Dent for treatment. I had no visions— vision—at all and very few dreams. a couple. You might look at a door knob and it will appear to revolve. It cured me physiologically. though. So I flew to London and turned myself over to Dr. I was just apt to be finished. It makes one ill and interferes with coord i n a t i o n . the main threat to him is an overdose. Like all hallucinogens. Also. I had my most interesting experiences with mescaline when I got outdoors and walked around—colors.They are absolutely contraindicated for creative wo r k . without an anxiety reaction. I was going around with people who were using it. I had a hallucinatory period at the very beginning of addiction. and although I was off drugs when I got out. but morphine and its derivatives decrease awareness of inner processes. Apomorphine is simply morphine boiled in hydrochloric acid. I’m just not interested. I was exposed to heroin in New York—that is. sort of.The vast majority—social wo r ke rs . but as soon as addiction was established. CK: Why did you stop taking drugs? WB: I was living in Tangier in 1957. and I had spent a month in a tiny room in the Casbah staring at the toe of my foot. I suddenly realized I was not doing anything. I’ve seen a lot of it around. I went on using it and became addicted. LSD-25 produced results for me similar to mescaline. a sense of moving at high speed through space. Both were straightened out with apomorphine and now heroin is no temptation for me. absolutely. CK: Have you read Henri Michaux’s book on mescaline?19 WB: His idea was to go into his room and close the door and hold in the experiences. I took it. BURROUGHS than deprivation of the drug. but also a central human fact. and then they become an alcoholic. CK: You regard addiction as an illness. Remember that if it 44 45 . pure and simple. They start drinking. for instance. CK: The visions of drugs and the visions of art don’t mix? WB: Never. I’ve tried most of the hallucinogens. it’s non-addicting. I’d already taken the cure once at Lexington.m o re a hallucinated viewpoint than any actual hallucination. I know people who are addicts.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. fortunately. sunsets. tranquilizers—the whole spectrum of sedative drugs. that’s all. I always answer letters like that. I don’t have to use any will power. LSD gave me an increased awa re n e s s . with all those swirls. morphine.d o c t o rs — h ave the cop’s mentality toward addiction. but without much luck.A probation officer in California wrote me recently to inquire about the apomorphine treatment. although you are conscious that this is the result of the d ru g . there was a physiological residue. and I don’t want any repetition of those extremely unpleasant physical reactions. It’s a metabolic regulator. thoughts and feelings. nasty stuff. a drama? WB: Both. Apomorphine eliminated that. You’ve got to reach a state of mind in which you don’t want it or need it. They like it and they drink.I ’ve had all the interesting effects I need. Short.The room had suddenly filled up with empty Eukodol cartons. It produces a terrible hangover. I’ve been trying to get people in this country interested in it. They are pain killers. The hallucinogens produce visionary states. the effects were pleasant. I was dying.
addicts will immediately come down with colds and often with influenza. BURROUGHS can be readily obtained. what has been damaged in pain is. if we have sufficient knowledge of the processes involved. of course. When those are covered. to exercising a certain nasty kind of power over people who are helpless. Addicts would do their work and come home to consume the huge dose of images awaiting them in the mass media. I’ll read in the newspaper something that reminds me of or has relation to something I’ve written. Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways. right—and if they lost that power. find out whether they’d walk across the room and pick up a syringe. Many policemen and narcotics agents are precisely addicted to power. The picture we get of the whole Russian bureaucracy. It’s as psychological as malaria. It’s a matter of exposure. and they had three million addicts in a population of 20 million. Precisely what is a dream? A certain juxtaposition of word and image. Needless to say. the virus can’t get in. read it all. they would suffer excruciating withdrawal symptoms. and he’d go out and get a lot of newspapers and magazines and some candy bars and several packages of cigarettes and then he’d sit in his room and he’d read those new s p a p e rs and magazines right straight thro u g h . you will have any number of addicts. There are also all forms of spiritual addiction. Suppose they lose it? Well. I feel. it’s been their whole life. in other words. I think. I don’t think anyone really understands what a narcotic is or how it wo r k s .The idea that addiction is somehow a psychological illness is.h ow it kills pain. In Iran. Every word. I’ll cut out the picture or article and paste in a scrapbook beside the words from my book. As soon as morphine is withdrawn. and morphine must in some sense replace this. disturb normal perception… WB: And set up instead a random craving for images. Indiscriminately. I’ve recently done a lot of experiments with scrapbooks. right. to influenza and respiratory complaints. rational apparatus to which most writers direct their efforts. Or. I knew this old junkie in New York. Junkies love to look at television. then. Billie Holiday said she knew she was going off drugs when she didn’t like to watch TV. CK: Can you amplify your idea of junk as image? WB: It’s only a theory and. This is simple. as they are in morphine addiction. totally ridiculous. an inadequate one. will take any intoxicant or any drug that gives them a pleasant effect if it is available to them. and by God. that is. People. this must be an addiction. generally speaking. CK: You seem primarily interested in bypassing the conscious. The nasty sort of power: white junk I call it—rightness.We know it blankets the cells and that addicts are practically immune to certain viruses. WB: I don’t know about where fiction ordinarily directs itself. they’re right. My idea is sort of a stab in the dark. If drugs weren’t forbidden in A m e ri c a . then withdraw it and see if they could be motivated. but I am quite deliberately addressing myself to the whole area of what we call dreams. opium has sold in shops until quite recently. Or they’ll sit and read a newspaper or magazine. As I see it. WB: A long time ago I suggested there were similarities in terminal addiction and terminal schizophrenia. the image. CK: Narcotics. but I think it would be interesting. because the influenza virus has to make a hole in the cell receptors. I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly see a scene from my book and I’ll photograph it and put 46 47 . I didn’t get very far.t h ey would be the perfect middleclass vice.That was why I made the suggestion that they addict these people to heroin. people who are exclusively preoccupied with power and advantage. for instance. CK: Certain schizophrenics also resist respiratory disease.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.
in taking coordinates. I’ve never been able to understand this sort of fear. My God. Brion Gysin. an American poet and painter. as far as I know.What I want to do is to learn to see more of what’s out there. what I was reading and what I wrote. who has lived in Europe for 30 years. or engineers. Carefully memorize the meaning of a passage. without wo rd s . partly through my work with scrapbooks and translating the connections between words and images. with the inner voice silent? WB: I’m becoming more proficient at it. Many of them are afraid of tape recorders and the idea of using any mechanical means for literary purposes seems to them some sort of sacrilege. The only benefit to me as a writer (aside from putting me into contact with the whole carny world) came to me after I went off it. I do a lot of exercises in what I call time travel. WB: The most desirable state. Most serious writers refuse to make themselves available to the things that technology is doing. I think that words are an around-the-world. you find you can actually read it without the wo rds making any sound whatever in the mind’s ear. I’ll show you some of those. the first to create cut-ups. I’ve found that when preparing a page. Try this. they say. CK: How did you become interested in the cut-up technique? WB: A friend. at least the way we use them. to teach me to think in association blocks rather than in wo rd s . to look outside.Why can’t I? I find it much easier to get interest in the cut-ups from people who are not writers—doctors. But from what you’ve told me. all of this to see how completely I can project myself back to that one point in time. The scrapbooks and time travel are exercises to expand consciousness. I am aimed in the other direction—outward. ox-cart way of doing things—awkward instruments—and they will be laid aside eventually.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. you indicate that silence is a desirable state. lawyers. and one that will carry over into d re a m s .I ’ve recently spent a little time studying hieroglyphic systems. In other wo rd s . Extraordinary experience. both the Egyptian and the Mayan. you’re not at all interested in turning the body into an environment. First he was in a bottle and now he is in the mud. fairly intelligent person—than from those who are. probably sooner than we think.” was broadcast 48 49 . was. such as what I photographed on the train. BURROUGHS it in a scrapbook. When you start thinking in images. WB: No. junk narrows consciousness. “Minutes to Go. then read it.This is one objection to the cut-ups. you’re well on the way.I ’ve been interested in precisely how word and image get around on very. very complex association lines. what I was thinking about at the time. In one sense a special use of words and pictures can conduce to silence.There’s been a lot of that. you can’t cut up these words. to achieve as far as possible a complete awareness of surroundings. CK: In Nova Express. CK: Marshall McLuhan said that you believed heroin was needed to turn the body into an environment that includes the universe. a sort of superstitious reverence for the word. This is something that will happen in the space age. A whole block of associations—boom!—like that! Words. His cut-up poem. I’ll almost invariably dream that night something relating to this juxtaposition of word and image. CK: Have you been able to think for any length of time in images. can stand in the way of what I call non-body experience. It’s time we thought about leaving the body behind. CK: Why is the wordless state so desirable? WB: I think it’s the evolutionary trend. any open-minded. Beckett wants to go inward.
I felt I had been working toward the same goal. say. CK: What do cut-ups offer the reader that conventional narrative doesn’t? WB: Any narrative passage or any passage. and one’s range of vision consequently expands. Each technological extension gone outside is electrical involves an act of collective environment. CK: You deplore the accumulation of images and at the same time you seem to be looking for new ones. CK: Instead of going to the trouble of working with scissors and all those pieces of paper. that is what a writer is still doing.The mental mechanisms of repression and selection are also operating against you. Cut-ups establish new connections between images. raw. and when I return to the house I’ll type these up. WB: Yes. for example. Some of this material I use and some I don’t. and his eye follows the column in the pro p e r Aristotelian manner. That’s a cut-up. I could read cross-column. He programs logically as readily as any radio net is swallowed by the new environment. Somebody is reading a new s p a p e r. But subliminally he is reading the columns on either side and is aware of the person sitting next to him. 50 51 . there are many ways I could do it. keep your eyes open. I was sitting in a lunchroom in New York having my doughnuts and coffee.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images.A. and I keep a diary as well. it’s part of the paradox of anyone who is working with word and image. Most people don’t see what’s going on around them. I was thinking that one does feel a little boxed in New Yo r k . this was after the publication there of Naked Lunch.”You find it often makes quite as much sense as the original. [Gesturing] Suppose I should cut this down the middle here. one idea and sentence at a time. because cut-ups make explicit a psycho-sensory process that is going on all the time anyway. when I got to here I saw that sign. I’ll say. couldn’t you obtain the same effect by simply free associating at the typewriter? WB: One’s mind can’t cover it that way. I became interested in the possibilities of this technique. all of which may be interesting and valid in their own right. of poetic images is subject to any number of variations.Your mind simply could not manage it. It’s like trying to keep so many chess moves in mind.That’s my principal message to writers: for God’s sake. The human nervous environment system itself can be reprogrammed with all its private and social values because it is content. I make this a practice when I walk down the street. I was thinking this. and I began experimenting myself. Now. CK: You believe that an audience can be eventually trained to respond to cut-ups? WB: Of course.The sensory order. I looked out the window and there was this great big Yale truck.l i ke living in a series of boxes. if I wanted to make a cut-up of this [picking up a copy of The Nation]. I could say:“Today’s men’s nerves surround us. Dos Passos used the same idea in “The Camera Eye” sequences in U.“The Waste Land” was the first great cut-up collage. thus it was a major revelation to me when I actually saw it being done. I have literally thousands of pages of notes here. Of course. BURROUGHS by the BBC and later published in a pamphlet. Rimbaud images— real Rimbaud images—but new ones. and Tristan Tzara had done a bit along the same lines. and after all. you just couldn’t do it. I was in Paris in the summer of 1960. and put this up here. Painter too.S. You learn to leave out words and to make connections. In a sense it’s traveling in time.That’s cut-up—a juxtaposition of what’s happening outside and what you’re thinking of. when you think of it.
Sure enough. I walk down the street with friends. there’s a quiet sort of young American with a crew-cut drinking a bottle of beer. I look around and see if there’s a quiet American aboard. I had a very pleasant time on the train coming out here. and I’m reading The Quiet American. CK: What will happen to the straight plot in fiction? WB: Plot has always had the definite function of stage direction. such as from Tangier to Gibraltar. My Stein is the same Stein as in L o rd Jim . It’s extraordinary. and one of my favorites is Joseph Conrad. My God. There’s Kerouac. Also Kafka. some writers people haven’t heard about. and the third column. One column will contain simply an account of the trip.Well. Or I’m on a boat or a train. what happened. Cut-ups are a movement toward breaking this down. the Chinese. someone named Jack Stern. I haven’t traveled on trains in years. But what he’s doing is classical French prose. The next column presents my memories. the memories that were activated by my encounters. the straight declarative sentence. which I call my reading column.possibly. and Eliot’s The Cocktail Party. I have practically a whole novel alone on my trips to Gibraltar. My story. but the new techniques such as cut-up will involve much more of the total capacity of the observer. you fold) from Lord Jim. I got a bedroom so I could set up my typewriter and look out the window. I mean. That’s not the way things occur. I’ve used other books. you see. if there wasn’t an albino in the room.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.” I look out the window. In Hazard by Richard Hughes and I’m reading The Wonderful Country and the hero is just crossing the frontier into Mexico. He s a i d :“ E ve ry time we go out of the house and come back. a friend of mine has a loft apartment in New York. CK: Nova Express is a cut-up of many writers? WB: Joyce is in there. gives quotations from any book that I take with me. that is. Either/or thinking just is not accurate thinking. is someone I admire very much.It’s already cut up. I should imagine it would be much easier to find acceptance of the cut-ups from. they didn’t notice him. of getting the characters from here to there.t o o. because you see already there are many ways that they can read any given ideograph. it is unfortunately one of the great errors of Western thought. In fact. what I was thinking at the time. what hotel I checked into. A n d Graham Greene. I also noticed all the signs and what I was thinking at the time. what I overheard on the plane. For exercise. extends it. of course. if you really keep your eyes open. It enriches the whole esthetic experience. Shakespeare. what was said by the clerks. and that will continue.” is a fold-in (instead of cutting. I ask. and I feel the Aristotelian construct is one of the great shackles of Western civilization. and one of his characters was an albino gunman. Besides Graham Greene. “Did you see him. just at this point I come to the Spanish frontier. I will record this in three columns in a notebook I always take with me. WB: Yes. I used The Wonderful Country by Tom Lea on one trip. Eliot. BURROUGHS Notice what’s going on around you. I don’t know. He’s not a verbal innovator. Let’s see. I was taking phot o s . I was reading Raymond Chandler. And I got some extraordinary juxtapositions. when I make a trip. CK: The one flaw in the cut-up argument seems to lie in the linguistic base on which we operate. if we leave the bathroom door open.Aristotelian logic. I arrived at the air terminal. so I note that down in the margin.You remember Korzybski20 and his idea of non. For example. there’s Able Pest Control. “They Just Fade Away. it’s almost a retelling of the Lord Jim story. there’s a rat in the house. Rimbaud. It’s going to take a great deal to change that. I found there were no drawing rooms. the whole either/or proposition. that person who just walked by ? ”N o. R i c h a rd Hughes is another favo rite of mine. Genet. He wasn’t a 52 53 . when you start making these fold-ins and cut-ups you lose track.
they begin acting like any police. Here’s one. what I call a biologic film. it’s quite possible. Eric Frank Russell21 has written some very.Why can’t we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images? Already some of the ve ry beautiful color photogr a p hy appears in whiskey ads. Scientists are already studying the creative process. I chose one. Implicit in Nova Express is a theory that what we call reality is actually a movie. by God. Remember that I first made selections.They’re always an ambivalent agency. My father was always interested in gardening. how I got it. It’s a film. I notice. CK: Therefore. one image in Nova Express keeps coming back to me and I don’t quite understand it: the gray room. and I began to find Deadliners all over the place. very interesting books. I would say it would enhance it. and quite a flower garden. CK: Have you done anything with computers? WB: I’ve not done anything.They’re like police anywhere. I think there’s going to be more and more merging of art and science. science fiction. Richard Hughes. you’re not upset by the fact that a chimpanzee can do an abstract painting? WB: If he does a good one. He develops a concept here of what he calls “Deadliners” who have this sort of seedy look. All right. I can take one of those computer poems and then try to find correlatives of it. no. CK: Does the fact that it comes from a machine diminish its value to you? WB: I think that any artistic product must stand or fall on what’s there. I recall once in South America that I complained to the police that a camera had been stolen and they 54 55 . Who else? Wait a minute.” WB: I see that as very much like the photographic darkroom where the reality photographs are actually produced. CK: Incidentally. this is all very good. I hope. you’ve got a bad situation here in which the Nova mob is about to blow up the planet. Once you get them in there. And I see no reason why the artistic world can’t absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. I doubt if you’ve heard of it. I’ll just check my coordinate books to see if there’s anyone I’ve forgotten—Conrad. that is. and that scientists. where they’re in a position to expose negatives and prevent events from occurring. what will happen to fiction in the next 25 years? WB: In the first place. somebody has to do the cutting up.” I say that has nothing to do with it.“breaking through to the gray room. Out of hundreds of possible sentences that I might have used. Science will also discover for us how association blocks actually form.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. What is any writing but a cut-up? Somebody has to program the machine. The Star Virus. BURROUGHS gunman. “Oh. So the Heavy Metal Kid calls in the Nova police. CK: Do you think this will destroy the magic? WB: Not at all. will become more creative and writers more scientific. The story has a fishpond in it. and I think the whole line between art and science will break down. I read this when I was in Gibraltar. What has happened is that the underground and also the Nova police have made a b re a k t h rough past the guards and gotten into the darkroom where the films are processed. but you got it by cutting up. People say to me. pictures to go with it. CK: In view of all this. but I’ve seen some of the computer poetry. quite a bit of science fiction. Pop art is a move in that direction.
my uncle. after I had taken the cure with Dr. Benway. or an event. idiosyncrasies. that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as 56 57 . I have. there’s no end to it. read technology. who is now dead. This is the period that Brion is referring to when. quite complicated origins. CK: Mary McCarthy has commented on the carnival origins of your characters in Naked Lunch. sort of amateur actors). For Nova police. what does he do? Dr.That’s why I use a tape recorder. very much part of my own background. In other words. that there’s something actually metallic in addiction. it was written mainly in Tangier. Read Durrell’s Alexandria novels for four different ways of looking at the same thing. partly based on my own experience. Dr. There was a place in New York called Hamburger Mary’s. and now has 11 million dollars.That’s about the only piece of writing I did prior to Junky. Most of the book was written at that time. from manuscripts collected over a period of years. I felt that heavy metal was sort of the ultimate expression of addiction. CK: Do any have their origins in actual persons? WB: Hamburger Mary is one. Most of them went up to New York and became quite successful in advertising and public relations. was a master image-maker. once you get them on the scene they really start nosing around. Oregon. I take their photogr a p h s . My grandfather was a circuit-riding Methodist minister with 13 children. She is also an actual person. Ivy Lee. I don’t like to give her name for fear of being sued for libel. Dr. small-town. My family was southern on my mother’s side. That was my first experience with morphine and then I built up a whole picture of Hamburger Mary. pratfall type of folklore. Dent in London in 1957. cracker-barrel. Benway dates back to a story I wrote in 1938 with a friend of mine.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Benway sort of emerged quite spontaneously while we were composing this piece. I was in Hamburger Mary’s when a friend gave me a batch of morphine syrettes. Benway (and several people have played Dr. Girodias was interested and he asked if I could get the book ready in two weeks. Kells Elvins. We decided that was the way to write.M a ny of my characters first come through strongly to me as voices. I came back to Tangier and I started working on a lot of notes that I had made over a period of years. CK: What about Heavy Metal Kid? WB: There again. What are their other derivations? WB: The carny world was the one I exactly intended to create—a kind of mid-western. if I ever see anyone in a magazine or newspaper who looks like Dr. if you wish. Something I’ve been meaning to do with my scrapbooks is to have files on every character. what does he say. say.They also carry over from one book to another. One of them. there is no accurate description of the creation of a book. That is. Benway? WB: Yes. I went to Paris about 1959 and I had a great pile of manuscripts. but she was a Scientologist who started out in a hamburger joint in Portland. pictures. almost like police files: habits. Gysin saw me pasting pictures on the wall of a Paris hotel room and using a tape recorder to act out several voices.Actually. I assembled what became the book from some thousand pages. And we did definitely act the thing out. I hadn’t registered or something. Now here’s this guy. CK: But did you actually leap up and act out. Rockefeller’s publicity manager. Once the law starts asking questions. at least not in the same form. something like that. CK: Is it true you did a great deal of acting out to create your characters when you were finishing Naked Lunch? WB: Excuse me. where born. BURROUGHS ended up arresting me.That world was an integral part of America and existed nowhere else.
When I sit down to write. I may suddenly think of something I wrote three years ago which should be in this file over here. pickpockets and people like that. that’s a photographic file [thud].Yeah. Some of my characters come to me in dreams. wait a minute.T h ey had something called The Bill. I’ve decided that junk is not green.You see.That’s why I have to travel by boat and by train. Luce. I keep stories like this in my files. Once. One day this shortchange artist went to Grand Central. for instance.You give them a $20 bill and then when you get the change you say. their calendar postulated really how everyone should feel at a given time.All those drawers in the closets are full of files. in a clinic. but blue. “Well. but he wanted to change $20. He has set up one of the greatest word and image banks in the world. they’re reduced to micro-photos now. even though he knew it was burned down. which was a control calendar. there are thousands of photos.” This is “Analog. I had a dream. to see what’s what.That’s why I need a place where I can really spread them out.m o re than that. One man I knew beat out all the cashiers in Grand Central with this thing. I must have been dreaming.” which contains science fiction material. CK: What’s the difference between the modern junkie versus the 1944 junkie? WB: For one thing. and then I’ll elaborate from there.“The 1920 Movie. we l l .When they got up in court and tried to explain what had happened.That’s why I’ve got that notebook beside the bed there. Here’s a file on Mr. I knew some of the old-time pickpockets and sneak thieves and short-change art i s t s .” First thing you know. the underworld. well. You see. just to give you an idea. Luce?22 WB: I don’t admire him at all. Here’s “All the Sad Old Showmen”. it often takes me a long time and sometimes I don’t find it. I’ve never been able to figure out how it works. I brought everything. very few of those old timers left. I’ve got the change after all. CK: Do you admire Mr.This is “The Captain’s Logbook. I always write down all my dreams. none of them could do it. Well.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.t h ey were show business. I need it all. Those dresser drawers are full of files. WB: Yes. in any case. All the best pictures go into the files. Most of the ones I knew were middle-aged men or old. Daddy Long Legs.They’re a dying race. I saw a man in this rundown clinic and his name in the dream was Daddy Long Legs. Those are all photographs and photographs. but I know so little about the sea. It may not be. with lucky 58 59 . all of it is right here in this room. It starts with a $20 bill. Here’s a file. Benway said. thousands of words about anything and everything. I’m always looking through these files. that was quite unknown in 1944. I’m looking for one particular piece of paper. as Dr. a short-change deal. Of course. It’s pretty well organized. Many characters have come to me like that in a dream. because. I mean. I’ve been interested in the Mayan system. Here’s “The Nova Police Gazette. the cashier’s short $10. CK: In your apartment in Tangier? WB: No. It’s increasingly inanimate. has some business about bank robbers in it. it at least put you in contact with the world.” I’ve been interested in sea stories. it’s all safe? WB: We l l . BURROUGHS mineral. CK: Earlier you mentioned that if junk had done nothing else. the old time thieves. I collect sea disasters such as the Mary Celeste. I hesitate to do much.” which partly contains some motion picture ideas. a guy got on the buzzer and they arrested him. CK: In case Tangier is blown up. all in his files. all these young addicts.
No.That was the heyday for those old joes. but I want to try. et cetera. The gun duel was a sort of Zen contest. that’s for sure. and I picked up some real characters there. He’s going to kill Clem. and I would like to do something different—almost a deliberate change of style. Clem is practically a dead man. Benway? WB: He’d be the local doctor. near Conroe. but the final version would be straight narrative. WB: Ye s . a whole bank. who suspected him of rustling their cattle.As a boy I was sent to school in New Mexico.The fire set fire to the tree and it fell on him. I’ve thought about this for years and I have hundreds of pages of notes on the whole concept of the gunfighter. Jesse James was an 60 61 . CK: Will your other characters reappear? Dr. It is a control system. use all these characters in a straight western story. He finally was killed. CK: Do you think of the artist at all as being a con-man? WB: In a sense. I’m not sure yet what’s going to happen after Clem accuses him of rustling cattle. CK: Would this be cut-up.There would be Mr. Benway.h e ’s the gunfighter. and we’d have the various traveling carny and medicine shows that come through with the Subliminal Kid and all of the con-men. a real spiritual contest like Zen swordsmanship. a con-man is more a movie director than a writer. That’s what I’d like to do. you see. a whole cast of characters.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Remember that there were a great many addicts at that time. Clem is going to get likkered up and think he can tangle with Bradley Martin. It has nothing to do with reporting. and during the war I was stationed in Coldspring. even thought the actual towns out there have become synthetic tourist attractions. CK: [Reading]“The Coldspring News. I’m not sure if it’s possible. He was always having trouble with his neighbors. obviously. September 17. there will be a lot of morphine addiction. For instance. there would be Dr. Time. and Bradley Martin is going to kill him. CK: What about addicts? WB: Well. That’s genuine backwoods country. this is one of my attempts. because they would give me all sorts of facets of character and place. a real con-man is a creator.All the News That Fits We Print. I think with good reason. I wouldn’t want to get bogged down in too much factual detail. whose name is Bradley Martin.You see. I’ve been thinking about the western for years.” Here’s Bradley Martin again. WB: Yes. He creates a set. a fellow who actually lived in east Texas. CK: You’ve said that your next book will be about the American West and a gunfighter.Texas. Bradley Mr. He got drunk and went to sleep under a tree by a campfire. I’m interested in extending newspaper and magazine formats to so-called literary materials. or more a conventional narrative? WB: I’d use cut-ups extensively in the preparation. It was just like a movie studio. And I feel that Luce’s system is comparable to that. But he was competent with a gun and there wasn’t anyone who would go up against him. 1899. Life. William Burroughs. The Yellow Kid created a whole set. but I’d like to do research in New Mexico or Arizona. Fortune is some sort of police organization. Occasionally I have the sensation that I’m repeating myself in my work. BURROUGHS days. unlucky days. The Sparrow. a whole brokerage house.Here. Editor. I guess Clem goes into Coldspring and there’s gunplay between him and the gunfighter.This is going to be published in a little magazine. Martin.
The whole world of high finance interests me. faculty teas. After all. but I doubt he could have made a dime today because he required the old laissez-faire capitalism. the men such as Rockefeller who were specialized types of organisms that could exist in a certain environment. say. Sammy the Butcher. I had done some graduate work in anthropology. you could have serialized comic stri p s . I would add. It was supposed to make women look younger because it contained some female sex hormones. Some people who are prone to it will not live in high buildings. They are concerned with the precise manipulation of word and 62 63 . We had a lot of rather weird accounts. I got a glimpse of academic life and I didn’t like it at all. all we have to do is have James Bond smoking a certain brand of cigarettes. and they’re gone.Well. there are many other ideas. I fail to understand why people like J. Jones mixture every day. which indicates a terrific tolerance. I wouldn’t mind doing that sort of job myself. and Willie the Fink? WB: See. BURROUGHS addict. It shouldn’t be obtrusive. advertising has a long way to go. all of them could be western characters except Izzy the Push. I’d like to take somebody like Getty and try to find an image for him that would be of some intere s t .You see what I mean? They’ll read the story. but he tried to kill himself. that’s what he was. they’re doing the same sort of thing. “or was pushed.Then I spent a year as a copywriter in this small advertising agency. yes. They get near a window. Well.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. uninteresting image. Southern Comfort. why doesn’t he hire a first-class writer to write his story? For that matter. None of it’s in the book.s e rial stories. He was really a money-making machine. Here he is. after all. Now. He started using morphine for a wound in his lung. the story must be interesting in itself so that people read this just as they read any story in Playboy. after I got out of Harvard in 1936. “Fell or jumped” is the phrase. since defunct. CK: What about Green Boy. so on and so forth.There must have been something going on. Green Tony. I’ve recently thought a great deal about advertising. but there’s nobody to present the image. I’d like to see a story by Norman Mailer or John O’Hara which just makes some mention of a product. The Interstate Commerce Commission was never far behind. in New York. and something called Endocreme. I’ve never read anything so dull.There was some device called the Cascade for giving high colonics. so absolutely devoid of any spark.” CK: What other character types interest you? WB: Not the people in advertising or television. It would be about someone who went into a bar and asked for Southern Comfort. It looked like there was too much faculty intrigue. My uncle Ivy created images for him. So he must have been fairly heavily addicted. not the young man setting forth. nor the American postman or middle class housewife. He was a specialized monopolistic organism.I f Getty wants to build an image. The buildings weren’t high enough in those days. CK: Didn’t you once work for an advertising agency? WB: Yes. stupid argument with the bartender. cultivating the head of the department. and I don’t know whether he was permanently addicted. Izzy the Push. he was quite a playboy in his youth. As you can see. He took 16 grains of morphine and it didn’t kill him. A dumb. is a very interesting phenomenon.Well. and Southern Comfort would be guaranteed that people will look at that advertisement for a certain number of minutes. incidentally. they didn’t have it and he gets into a long. Defenestration. I can see the O’Hara story. He decides to write his life history. brutal hick. Paul Getty have come on with such a stuffy. And there were so many genteel ladies who didn’t feel right unless they had their Dr. like Dillinger. someone in the next room hears a cry. the only man of enormous wealth who operates alone.
If I want to get something like this. CK: Then from South America you went to Europe. Mexico City had one of the highest per-capita homicide rates in the world. just looking around. They listed the death as natural causes because the killer was a political big shot. Is the geographic switch as important as it once was to American writing? WB: Well. Peru.And I had that terrible accident with Joan Vollmer. I was checking it over and it went off— killed her. Best you can do is a dinky hotel room somewhere. But he asked for it. I would have to rewrite it. I mean. finding some fault with your papers. Honorably discharged and then the usual strange wartime jobs— bartender. CK: From Mexico? WB: I went to Colombia.There was no scandal.These people pop up everywhere.Then they had a big depistolization.Everybody was carrying guns. It’s either very expensive. sitting in a cocktail lounge. The French have gotten so nasty and they’re getting nastier and nastier. I wouldn’t have encountered the extra dimensions of character and extremity that make the difference. The main 64 65 . He was waving his little .Absurd and false. and Ecuador. I think the atmosphere there is unpleasant and not conducive to anything.To me. my wife. señor. Here all I have to do is pick up the phone. as far as I’m concerned. When I rewrote it recently. I was particularly interested in the Amazon region of Pe ru . I have to get into a taxi and go all the way over to the Right Bank. killed. I believe. and factory and office jobs. and various characters from Naked Lunch. If you walked into a bar.w h e re I took a drug called yagé. which will come out here in due time.“Papers very bad. there would be at least 15 people in there who were carrying guns. I had a revolver that I was planning to sell to a friend. Now I’m particularly concerned with quiet writing conditions—being able to concentrate—and not so much interested in the place where I am. I don’t know. A rumor started that I was trying to shoot a glass of champagne from her head William Tell style.You can’t get an apartment.You can’t get a quiet place to work.The food is uneatable. CK: Why sinister? WB: I was there during the Alemán regime. just anything he could latch onto. BURROUGHS image. if I hadn’t covered a lot of ground. and less and less rewarding to live abroad. exterminator. The Algerian war and then all those millions of people dumped back into France and all of them thoroughly dissatisfied. an hallucinogen as powerful as mescaline. is an expansion of my South American experiences with surreal extensions. The whole trip gave me an awful lot of copy. I included about 65 pages of straight narrative concerning Dr.They send me up a club sandwich and a glass of buttermilk.25 automatic around in a bar and some Mexican blasted him with a . every time you turned around there was some Mexican cop with his hand out. Another thing. Bannisteria caapi. Benway. Paris is one of the most disagreable cities in the world. The Soft Machine.45.A lot of these experiences went into The Ticket That Exploded. or something. but it was really as much as your life was worth to go into a cocktail lounge. the Alemán regime. after the ad game I was in the army for a bit. Anyway. which is sort of midway between Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine. If it’s published in the United States. In order to get a good sandwich at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. it costs me $30 a day. It’s not a book I’m satisfied with in its present form. a sinister place. which is all I want for lunch anyway.Then Mexico. I had a friend who was shot. But I think the day of the expatriate is definitely over. reporter. you always had to be ready to hit the deck.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. more and more expensive. It’s becoming more and more uncomfortable. the Sailor. I just hate it.They got drunk and they were a menace to any living creature. or you just can’t eat it.” It really was a bit much.
pick up the phone at about 2 o’clock and have a sandwich. I could have a better apartment and better working conditions somewhere else. I was just in my apartment working. If I could afford it. Here’s a photo of an old ash pit. in complete solitude. Also. have a few drinks. I’ll work through until 6 or 7 o’clock. there’s no one in the streets. but most likely I’ll get one in New York. It’s quiet. and work through till dinner time. It was great fun for children to get out there in the alley after Christmas and build a fire in the ash pit with all the excelsior and wrappings.This [pointing] is a ghostly photograph of the house in which I grew up. It’s been very conducive to wo r k . I’ll go out. I’m not returning to Tangier. this would be an ideal place for me. I have hundreds of photographs. and I thought. for all the interest that the town has for me. just like the old movies used to. Get up in the morning.”There used to be one in the window of The English Bookshop on the Rue de Seine. After 10 o’clock at night. say every month or every two months. these are stories and pictures from the society columns. I just don’t like it anymore. seen back through 45 years. Helena Rubinstein was so fascinated she bought a couple. There’s not a sound in here. I work usually until about 2 o’clock or 2:30. Louis is that the standard of service is much better than New York. as here. and I’d like to spend periods of time. I just sat there open-mouthed looking at it. BURROUGHS thing I’ve found after 20 years away from St. and you run into considerable expense. which takes about ten minutes.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. WB: I get up about 9 o’clock and order breakfast.Then if I’m seeing people or going out. to know that there’ll be no interruptions and I’ve got eight hours. very odd. It’s become just a small town. and Harold Matson. I can sit down with scissors and old manuscripts and paste in photographs for hours. When I want something to eat. alleys and whatnot. CK: Describe a typical day’s work. you get some improbable names in the society columns. it’s just exactly what I want—yeah. I thought possibly an apartment here. just paradise. Of course. It’s just the thing I want to do. CK: What do you find on it? WB: That’s a real cut-up. To be completely alone in a room. I pick up the phone. I’d have to buy a car. thinks it’s a million dollar idea. I just have to think in terms of an apartment.23 the agent. for one thing. I hate to go out for breakfast. my God. CK: Do you compose on the typewriter? WB: I use the typewriter and I use scissors.Were you serious? WB: I would like to have a place there. Gysin has been experimenting with the flicker principle in a gadget he calls a “Dream Machine. I’ve been doing a cut-up of society coverage. which requires an isolated situation. Here. it’s interesting to turn on the TV set every now and then. I don’t make myself work. the movies became as dull as looking out the window. some of their westerns became very. CK: You recently said you would like to settle in the Ozarks. I can work right straight through. Ohio.The old set- 66 67 . come back and maybe do a little reading and go to bed. A bunch of Italians in Rabat have a television station and we could get their signal in Tangier. keep it. When talkies came in and they perfected the image. It flickers.These are Claridge’s or Ritz accommodations. I had a lot of fun piling up these names. It’s a very beautiful area in the fall. What with blurring and contractions and visual static. when I like to have a sandwich and a glass of milk. I might as well be in Columbus. just working.I ’ve got a lot of room here to spread out all my papers in all these drawers and shelves.There’s no life there. I go to bed pretty early.
Do you have a system for getting on. or Dr. I’ve used these Orgone Accumulators and I’m convinced that something occurs there. Because many such mutations— look at the saber-toothed tiger—are bound to be very poor engineering designs. Of course.” I told them. It’s not even cheap there. BURROUGHS tlers like Paul Bowles and people who have been there for years and years are sort of hanging on desperately asking. The hope lies in the development of non-body experience and eventually getting away from the body itself. I think there are innumerable possibilities. 68 69 . rather than letting them occur at random. can’t explain. But as far as my living by a system. away from three-dimensional coordinates and concomitant animal reactions of fear and flight. if we are to survive at all.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I don’t think anything happens in this universe except by some power—or individual—making it happen. no. We simply have to use our intelligence to plan mutations. Nothing happens of itself. I’ve never been east of Athens. It’s a series of manipulative gimmicks. Science eventually will be forced to establish courts of biologic mediation because life forms are going to become more incompatible with the conditions of existence as man penetrates further into space. yes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nova Express seems to be a prescription for social ailments.They had several carny people for me. a force with an insatiable appetite for word and image. Do you see the need. or are you looking for one? WB: I’m not very interested in such a crudely three-dimensional manipulative schema as L. but I am interested in any attempt along those lines.” Then they go back and write a nasty article for the files. I believe all events are produced by will. my God! “Certainly not. of biologic courts in the future? WB: Certainly.T. Reich himself went around the bend. it just depresses me now. CK: You mentioned Scientology earlier. Ron Hubbard’s. “Shucks. The results are much more subtle and more successful than Dale Carnegie’s. literally innumerable. A Luce writer may be an agent of God knows what power.25 they’ll send a shy Vassar girl who’s just trying to get along. Mankind will have to undergo biologic alterations ultimately.I.To interview Mary McCarthy. Bill. This will require biologic laws to decide what changes to make. no question of that. but only for a visit. I don’t mean that I endorse them whole-heartedly.“Where could we go if we left Tangier?” I don’t know. for instance. If I travel anywhere. I’ve studied it and I’ve seen how it works. The future. although it’s got its points. Reich’s Orgone theories?24 WB: Well. these non-conventional theories frequently touch on something that’s going on that Harvard and M. you got a reefer?” Reefer. it will be to the Far East. which lead inevitably to tribal feuds and dissension. CK: That reminds me. I meant to ask you what’s behind your interest in the more exotic systems such as Zen. They tell you to look around and see what you would have. What does this force propose to do with such a tremendous mound of image garbage? T h ey ’ve got a regular casting office. decidedly. CK: In some respects. Certainly forces operating through human consciousness control events. What we on earth call God is a little tribal god who has made an awful mess. At the same time. I don’t know quite what. CK: Then do you believe in the existence of God? WB: God? I wouldn’t say. I think there are innumerable gods.
The death dwarfs are weapons of the Nova mob. boys. Life. That was one of the interesting things about Reich. I have postulated this power— the Nova mob—which forces us to play musical chairs. the same kind of people will be in charge. CK: Are you irreconcilably hostile to the 20th century? WB: Not at all. like practically every other human manifestation.There’s this prurience and this fear of sex. feeling. actually not only control thought. how much he can pay them. a machine can be redirected. WB: Well. Nobody can control the whole operation. we’re moving up. CK: Sex seems equated with death frequently in your work. who knows what buttons to push? Who knows how to get the cases of Spam up to where they’re going and how to fill out the forms? The sergeant does. WB: That is an extension of the idea of sex as a biological weapon. or really for anti-human purposes. I had a dream recently in which I returned to the family home and I found a different father and a different house from any I’d ever seen before. but at the same time. What difference does it make if the state owns the plant and retains him as manager? Regardless of how it’s done. and sensory perceptions. because when you get right down to it. rather like a radio transmitter. Time. which in turn is calling the shots in the Cold War.Yet in a dream sense. effective control system than the Mayan calendar. the machine can be dismantled and we may get out of all this alive yet. but make certain thoughts impossible. rather than discord between nations? You seem fascinated with the idea that a superterrestrial power is exercising an apparatus of control. The captain doesn’t know. As long as there’re sergeants around. such as the death dwarfs… WB: They’re parasitic organisms occupying a human host. which direct and control it. Fortune applies a more complex. How are we ever going to find out anything about sex scientifically when a priori the subject cannot even be investigated? It can’t even be thought about or written about.” Now. and how he can sell his goods. you are alarmed as the instruments of control become more sophisticated. What is it? Why is it pleasurable? What is pleasure? Relief from tension? Well. the father and the house were quite familiar. Well. The people who work with encephalograms and brain waves point out that technically it will someday be possible to install at birth a radio antenna in the brain which will control thought. BURROUGHS CK: Why did you choose an interplanetary war as the conflict in Nova Express. This whole puritanism. Not even Henry Luce understands what’s going on in the system now. It’s too complex. One’s ally today is an enemy tomorrow. from a scientific point of view. The captain comes in and says. “All right. One technical sergeant can fuck up the whole works. He was one of the few people who ever tried to investigate sex—sexual phenomena.The Nova mob is using that conflict in an attempt to blow up the planet. possibly. but it is also much more vulnerable because it is so vast and so mecha- nized. 70 71 . CK: You see hope for the human race. whereas they become more sophisticated they also become more vulnerable. For example. has been degraded for control purposes. what are America and Russia really arguing about? The Soviet Union and United States will eventually consist of interchangeable social parts and neither nation is morally “right. The government and the unions—which both amount to the same thing: control systems—tell him who he can hire.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.”The idea that anyone can run his own factory in America is ridiculous. I feel that sex.We know nothing about sex. although I can imagine myself as having been born under many different circumstances.
yes. BURROUGHS CK: Mary McCarthy has characterized you as a soured utopian. on blowing up the planet or rendering it uninhabitable. I would go on writing for company. I’m concerned with the precise manipulation of word and image to create an action.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. to make people aware of the true criminality of our times. would I go on writing. You know. All of my work is directed against those who are bent. to wise up the marks. My answer is most emphatically yes. Is that accurate? WB: I do definitely mean what I say to be taken literally. not to go out and buy a Coca-Cola. Like the advertising people we talked about. Because I’m creating an imagi n a ry — i t ’s always imagi n a ry — world in which I would like to live. they ask me if I were on a desert island and knew nobody would ever see what I wrote. through stupidity or design. 72 73 . but to create an alteration in the reader’s consciousness.
Erasing the Policeman: Verbal Revolutions .
JS: You’ve written a great deal about the future—do you believe that it’s possible to make a revolution which has decentralized character. is determined by participatory democracy in an age in which technology tends to centralize coordination. there were only two alternatives—either you were a Marxist or you were supporting the establishment.That is a revolt more aimed towards getting rid of something than simply substituting something else. The first thing New York. JS: Were you a Marxist? WB: I was not.“Bugger the Queen. Burroughs has decided to move his apartment from London to New York so he can directly involve himself in the movement. It seems to me to be the most anti-political revolt that I’ve ever seen and perhaps there’s ever been in history.This time the conversation though less analytical was more lively.The RAT recorder decided to run so we did another hour of taping. He was in the lines and was tear-gassed in Grant Park. But these people are not.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.When I was in college in the ‘30s.communication… WB: Yes. Marxists. 7 Hertz. based on his recent investigation of scientific research. I’ve never been a Marxist. BURROUGHS After dinner we continued our discussion mellowed by a few drinks. Taping was delayed by the obstinate RAT tape recorder so we walked to a nearby store and bought a tape for Burroughs’machine. no. by and large.” [JS] JEFF SHERO: Do you see the kind of revolts going on in the Western countries now as reformist in nature. I don’t know about that. JS: You think that in the end the struggle’s going to be for power? WB: Well.Burroughs wore a crisp brown suit which he referred to as his costume.This interview took place in Terry Southern’s28 apartment in New York City during the RAT’s eight hour visit. After several hours we went for dinner where Burroughs talked about his forthcoming book.William Burroughs spoke of his personal conflicts as well as rapping humorously on subjects such as the Queen of England. 1968 I William Burroughs has lived in London for the last years. or are they revolutionary? R E VO LT ! WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I’d say revolutionary. containing the second half of the interview. because by the very fact that we have this communications system. Because it seemed to me just substituting something else. He took part in the Chicago demonstration while covering it for Esquire. He observed that many people seemed to get “contact highs” and that tear gas didn’t seem to be an effective weapon against determined people.A discussion on the importance of publication of secret research and a summary of 7 Hertz will appear in the next issue of RAT. 76 77 . it can be decentralized to any point.
WB: Precisely. and choosing a strategy to contain demonstrations. an old political boss with the sort of pig idea of authority at the end of a nightstick. but of course. prejudiced against reporters for some reason or other. WB: Much more important than the army. JS: More important than the army. do you think they would have been more successful or won? WB: Possibly. There was an example of the students—the revolutionaries—winning an engagement by very definite steps to get the support of the press. Much more. Of course.Shows they’re incapable. it seems to me. no question of their inefficiency. BURROUGHS for any revolutionary party to do would be to seize the communications. JS: And what kind of things should they do with them? WB: Well. run the war. was he not? Hasn’t he previously had some bad publicity? JS: I’m sure of it. in our country. But you don’t really know what’s going on on TV on a subliminal level. Much more than it’s ever been true in history. you view the kind of development at Chicago where the press essentially supported the demonstrations. in Chicago we have this Mayor Daley who’s left over from the 19th century.They applied the same strategy of massive pinpointing of force at every point in hopes to eliminate the insurgency before it could grow. there’s no question of that. there are highly developed techniques that are already in use. The only thing that surprised me at all was that they seemed to be much more organized and much more determined 78 79 .The techniques exist for manipulating the mass mind. WB: So there was a set-up that I don’t think exists here. WB: Yes. But simply as a matter of juxtaposition. Of course. JS: That doesn’t give us much of a basis for coverage in the future. JS: Well.And they achieved exactly the opposite effect in both Chicago and Vietnam. He was already. run this country.Who owns communications now. I understand. JS: If the French students had controlled the TV and the radio. if they had known exactly what to do with them. WB: No. they aren’t allowed to use subliminal techniques any more. JS: In Chicago. make such bad decisions about choosing the location for their convention. was the deciding factor that the press got beat up? WB: Certainly.Were you surprised at the attitudes of most of the demonstrators? WB: No. WB: Well. I’ve endeavored to describe some of them in this book I’m writing now. Everything really played right into their hands from the very first day when the newsmen were beaten up by police. controls the country. JS: It seems to me that there are a lot of parallels between Chicago and Vietnam. that’s always been a revolutionary maxim. JS: What does it say about power—how it’s exercised in the United States—if the people who run the Party in power.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. JS: More sophisticated than TV commercials.
That man gave an order. Because.Well you could see that from the results achieved. it really doesn’t affect the Movement. This man gave an order. It was organized not on a static bureaucratic level. JS:That was functional organization. WB:True. let’s not be provocative towards the police because they’ll attack us. hierarchical control. WB:Yes. Most countries in Europe are not letting them in now.There again was something I found quite impressive.There were these kind of McCarthy kids who constantly said. by the time they were in there they could put on anything they liked. Mexico would be quite different from Chicago. and that is that the Yippies are rather too conspicuous. There was no question of these orders right down the line—right down to the people who were going to be the incident. WB: Yes. How long does an underground last that has a uniform? Now. Particularly to move from one place to another. they look like Yippies. But there you felt it was all being run on an absolutely bureaucratic basis. JS: The Movement in the United States is organized in a way that is impossible for the authorities to contend with. if they all put on business suits and went into the city. WB: Yes. It seemed that there was this whole residue of the liberal ethos still maintained in a large part of the crowd.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.They wanted the police to fire into the crowd. the rebellion must go underground. BURROUGHS than I had anticipated. at any point. JS: And you were inside the Convention Hall itself. yes. But to get in. coming as I had from England. JS: Did you ever talk to any of the delegates? Do you think they had any sense of the upheaval going on outside? WB: I didn’t talk to any of the delegates. Possibly something that had not existed before. they should look like anybody else. If they went there in trailer trucks with signs all over them they’d be stopped at the border. JS: How do you mean? WB: Well. “Well.And something that I had not seen before. That I agree with.They wouldn’t let Allen Ginsberg in until he went to the Consul. there’s a tremendous contrast in my mind between say. I didn’t feel any sort of bureaucratic. JS: How important do you think the symbols of rebellion are? WB: It depends on the state of the rebellion. But of course. When it gets to a certain point. but it was quite hopeless.a nybody that looks like a Yippie is being turned back at the border of Mexico. the old Communist demonstrations in the ‘30s which were also definitely organized to create incidents. Anybody with a beard .” after the police had already attacked on about five different occasions without provocation. We tried to talk to Senator McCarthy and even tried to talk to Governor Maddox. where people gave orders down from the top. Mexican police are apt to use machine guns rather than clubs.You couldn’t even get a call through to 80 81 .There’s only one thing that has occurred to me. if they arrest a hundred leaders. too. I’ve been away for three years now. I would say that the whole picture has changed immeasurably. JS: It seemed to me in Chicago there were a lot of people of liberal ideology. and yet there was organization.
To develop complete obedience.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS the Hilton. I think that power in this country is held by very. 82 83 . except their writers’ union. they’ll stay out.What do you think is going to be the overall strategy of the people in power? How do you think they’re going to try to handle it.They’re only front people. JS: At least overt opposition.You couldn’t hear what was being said.mayors and people like that do not hold power. WB: It’s hard to say.They’ve never been as threatened as they are right now from so many quarters. but among the blacks? Do they have a real leader? WB: I would say on a top level. but I mean there are no official forces. and yet he ran what could be called a pathetic campaign. JS: You expect that. as soon as they’d declared war. Because if they took on both Russia and China. say. WB: Yes. very few people. the civil liberties unions or anything of that sort to oppose this police power. It’s becoming more and more a police state. Oh. WB: Well. JS: With China. JS: In concert with Russia or with Russia sitting it out? WB: If they can get a nod from Russia. And it was bullshit if you could hear it. And if it’s what you might call a one hundred percent police state. But all the political reporters said the same thing. JS: Would you call America a police state now. one hundred percent. JS: If Nelson Rockefeller was running for the presidency you’d expect all the powers of the Chase Manhattan Bank to be behind it. not just among the young people. All the switchboards were jammed.There may be an underground. JS: Do you think that people with power in this country have much understanding of the upheaval brewing beneath them. I was there— it just seemed to me just a terrifically boring scene. The rich people have always let the politicians hold the ostensible positions of power so long as they did what they were told. we would be pulverized. There’s very little that opposes police power in Russia. JS: And the function of such a war would be to maintain their absolute power like they did during the McCarthy era after World War II. WB: Yes. Presidents. with trappings— liberal trappings? WB: That’s a difficult question. WB: Or effective opposition. There still are forces in operation in opposition to the power of the police. very much so. JS: And so the forces of contradiction move forward. Nothing like. it would be a police state.The real orders are coming from an oligarchy of extreme wealth. that means that there are no forces of opposition. And that has not changed a bit. of course. My guess will be they’ll start a nuclear war.Very few indeed. WB: What they intend is not apparent at all on the surface. The speeches were just incredibly boring.
Do you think that’s applicable at all? WB: Well. People say.You think about the Encyclical about birth control. She should be sweeping floors. WB: Yes. are against the Queen. but forget about Wilson. too.” JS: That was a pretty effective chant in Chicago. JS: Were you surprised by that uprising in France? WB: I had been in France and I thought the French had the young people really down. as opposed to the Soviet Union and China. Che Guevara and Castro’s tactics date back to the19th century. because I thought by God they’re really breaking up.” A figurehead of subservience. or is it largely dependent on the new technology? WB: Well. Just think about the Queen for a moment—the subservience on the part of a great majority of the English people to this bitch. at this point in history what could be more ridiculous than a Queen? JS: How about the Rolling Stones. But there’s no hope for them until we have five thousand people out in Trafalgar Square screaming “Bugger the Queen. effective in areas which are a hundred years back. JS: What do the young people think about it? WB: The young people. That bitch. WB: I hope so. JS: Well. could they lead a movement like that? 84 85 . Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. I would love to see something like that happen in England.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. After all. I wouldn’t say dependent on the new technologies. JS: The royalty of Europe sticks together and… WB: If you ask me. And rather not the people you can mobilize. the control by America to a great extent. But to get people in England to say “Bugger the Queen”… Oh my God. countries like Cuba and Vietnam.” WB: In America we don’t hesitate to bugger LBJ. I was delighted by it. like Latin America. A lot of them. LBJ. WB: I wouldn’t say necessarily more evil… Here’s a woman who’s fucked up a whole country. JS: Is the outcome of our struggle based on the number of humans we can mobilize. BURROUGHS JS: The Movement forces in the country tend to identify with Third World countries. But I don’t think too effective in a highly industrialized country like America. in another sense. of course.She’s just a figurehead. But it must happen after they get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. The Pope is even more evil because he influences more people. A figurehead of kissing her ass. JS: You don’t think the latent potential is sitting in England.That’s what had held England back. Wilson can’t come out against the war because America is propping up the pound.Worthless wench. “Fuck you. I was surprised by it. I think there’s a bit of romanticism in it.“The Queen isn’t important. but the number of people you can disconnect. too. JS: The Pope’s that way.
JS: You mean you’d wake up in the morning and write most of the day? WB: Yeah. The Yippies had a split. JS: People within the system. I’m tired of sitting on my ass. I want to get out and do something. JS: And now maybe you’re beginning your activist career. But now. A lot of people in England think it should be done. they’re afraid of risking. a great book. JS: You think so? WB: Yeah. I know them all… I talked with this student tactician. just saying the worst. I just don’t feel like writing. and began just creating things that never happened. JS: Just like the reaction in Chicago ripped the facade off the Democratic machine. I’m bored with it. Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American. WB: It’s much greater than people think. things don’t happen unless somebody writes it. you can get too far extended.You know. It’s not important to me… I find it increasingly difficult to write. for years. I just don’t feel like writing. I don’t want to write anymore. WB: For all the people in power… JS: Writing has its force. because they are facing drug charges. all the time. I want to make trouble for everybody! JS: Not for everybody. for years. JS: Is it even hard for you to write non-fiction? WB: Hard for me to write anything. BURROUGHS WB: I think it could be done. I’ve written. but I got to the point of the milk bar… 86 87 . and on our side completely.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.I’ve written. I want to get out and stir up some trouble. I can write it. I don’t care if I die tomorrow.I’ve written. He said the only thing to be done was to put out a pamphlet covering the royal family with vile abuse. all the time. baby. can they? WB: No.And I will continue to do that when it’s necessary. I wrote all the time. I can write on order. if Esquire says can you write this piece. I hadn’t read it before.They’re one hundred percent behind us. but it’s not as great as people think. that is to say. WB: I want action. WB: They’re terrified. JS: Well. I think that writers write what happens. And the reaction from the establishment would tell us where we’d have to go. But then your credibility is… WB: Now I remember. I don’t care at all.They’re all out to help.I’ve written. For years. Let’s face it. Abbie Hoffman believed that anything that became reported was reality. WB: That’s what he meant exactly. I mean I’m finished.Tired of writing. JS: They can’t come to this country. JS: Do the Rolling Stones consider themselves to be revolutionary? WB: They really do.
it was Genet who recognized it? WB: Genet recognized it. If he is standing for freedom. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? WB: Sure. JS: Have you ever been back there? WB: I’ve never been back there. I had been in Algiers eating in this milk bar. I realized what writers write happens. In Chicago Genet said to me. 88 89 .That was 10 years before this soccer riot happened. I knew when the explosion was going to take place. I hadn’t read it yet. passion fruit. and I said wait a minute.possibly before I did. I am now a completely different person.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. My whole past is something I have nothing to do with. WB: Yes.They all go to cocktail parties and intellectual events and talk to each other and express sympathy.Was this true at Harvard? WB: At Harvard I was just a completely beat down person with no idea of who he was or what he was. It was simply that Genet was one of the first ones to state this.Therefore writers have responsibility to be there and to do something about it.Wow! Graham Greene had written that. JS: Why do you think Genet is the only one who has taken responsibility for his characters? What about Kesey?29 You know Kesey’s book. JS: There’s this whole detached liberal literary scene here. BURROUGHS JS: The what bar? WB: The milk bar. JS: You’ve always been willing to live your life along the ideas you’ve developed. I’m willing to do this.What a writer he was. WB: Well. their legs all splattered with Maraschino cherries and ice cream and blood and brains. time to hit the floor. Writers don’t want to take responsibility for these things. but with their presence. I’m not associated with any period.Two months after I had left there. JS: Do you think it’s going to press other writers in the country to make a commitment? Maybe even women like Mary McCarthy. not only with their words. they have to.”You remember the Soccer riot in Peru—300 people. I feel this very definitely. yes. But if the soccer scores are coming into the capital one must pretend an interest. JS: So more than that. “The Soccer scores come in from the capital. A long time ago I said. about two years after Graham Greene had written this scene with people. It’s too disgusting to think about. but never do anything. He’s looking around in this milk bar. JS: A lot of writers never did break with the past. Hemingway had more and more trouble writing. pieces of mirrors—in this very milk bar where I would eat—a friend of mine got to the milk bar just at this time and saw this scene. But Fitzgerald was the 1920s. get out there and stand for it. excuse me. Look at Fitzgerald. I feel it’s time for every writer who’s worth his salt to put his ass where his mouth is. but he was completely tied up in the 1920s.” I agree with that one hundred percent. And that was about two years before the same explosion happened in the milk bar in Algiers.“writers now must support the youth movement.Whenever anything is going on I’m willing to support it with my presence.You know the explosion in the milk bar. he kind of fell apart. WB: Well. And I’d rather not think about it ever since then. That’s what it referred to. Fitzgerald was a great writer.
the communications. JS: In Chicago we made a big difference between the police and the National Guard. the army or the National Guard will become disfunctional or disaffect to our side. And yet you have more radical idea than many of the people in the move m e n t . with international affiliations. the basic formula of authority is a nation… What is their authority based on? Their authority is based on the fact that they are the Officials in one of these hunks of real estate called a nation. Do you think that it erodes away the ideological basis? WB: To some extent. For example the whole idea of a nation is an anachronism. because the revolt in America is very much the revolt of a generation. and they have to spend all their money on armies and the police and so on. families are breaking down. But now it’s an absolute anachronism. marriage is becoming an obsolete institution.That is the authority formula. That’s merely perpetuating the error. But it’s not harmless now. JS: How would you start out? WB: The line that is going to break it down more than anything else. they have the power. large or small. BURROUGHS II JS: You represent something of an anachronism. Now. And a league of nations. nations. JS: We must destroy nationalism? WB: Well. I think.t h ey take a piece of real estate. is the possibility of people withdrawing from the country. and if a large number of people defy the whole question of boundaries. they had bad folks on the other side of the river and they’d bash each other’s heads in every now and then and it was comparatively harmless.H ow did that come about? What was the kindling of your ideas? WB: It was a long process. Our belief is that if the system breaks down. JS: The nation-state is the ideological basis for authority of the people in power and we’re living in a society in which the basic family unit from which it is copied is breaking down. And I always went much further than so-called radicals. if the Black Muslims were to form a separate state in this country. that has always been true in all liberal revolutions. I felt out of place. It had a certain use in breaking up the feudal system. and that’s a nation. and this is the formula that must be broken. Like all basic formula. they have the police. WB: Well. It certainly began with my middleclass upbringing which I always found extremely stultifying and confining. And then when I began to write the satisfaction crystallized into very definite criticisms. but it can survive that because once the thing is set up. that I wasn’t being offered anything of any value by my environment. that sort of thing seems to me a useful form of demonstration.The army is much more liable to go to the people than the police. You have families. countries. Many of them didn’t want to go to Vietnam. I felt it wasn’t a question of substituting one establishment for another.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. for example.That i s .The order is quite clear. a world government. It’s hard for people even to think in other terms. draw a line around it. this concept of nation has outlived its usefulness by about 300 years. in Columbia—I was there during the Civil 90 91 . thousands of people walking across borders without passports. Say. Immediately they have trouble with the people on the other side of the line. clans. it is very difficult to break down. Now. setting up as if it were states within states. isn’t the answer at all. and so on. Of course in the old stone age tribes.
or was it a mistake? WB: Not to the same extent.They sent someone over to see me and I put the book together with the help of this man [Daniel Odier] who is translating it into French. BURROUGHS War. because they are getting all their money 92 93 .N ow. how technology can be used against him. since in the short run it might make them some money. They were not the police. properly speaking. I don’t think they’re trying to do a job that is good for you. no. JS: Do you think the war in Vietnam was necessary. And they think in rather long range term s . but their own very specialized interests.And how technology can also be used to disrupt. One of the reasons they were so reluctant to stop the war in Algeria is that they were afraid of what would happen if they did. or for anyone. economically for one thing. JS: It seems to me that the establishment would be wary of publishing the book. but a special army. I would say. that publishers have done more against it than many other gro u p s .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.certainly. JS: We keep returning to the question of the elite. by and large. JS: Would you say the same for universities—are they a positive or a negative force? WB: Mostly negative. Since the end of WWII. It shouldn’t have been fought in the first place. WB: Of course. JS: A great deal of what you write has to do with the microcosm. there has always been a war going on somewhere. The French were in there for God knows many years. WB: Well. WB: Well. In Latin American countries the police are sort of the palace guard of the establishment. manipulate the individual. Finally they had to pull out and then repeated the same mistake in Algeria. WB: Oh. WB: It’s ridiculous. It will be published in France by Pierre Belfond.Then we’ll get the English version here and in England.T h ey completely broke down censorship here.The people who manage society aren’t doing a good job of it. And we step in when we could see right in the face of it from Algeria and the French occupation of Indochina it’s a war that can’t possibly be won. it’s pretty necessary for the establishment to keep a war going somewhere. but the people who are publishing it are not the establishment at all. JS: Do you think socialist countries like the Soviet Union have the same needs? JS: If you were going to give some pointers and were to say: here are the ten most critical things… WB: I go into this very thoroughly in this book which I hope will be out quite soon. In fact. It seems to me you’re saying that a revolutionary has got to understand the totality. and the army has always been potentially unreliable.They are always publishing things that are contrary to the wishes and interest of the establishment and getting into trouble for it. JS: It speeded up the breakdown in this country. with the individual and how it functions.The reactionary government considered their army so unreliable that they built a second army of the Polizia Nacional. but in the long run it will be very damaging. but just from that point of view we can’t even win it. I haven’t given it a title yet[The Job]. Society must have wars.
shoulder pads and aluminum jock straps. not high sound. reactionary movements. WB: Of course. This is a very easy thing to make. but certainly red brick buildings.It’s low sound. And destroy all buildings. All important discoveries in electronics and in advanced psychology are top secrets.There are ways in which the operator can be protected from the effects. JS: In the future as the struggle continues it will be characterized as the anti-authoritarians against the authoritarians. and will probably precipitate as widespread a reaction. goes right through an object. BURROUGHS from the establishment. Of course. very important step. On the other hand it can be turned on from a distance. through a person. general education. WB: I would agree with that.They’re getting their money from the reading public. For example. very primitive weapons indeed. JS: As the struggle goes on. tear gas and clubs.The cold war is being used as a pretext to monopolize all sorts of fields of knowledge and new discoveries.They have to be. WB: He looks more and more like the police. But there’s no such test as regards the social sciences.sociology. JS: As they begin to use clubs and mace. the board of trustees and all that have always been supporters of the establishment. It hasn’t been put into effect yet. If you look at Chicago. The only education we have that is functioning is technical education. The coming uniform is unquestionably blue crash-helmet. people in power will use science to possess the minds of the kids. Do you think we should attempt setting up our own schools or do you think this would not succeed on that scale? WB: I think that would be a very. psychology. JS: The whole schooling process inculcates the old values. these are primitive weapons—mace. An engineer can either install an electrical system or build a bridge. They are doing it already and have been doing it for some time. JS: But built into the establishment.You see. or he can’t. JS: They now have a technique developed for the anti-riot tanks to use sound to immobilize demonstrators. 94 95 .This knowledge should be made available to everyone. use the latest techniques of psychology or electronics… WB: Electronics particularly. JS: And chemicals make it easier to induce in people certain ideas. If you could set up schools where they really taught people something. no one has heard of infra-sound.An infra-sound installation turned up full blast can kill everyone within five miles. anthropology. it is much the same technique of suppression of demonstrators as anywhere in the world. WB: Ultra-sound. But universities being endowed. the demonstrator becomes more like a knight in armor. in the rigid patterns of the past. On the other hand. Gavereau of France. I think this is a liberal revolution comparable to the revolution of 1848. what can be done with low concentration is something that hasn’t been fully investigated yet. which has a definite criteria. publishers are not. whether it is a success or failure. I don’t know if it would knock down reinforced concrete. high sound.The man who has done this is Prof. but this you can’t hear. particularly along the lines of controlling thought.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. He wouldn’t even have to be there.
Do you see that? WB: I wouldn’t necessarily use the word sexual. it’s breaking down almost unbelievably. WB: Well. then he was going to become a lawyer or a doctor or a professor. but from the whole kind of sexual vitality of the movement and this basic sexuality is lacking in America. JS: So do you really believe that they are going to institute these techniques they have developed? WB: Undoubtedly.Normally it would be top secret.surrounded by barb wire. I’m working on a purple-assed baboon for president. So how it happened to leak out I don’t know. JS: What sort of cost? WB: Oh. JS: How about this thing like the pig. Twenty years ago. there was just no question as to what he was going to do. I don’t think it has any parallel in history. but it did. they simply don’t want it. JS: Do you think that middle-class people are likely to give up the comforts they have been trained to desire all their lives in any large scale? WB: I don’t know how many millions have already done so.Vote pig for president… Do you think jokes are important politically? WB: They can be very important. security checks. This was the only alternative.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. the only thing for them to do. they would have made those steps as soon as they graduated from college or high school. nobody knows.They will use it if the opposition finds out about them and start using them too. “Oh well. these people will all be advertising executives in ten years. The thing about infra-sound is that there is nothing complicated about it. undoubtedly. I think there are lots of people in this society who realize that this so-called comfortable life is absolutely dull and so stultifying. And the young people were completely sold on it. 96 97 .” I don’t believe it for a minute. and if that’s breaking down. all those Yippies and hippies come from middle-class backgrounds for the most part. Anybody can do it. much like advertising shapes your desires. BURROUGHS WB: Certainly. say.classified. then we’re tremendously powerful. and that was it. and not only in America but throughout the world. I saw an article about it in the Sunday Times. have good jobs and the suburban house. JS: Is this Professor Gavereau a radical? WB: Well. Say they’re all pigs. I am sure all governments will be experimenting with it if it works. JS: We have often judged that a good bit of our power doesn’t come just from the ideas.The way in which that is broken down all over the world is truly amazing. If they’d wanted to be advertising executives. what you can get in a junkyard. It is simply a large whistle connected to an air hose.After all. when a person is reached by the movement. they could be living quite comfortable if they wanted to. at the age of 18. He was going to pass those exams. I mean. people say. There was a lot of that too when I was in Harvard. JS: The schooling process is critical to the shaping of people’s desires. for a young man in France. Of course. I remember in the anti-birthday party you felt a tremendous vitality that is lacking completely in most American audiences—in most Americans for that matter. but certainly you feel the vitality.
JS: Nobody believes that Jack was shot by Oswald. it’s a question of eliminating walking tape-recorders. JS: Do you think as human beings they are even alive? WB: They are not alive. I’m all for eliminating the whole stupid middle-class. WB: Much less. Daley is right out in the open. then we would control America. WB: What is that point? JS: It’s coming soon… Sixty percent didn’t believe the official ver- 98 99 . Well.They have to be alive or survive.They’ve been up against something.” WB: Yes. saying. he gets kicked out. it is a question of turning off the tape-recorders. WB: Those alive in the system are the people at the bottom. WB: There’s no question of that.They’re walking tape-recorders. Do you think that’s true? WB: They did. JS: Who do you think was behind it—the CIA? WB: No idea. JS: Do you think that Sirhan acted as an individual in killing Robert Kennedy? WB: Oh. If he’s alive. JS: Do you think there is a real difference—Kennedy. They say he killed Kennedy because Kennedy said he supported Israel. If we controlled a television station… WB: If we controlled television.Their own children are throwing it up. JS: Do you think the poor are less tape-recorders? JS: Do you see Johnson or Mayor Daley as more evil? WB: It’s hard to say. That’s why they killed them. BURROUGHS JS: The movement is developing a different definition of news. JS: They can’t force too many lies on people though. Of course. or that Oswald acted alone anyway. JS: And the middle-class person has to be dead to survive. both Kennedys—they seemed alive. It’s bullshit.That’s why long hair scares them so.“Your lives are nothing. A completely evil Irish toad. Oswald acted alone.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. what bullshit. Now look.There’s a certain point when people begin to realize that it is not true. It is not a question of eliminating human beings. JS: You think the war is going to be fought out among the middle class and not among the poor? WB: Yes. both Nixon and Humphrey have come out supporting Israel. 100% establishment. no idea at all. that the whole thing is a fucking lie. It’s not a question of eliminating human beings.Your lives are dead plastic existence. JS: Their children are realizing that too. The had something the others wanted.
It just reeked to high heaven. Army and kept secret. The Russians already know and in most cases are well ahead of the West. It was so raw. a refusal to change the examination system or to meet other demands for minor changes. He told me that a hallucigenic [sic] drug has been discovered that makes LSD look like New Jersey grass. Navy? INCIDENTS: A recent article in Esquire Magazine written by a former CIA agent contains this anecdote.knowledge withheld from youth. It has now been released for civilian use and Philips is scheduled to put it out. all discoveries belong to everybody.” Or an image more likely.This device liberates ions so that a person in close vicinity—plane cockpit. III Suppressed Discoveries 7 Hertz The student rebellion is now a worldwide movement. Infra sound is sound waves below the level of human hearing that is below 30 vibrations per second.That’s a lot of them. Lasers can move satellites in and out of orbit. He could not take the responsibility of administering this drug to human subjects. Student rebels must insist on this: All knowledge. Never before in recorded history has established authority been so basically challenged. and is designed to suppress people throughout the world. Top secret classified research means research opposed to the interest of youth. I subsequently found out the drug in question has been released to the American Military. after all people do look before crossing streets. Top secret classified research is not secret because the Russians might find out about it. That’s the majority. They could push someone in front of a truck. A crucial reason for students to rebel is in most cases overlooked: much of the research carried on in universities or under the direction of university professors is top secret classified. BURROUGHS sion which was in all the newspapers of Kennedy’s death. Is this knowledge in the best hands? Then years ago in Amsterdam I was talking to a Dutch chemist. Professor Gavereau of France has published the results of his experiments with infra sound. However.” Not so easy to be sure of nailing some one in a walk across town. WB: That thing reeked to high heaven. car. For ten years the black box was used by the airforces of the U. office—can function at top efficiency without sleep and without subsequent let down for periods up to 36 hours.Along the line I was talking to somebody who has a brother working on a secret Navy project with lasers and he told me:“They can actually send a thought. I would venture the guess that he was pushed in front of the truck by a laser. Hearing Voices? Consider the black box. So sending images should be a monopoly of the U.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.S. When? How many of you have ever heard of the black box? Infra Sound Some discoveries are given out by independent scientists.S.This research is secret because they don’t want insurgents to find out about it. the incidents that trigger student uprisings are often insignificant: the dismissal of a liberal professor.discoveries used against youth. A man with photos of the Bay of Pigs was on his way to a newspaper office when the agent who was tailing him called a special number in Washington. (The number of vibrations per second of sound waves is termed a 100 101 . “On the way to the newspaper he was run over by a laundry truck.Let’s take a look at some of these top secret projects which are not all that secret (somebody always lets a rat out of the bag somewhere). Experiments in Norway ten years ago demonstrated that within the range of an electromagnetic field recorded messages can be transmitted directly into the brain.
it is to be hoped that Mr. It can knock down buildings. L.There is every indication that the techniques and discoveries of Scientology are being used by the CIA and other official agencies. Hubbard has refused to make public his advanced discoveries. 102 103 . Pain Drug Hypnosis To Mr. restlessness. anxiety and restlessness. DOR is produced by putting any radioactive material into an Orgone Accumulator. BURROUGHS hertz). Mr. In fact the purpose of the DOR experiments was to find a means of conveying mass immunization to radiation sickness. Meanwhile the operator could turn on infra sound installations electronically from a safe distance. Fortunately we were able to switch off the whistle in time…. In the case of Reich and Hubbard. This first experiment consisted of a whistle five feet across attached to an air hose I wrote from professor Gavereau:“This first experiment nearly cost us all our lives. L.The uneasiness produced by sub-lethal infra sound can easily be directed towards any target. Ron Hubbard belongs the credit for making public a secret weapon used extensively by the Americans and the Russians in their dreary cold war farce. set off burglar alarms. Reich’s books were burned. To be seriously considered such infra sound is below 16 hertz. To date Mr. The experiments with DOR are fully described in The Selected Writings of Wilhelm Reich under Orgone Physics. He died in federal prison.Like infra sound DOR has a range from the almost imper- ceptible to the lethal.The only hitch it would also kill anyone behind it. discoveries and theories. 7 Hertz was found to be the vibration most lethal to human life. break windows.Very small quantities of radioactive material produce depression. Nonetheless the effect is described as “being hit on the head with a sledge hammer.” Infra sound sets up a vibration or resonance within bodies or objects. in all probability to mask secret experiments along the same lines. Most of you know something of Reich’s experiments. The abuse of discoveries by a self-styled elite poses much more of a threat than their possible misuse by individuals.” One experimentor nearly died as a result of exposure. I would like to draw attention to Reich’s experiments with DOR—Deadly Orgone Radiation. Wilhelm Reich Another scientist who freely published his discoveries was Wilhem Reich. As you know. I will not attempt a detailed run down here. anxiety. has also been persecuted by the Pure Food and Drug agents. The professor is now working on a police whistle 18 feet across mounted on a truck and powered by a small airplane motor. Hubbard will reverse his present policy and release his discoveries for all to use. It is to say the least probable that top secret experiments with DOR are being carried out by official agencies. discoveries have been suppressed by official agencies.With these discoveries already in the worst possible hands. Ron Hubbard.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.This whistle turned on full blast could kill everything within the range of five miles. the founder of Dianetics and Scientology. his experiments outlawed and he himself imprisoned. It seems that immunity to DOR is conveyed by gradient exposure. You can still buy Reich’s books despite the book burning carried out by the Pure Food and Drug pigs in emulation of their Nazi prototypes.This weapon is pain-drug hypnosis. In Reich’s experiments very small quantities of radioactive material were used.Anyone with a radium watch can duplicate these experiments. The professor is working on a shield for the operator.We were all sick for hours. Turned on very low it produces depression.
FS: And tactics in England? WB: It’s a totally different problem.w h e re the lines of the frontiers do not in fact correspond to any difference in language. FS: The whole thing in the States is moving to open confrontation and violence. FS: What do you think of the tactics they are using in America. no matter how arbitrary your line may be. One could hardly sympathize with their tactics. but I can’t do it all the time. and that’s a tactic you can’t attack directly. TA C T I C S O F D E C O N D I T I O N I N G FS: So you don’t think tactics of open confrontation with the police are applicable here? WB: No. Those tactics didn’t seem to work here in the October revolution.There’s a lot happening there and most of it’s unpleasant. I can’t afford to move. the demonstrators there put themselves in the wrong.You draw a line and there’s trouble with people on the other side of the line. and this tends to push people into violent tactics.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.A writer can’t afford to get involved in too many extracurricular activities. London. England has always been very successful in absorbing its dissidents. Genet said we should support the young people not only with our writing but with our presence. Now I was present in Chicago. I feel that many of their tactics in America are really 19th century tactics which won’t work in an industrialized context. but you don’t use the same thing again and again.They were successful in the States. WB: Yes. I don’t want to live in the States. too. giving them a place in the establishment. FS: There’s a general feeling going around that there’s not much time. especially in Chicago? 104 105 . I’m not running for office and I’m not a professional revolutionary. 1969 FELIX SCORPIO: Why do you live in London? WILIAM BURROUGHS: Because my flat is here.T h e police played right into their hands and they got their scene in front of the Hilton. All my books and papers are here. But the situation’s changing here. WB: As I see it. It worked once. BURROUGHS WB: Chicago was a brilliant success for the demonstrators . the trouble is very basic—it’s the whole idea of a nation in the first place. FS: Why not? WB: I don’t like the feel of it.You see that in South A m e ri c a .
and have exactly the same economic problems. in effect. the underground press is definitely a very effective counter-move to the power of the press. WB: Right. FS: A lot of the student movement is concerned with anarchist ideas of regionalism. FS: Could you tell me what you’re working on now? WB: I’m working on a film script. And that is certainly the most promising lead. the concept of a nation will fall apart. FS: The basic bourgeois fear about communities would seem to be that technology would collapse. Black militants are moving in that direction. this is a counter-move. that seems to be a more promising lead. WB: Yes. the whole economic system is based on mass consumption and production of goods. For example. The underground press has now reached a point where they pose quite an effective counterweight and challenge because they’re getting a very large circulation. FS: Are you still employing the cut-up techniques in your writing? WB: To some extent. FS: If you dissolve the national boundaries you are moving closer to the possibility of centralized control. It’s a vast concentration camp. And if they lose that right and people go into their own communities and set up their own systems. the film I’m working on now is The Life of Dutch Schultz . If people start setting up their own communities. But that they will not be allowed to do. He died a disillusioned man. These lines give the politicians an excuse to maintain themselves and keep large police forces.You take a lot of 1920 106 107 . BURROUGHS They’re purely arbitrary lines. that would break down. the Peruvians and the Colombians are basically the same people culturally. which are in fact armies. black militants exert considerable pressure on their fellow blacks.They’re the real rulers. and therefore. cut-up techniques have been used in film for some time. the numbers racketeer.They must maintain the right to impose their laws on everyone within their boundaries.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. as you know. I wasn’t thinking in terms of world government.Those lines date from the liberator Bolivar. WB: No. Most of the work is done in the cutting room. But theoretically and ideally those people would be there because they wanted to. WB: Certainly.The difference between such a community and a nation is that. I’m wondering often whether we’re not moving towards the same kind of control as the official media have. Excuse me. The press is what manipulates majority opinion. decides what the government will do. Perhaps not altogether so: in the black communities.The Ecuadorians. really. WB: No. I’ll pour the tea.They want to withdraw into their own communities. presumably. FS: Being involved in the underground media. splitting up into smaller communities. Insofar as the underground press is dedicated to decontrol and deconditioning. Of course. We use a lot of stock footage and it’s where you cut that matters.Withdrawal is the most subversive move to any establishment. certainly. it’s a matter of preference. only with different people behind it. rather than being coerced. the people who control the mass media now. FS: And we could move towards a two-way TV system of the kind Buckminster Fuller has suggested.
which I think is entirely due to their attempt to control it by police action rather than to treat it as a medical problem. this is nothing new in films. “Well. it is represented in the press as being a ludicrous fraud with no content. it is definitely being vitiated by a dogmatic policy. and certainly not in music. it’s nothing new in painting. especially junkies. FS: One of the things I’ve found with cut-up techniques is the emotive quality of certain words come out. that is. Any cut-up technique presupposes a great deal of experimentation. John Cage and Earl Brown30 have carried it further in music than it’s ever been carried in writing. WB: Yes.They have a great deal of very precise data on words and the effects produced by words—a real science of communic a t i o n . But I feel that their presentation has often been deplorable. particularly in New York City.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. They seem to be in a state of confusion. It seems to me an illusion that the use of any drug.America has the worst addiction statistics of any Western country. as we see in the Communist party where people are forbidden to write certain things or even to discover certain things because it doesn’t fit with preconceived policy. FS: It’s a danger that’s not so apparent with some of the psychiatrists working in London. BURROUGHS gangster footage and produce a certain effect with it. But Scientology is an organization and it does have an organizational policy. WB: Yes. the mystical thing? WB: I really don’t go along with that at all. the whole Leary thing. and your feelings about it as a method for “clearing” yourself. There are very useful and very effective techniques. I wanted to ask you about your tie-up with Scientology. right there. This is not true.” FS: What about the whole LSD thing—the social effects of it. a body of knowledge. I run a stock footage in a number of arbitrary sequences and say. and grave reservations about their policy of organization. FS: But some of the techniques you definitely find very useful? WB: Oh yes. I have some reservations about some of the Scientology technology. there’s something we want!” Out of an hour’s footage you might get 5 or 10 minutes that you want. and that as a science.They are now coming around to it. FS: I also wanted to ask you about the treatment of drug addiction. FS: This idea of emotional load in certain words we use in speaking I found in reading on Scientology.This would also be true with images. I feel that Scientologists are tending to get into that impasse of having a dogmatic policy. or at least any that we’ve seen so 108 109 . “All right. I feel there’s an absolute incompatibility between organizational policy and the advancement of knowledge. like Laing and Cooper. WB: The E-Meter seems to me a useful device for deconditioning. It was such a problem there with burglaries committed by addicts to get their junk that people finally said. FS: A lot of people shy away from the beginning. How do you think Britain is coping with this at the moment? WB: I’m afraid they’re simply following the bad example of America. for God’s sake. They don’t seem to have decided here whether they’re going to give maintenance doses to addicts or not. WB: They’re not an organization. give them a maintenance dose. some of the words are loaded.
Look at prohibition. Now this is quite contrary to the old Pavlovian concept. Cannabis is the safest of the hallucinogenic drugs in common use. which they use in the South Seas. If you can teach someone to produce alpha brain waves. for example. and he told me a bit about Eysenck’s work with aversion therapy. on people they don’t use shocks. then all you have to do is ring a bell and the heartbeat accelerates—but they’ve never been able to lower it that way. Take countries where it is legal. by and large. if you ring a bell and give the animal a shock.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. the less toxic. which are associated with a very re l a xe d dreamy state. WB: No. Miller can do this. very soon you can produce any of the effects of LSD without taking it. People ask what would happen if cannabis was legalized—not much. non-chemical ways which are becoming more and more precise. As you know. There hasn’t been any expansion or breakthrough of consciousness there.That is. too. LSD is relatively easy to manufacture—I don’t see how they can control it. It’s been known for a long time that any animal can be taught to accelerate their heartbeat. There are other ways in which these things can be accomplished. Miller who found he could teach rats to alter their brain waves. Dr. Rats will learn in one hour what yogis take 20 years to learn . BURROUGHS far.What can be taught by Miller’s system is how to alter consciousness. and there’s been talk of making a soft drink out of it. far and away—but not altogether without danger in an industrialized context. FS: What sort of legal restriction do you think should be placed on these drugs? WB: Very difficult problem. that’s not at all the same thing.31 which sounds frighteningly stupid. as in Morocco. 110 111 . Of course. not at all. The Communists prohibit the use of cannabis because it makes a country more difficult to industri a l i z e. I was wondering what kind of techniques they do use. This establishes that all learning is primarily the same thing. One of the safest apparently is kava-kava. control digestion by simple punishment and reward: when their heartbeat rate started to go down. safer than LSD. the same is true of alcohol. It throws your timing off—remember Morocco is largely an agricultural country—it certainly makes people unfit to drive or to operate any precision machinery. or quasi-legal. relax their mu s c l e s . for example. It’ll give you control of consciousness. then they can be in a very comfortable state at will. lower blood pressure. It seems to me that people in the West have been spiritually so underprivileged that they overestimate the importance of LSD. and get a shock when the rate accelerated. I t ’s apparently milder than cannabis. here it’s more and more of the younger people and it doesn’t look as if legal obstacles are going to stop it. they’d be rewarded by a charge through the pleasure center of the brain. I’d say mescaline is. Cannabis use is more and more something the older generation does in Morocco. is going to lead to any widespread social alteration. lower heartbeat rate. which has never really been successful. If you can produce alpha brain waves.A n d they’ve done it with people. FS: Well. FS: But the whole behavioral trip—I was talking to a psychiatrist. Of course. I would say that if people are going to take these drugs they should stick to the natural products. FS: No. There was an article in Newsweek about someone called Dr.l ower their blood pressure. WB: Legal tactics have never been successful in regulating private behavior. That’s the importance of this treatment—it is not aversion therapy.
” And the people can do it. he says.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. you know where his heartbeat is.t h a t ’s certainly true of any purely political movement. but it’s one of the most revolutionary discoveries of the past 50 years. FS: People are often accused of withdrawing from the battleground. the real arena. WB: This is the battleground. pleasant. They are violently opposed to cannabis or any hallucinogenic drugs. You can pinpoint it with encephalographic equipment—and you know what’s going on. high heart rate and so on. 112 113 . which it hasn’t been up to now. this discovery of Dr. who would like to be—where would you begin? WB: My basic idea would be to institute a program of mass deconditioning—not only the past of the individual. similar to the effect of hallucinogenic drugs. FS: These techniques are capable of enormous manipulation. you know where his brainwaves are. BURROUGHS WB: One technique is to say. the Communists have done as much along these lines as anyone. You see. FS: So one of the most important revolutionary procedures is to search for new and better deconditioning techniques? WB: Undoubtedly. which. the needle floats—it is a very relaxed. WB: Ye s . if you could get some of the effects of LSD without the actual chemical. You can pinpoint it. otherwise you’re just proceeding on a very vague and imprecise basis. my God. Politics always tries to influence automatic obedience—oldfashioned conditioning—that is. But it’s got to be spotted first. and with practice you can do it at will. But the means are at hand.As you know.You hold that point. of course. is the very antithesis of politics. Now I think Miller used somewhat the same system—when the heart rate starts to go down. It wasn’t much publicized. not deconditioning. And they would soon find they were on the frontline if they tried to do that. that would be more to the point.“Hold that when they get an alpha brainwave. but his whole cultural past. And the only applications he suggested were for people with high blood pressure. I think LSD and all these hallucinogenic drugs simply enable you to do something you could do anyway if you hadn’t been conditioned not to. then he can do it whenever he wants to—unless the stress is too great. It is actually possible now. FS: The big difference with the yogic methods is that here you can actually get some indication of what is going on in the other person… WB: Yes that’s the point. It would seem to me.“There. Miller’s. and what are they fighting for if it’s not the way they want to live. FS: So if you were “in politics”—which. hold that!” Now there’s something on the E-Meter known as the floating needle. no question of that. when a release point is reached. his blood pressure. FS: A thing that worries me a lot about the New Leftist tactics is that they employ conditioning tactics themselves. but it’s obvious that the possibilities of altering consciousness by these means are unlimited. very high feeling. WB: Certainly. Having taught someone to lower his rate of heartbeat. And this is certainly one of the most promising leads so far. putting up the other propaganda wall. Alteration of consciousness is now quite possible with non-chemical means.
it was in the Telegraph. How can they talk about non proliferation? FS: Anything else you’d like to talk about? WB: It would seem to me the most urgent thing to be undertaken is in fact a program of deconditioning. the goal is being erased.There’s a lot of value there in Scientology. no matter how brilliantly he plays or seems to play because this goal is stationary. it was originally the hope that once you’d localized the cause of a neurosis. Using the E-Meter. FS: I’d like to ask youabout pinpointing. FS: And you can pin point where neurosis is? WB: You could find out precisely what brain waves were associated with this self-destructive goal. it’s getting like LSD now.There shouldn’t be any of this top secret. here we are. this is a commonplace of modern psychology.You need an instrument that tells you when you have pinpointed it and when this pinpointing has affected an erasure.anybody with about that much money could make an atomic bomb. A goal like that will manifest itself through complex associational networks. for sure. If he’s got a goal to lose he’s always going to lose. when they get there most of them don’t seem to do anything useful in the way of deconditioning.000. 114 115 . to remove yourself where you want to go? WB: Yes.Anybody can make one of these things:“Making an atomic bomb is a thing you can readily do in a basement workshop with materials you can buy anywhere these days—the information it takes to create the explosion is now in the possession of any schoolboy interested in science. Not a big one. but if there’s one body of knowledge that might to great advantage have been suppressed or kept secret for 100 years. but unfortunately. Lots of people know they have self-defeating goals. I think the New York Herald Tribune was the only paper which carried it. WB: But you’ll never locate it by Freudian methods. a goal to win and a goal to lose. low blood pressure. In Freudian psychology. this can be done with the E-Meter. FS: It doesn’t look as if this knowledge is going to go unused. And by going over and over so it finally won’t read.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. if you locate your goal to lose in context. WB: Undoubtedly. There was another extremely disquieting piece of news in the Herald Tribune today—no. It’s always been my feeling that all knowledge should be publicized.“Do-it-yourself-A-Bomb material for $25. it can take months of pinpointing it in various contexts before you can completely erase it. they should be undertak- en by private agencies. It was also the only paper to point out that the so-called nonlethal gas used in Vietnam by the Americans was in fact a form of LSD.” The Japanese will probably be putting out kits for $10. but big enough say to wreck mid-town Manhattan. Now. it won’t.000. and since these are not apt to be undertaken by public agencies. Now.A person may have conflicting goals. the consciousness of it would make it disappear. BURROUGHS FS: So the drop-out philosophy is not necessarily a negative one. FS: What I’ve read of Reich’s work suggests that it is just as important to attack the muscular structure or treat the patient physically by manipulation or localized areas of muscular strain. then you can win.” In other words.The story of Dr. and when that goal “blows. Any neurosis has physical symptoms.” as the Scientologists say. but they don’t have the means of pinpointing precisely enough to know when they have affected an erasure. low heartbeat and alpha brain waves. it will read. it’s nuclear fission.You cannot be in a state of anxiety with relaxed muscles. you get rid of this goal by pinpointing it. [Doomy laughter] You see. Miller’s discoveries was very much played down in the press.
BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Just because you have gotten a person into a calm state where they don’t have any physical manifestations of neurosis. FS: A lot of people would prefer to erase the policeman. Muscular tensions could also be pinpointed. In order to eliminate the neurosis. the E-Meter. And they have at least one piece of very effective equipment for doing this. that is. They can’t control this automatic reaction to an authority figure. because it’s in the blood pressure. you do not know how long deconditioning might take. In fact. But when you erase your involuntary subservience to authority. the extreme manifestations of authority lose their power to affect you. All the other more advanced stages are done by yourself on the E-Meter. no one else can do it. They both have equal weight—you’ve got a deadlock there that is crippling and the way to attack this is to pinpoint the negative goal. Say something bothers you. WB: Precisely. FS: Has Scientology got the techniques that would enable them to work on these things that are pinpointed? WB: Oh. the neurosis itself disappears. brain wave s . Of course. But you can’t do it just by attacking the muscles.This usually means that it has other associations that must be traced down. an inexhaustible supply.t h e sensation of digestion. you have to pinpoint it in many contexts. But I think to have a fully effective deconditioning unit. you can be apparently “cured” within that framework but come out to face other situations which haven’t been dealt with. BURROUGHS WB: Yes.A great deal of Scientology processing you can do yourself on the E-Meter when you reach a certain stage. but over a period of time you can erase it. 116 117 . does not mean that you have effected a permanent cure. you can call it 500 times on the E-Meter and it still reads. multiple tensions. there are others. phrase or picture over and over for many hours. It’s a question of pinpointing it into consciousness and finally erasing it. It may mean running the same word. you’d need other equipment as well… equipment for measuring muscular tension.You can also say that all neurosis comes down to discrepancies between the conscious intellect and the automatic nervous system—someone may consciously despise a policeman and yet still be nervous in his presence.Their techniques are quite different—I think much simpler and much sounder. WB: You erase one. FS: Part of it seems to be that within any particular organizational system like Scientology or within a certain relationship with a particular psychiatrist. if you can get rid of all physical symptoms of a neurosis. They say any neurosis is due to conflicting goals—you have a goal to win and a goal to lose. yes. but it can be erased by these techniques. no doubt of that.
JFB: What’s the underground like in London? WB: I don’t have that much contact with it. The London underground doesn’t have an injection into it such as Black militants represent in the United States.The E S TA B L I S H M E N T G A R B A G E Pa ri s . JFB: What’s your feeling in general about the “movement. They’re fighting a limited war with limited means. It’s way behind the United States. JFB: Are you really interested in politics? WB: I’ve never thought politics could resolve anything at all. existing with power and direction. they’re out- 118 119 . I’m waiting for a deployable strategy for political action. A large number of groups and individuals make a dubious claim to it. of course. BURROUGHS standing at integrating dissent.There isn’t what could be called a movement.d o not have any real hold on power in an industrial society. Are the militants prepared to take into account this kind of problem? JFB: You’re in disagreement then with those who. 1970 JEAN-FANÇOIS BIZOT: The underground claims you as a member. although I’m. like the resistance against the Nazis. England is working on catching up. WB: I’d prefer solid proposals. in favor of the homosexual liberation movement. restaurant and food stores amounts to a use of technology involving the lives of millions of people. Today’s revolutionaries are silent on these subjects. like Timothy Leary. In my opinion.The English have a special talent. equipped with revolvers and explosive s . Let business get discussed on the level of politics and it’s a funeral. Each group acts as if it could take power. Both Lenin and the German socialdemocracy of Kautsky had a program. Everything there is scattered—it’s hard to imagine how it could be otherwise.Take for example: the resupply of markets. I’d like to know what they’d do if they succeeded. My response to liberation movements is cautious.” the hippies and Communes? WB: I partake of their dissatisfaction.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. specific ideas on the society to be built. advise young people to live on the margins of society and wait until the system collapses by itself.What would happen if this enormous mass were to abandon the society organized to prevent that from happening? They’d die of hunger in a week.The establishment runs a tight ship. Resistance fighters on the margins. Does the work of William Burroughs belong to underground culture? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Underground culture as a label can be placed on a great many things.
For example.This sentiment is very close to one expressed in communist China. BURROUGHS opposing political systems resemble each other.The anti-sexual orientation of our societies 120 121 . the whole heap of garbage. Queen V i c t o ri a … Queen Elizabeth… The Kings are only there to reproduce in this country of insects. JFB: Do you conceive of a revolution of the brain? WB: Scientists are overwhelmed by the possibilities offered to them from developments in their fields. which has been rotting the system for centuries. My grandfather was a Methodist preacher. it’s coming apart more clearly than anywhere else. stimulate the memory… JFB: Do you believe that the United States has entered into a stage of sexual revolution? WB: I don’t know. then perhaps liberated man would find another way. In The Soft Machine. Europeans often visit their cousins. I find it difficult to see what distinguishes the Tsarist police from the Soviet police. that lead them into automatically reproducing reactions. sexual most of all. I’m not very impressed by what I’ve seen so far. WB: According to Conrad in Victory . treat neurotics. political. JFB: You were raised in the Christian religion… WB: Not really. it’s a lways a Queen dominating the country. and sometimes their most distant relations. a kind of fundamental error.That’s never been the case with Americans. All the problems are. JFB: Which among the old myths seems to you the most dangerous? WB: I don’t know. Keep in mind that the sense of the family has always been we a ker in the United States than in the Latin countri e s . A real revolution would have to involve a total change in consciousness. If you were to destroy the ideas that repress people.” JFB: Or the King… WB: No.At least I hope so. It’s impossible to know. Recently. The brain’s impulses were transmitted to the machine which processed them and then sent a response.“Down with the Queen.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. women wear the same clothes. I think that nothing can be expected of England until ten thousand people are seen marching on London shouting. Even when there’s a King in England. concepts that lead to hatred and competition. JFB: You don’t like women. the Queen. The English will take their first step the day they get rid of this insane family.All the establishment garbage has to be thrown out: Christianity. JFB: And women’s liberation? WB: American women no longer want to be treated like females. your woman character eats a man’s sex after she’s finished hanging him. JFB: Do you have the feeling that the monogamous family of a Christian type is on its way out in the United States? WB: Absolutely. It appears that it’s possible to program people. using television and the other media that have been responsible for most of the evolution in the last ten years. but my parents were hardly believers. Over there. nevertheless. women are a curse. do the same work and enjoy no special privileges. electrodes were attached from a computer to the brain of a chimpanzee. nations. but like anyone else. family.
JFB: Who are the writers who have influenced you? WB: Jean Genet.You don’t give flowers to the police. a hoax perpetrated by women. I also have been influenced by a number of writers that I’ve read to one degree or another: Joseph Conrad. After some short-lived experiments. This is partially the case in China. JFB: By what is the family to be replaced? WB: By nothing. Malcom Low ry … JFB: What about your contacts with the Beat Generation? W B : I ’ve never met Fe r l i n g h e t t i . It was his idea to write a poem by drawing words out 122 123 . JFB: In your life as an addict you’ve been involved in violence… WB: Not really. disrupt literary techniques… WB: I’ve always been intrigued by literary invention. Jack Kerouac. The nation is no more than an appendix. Genet himself has never broken out of a certain classicism. to. It soon became necessary to knock him out.The less contact between the two sexes. an extension of the biological family. he escapes the prison of language. I stopped. I don’t believe in nonviolence. one of them started to move. Joyce. One evening. It made me sick. JFB: But there’s sadism in your books. hanging out in the salons and spending his time writing letters of excommunication.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Céline. The traditional female blocks all progress. BURROUGHS serves women. It guarantees them control of their man.The peo- ple in power are not going to throw themselves out. It is astounding that he has been able to write Notre-Dame des Fleurs on the pages of a magazine. I robbed people at gunpoint in the subway with an accomplice. except one week in New York when I was broke. Cocteau. Nothing very big. but I’ve met Michael McClure. except in a flowerpot and out of a window. but only Artaud stayed with i t . JFB: Your goal has consistently been to reinvent writing. Education of children ought to be in the hands of the state. Beckett. WB: Not in my opinion.33 Allen Ginsberg. J F B : A re you interested in the automatic writing of the Surrealists? WB: Yes. the better. I passed some time with them. Gregory Corso. through words. JFB: And love? WB: It’s a virus. Women raise children.B reton became a pope. even if. I can’t see what the interest would be in doing again what’s already been done. but how much of automatic writing is really automatic? The Surrealists started things off. Tzara was a true innovator. even if you did it well. We emptied the pockets of some drunks. The children are forced to inherit the stupidities of the system and the neuroses of their parents. What a manuscript. Russia allowed the bourgeois family to continue.What would be the purpose now of turning out a good Victorian novel? We’re in the era of television and abstract painting. JFB: You were on the same road? WB: Not exactly. but we weren’t really doing the same thing.
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
of a hat. Why not introduce chance into writing following the game-theory of Neumann and Morgenstern, as it’s done in military strategy or economics? The American air force prepares a plan of attack using five different hypotheses. One is chosen by chance at the last moment. The enemy has no rational means to guess the intentions of the opposing side.This is the same sense in which our experiments with the writing techniques of cut-ups and folding have been conducted. JFB: Do you have other methods that you use? WB: At the moment I’m working on a script for a film by Harrison Starr, who is both the producer and the director. It’s very new for me. It’s not possible to name impressions as in a book, to simply say, “It’s a day in the summer of 1921.” It’s necessary to describe exactly what’s going on. Up to now, directors have only scratched the surface of cinema. I propose to introduce effects of “déja vu.” JFB: It’s the idea of messages that appear on a television screen for a hundredth of a second. The viewers don’t see them but their brain has time to register them. WB: Exactly. It’s possible to produce effects of speeding up or slowing down time. JFB: Do you like science fiction? WB: It depends on what is meant by science fiction. Nothing is harder for a writer than to express in a convincing manner an alien experience or consciousness. Many are called, few are chosen. Most have good ideas, but can’t manage to realize them. One of the best books of science fiction that I’ve read is Free to Conquer by Frank Russel. Astronauts land on Venus and are contaminated
by a virus which absorbs their personality and existence. JFB: Do you think that drugs can expand consciousness? WB: Drugs in themselves aren’t of much importance.They have their place.They’re a short cut when other means aren’t available. It would be optimistic to think that drugs alone could transform consciousness in a radical way. Look at Morocco. It’s been legal to smoke there for centuries and nothing particularly worth remarking on has resulted. The most interesting of all substances that I’ve tried is ya g é .I t ’s an incredible hallucinogen to be taken at night. The color blue dominates vision. Unfortunately, yagé causes a slight nausea, is highly toxic and has only a small margin of safety. Cannabis, on the other hand, has none of these drawbacks, on the contrary. JFB: What about Psilicybin? WB: I don’t like it at all. It’s synthetic. I prefer natural drugs to chemical ones. Personally, I’m allergic to LSD. In large doses it softens the brain. With acid my face bloats and my hand is unsteady. With cannabis, I’m in control and feel sure of myself. I use it to work. It accelerates the train of associations. I’m able to obtain three or four ideas on the same theme at once. JFB: What do you mean by “enlarging consciousness?” WB: It’s not easy to explain. Hallucinogens enhance your perception.That’s also possible without drugs, but it’s difficult. JFB: How did you start taking heroin? WB: Out of curiosity. I quickly became addicted. I’ve taken heroin for 15 years, with some pauses. I’ve quit, started again and quit again. If I were to start again today, I’d be hooked in two
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
days. I have to watch myself closely. Suppose I catch a cold and take pills containing codeine, Neocodion, as I once did in France. In appearance, it’s harmless, but for me, it can start everything going again. JFB: After such a string of drugs—Delauded,Encodal, Pantoton, opium, Dolosol, Methadone Pulplum, morphine, heroin—how were you able to stop? WB: I had come to the end of the line when I heard word of this vaccine. I was living in a slum belonging to the indigenous part of Tangier. It had been more than a year since I’d taken a bath or changed my clothes. I no longer bothered to undress, except in order to inject myself every hour with a hypodermic needle in my skin, grey and fibrous, the final stage of the drug. I had never swept or cleaned my room. Boxes of empty phials and other detritus were piled to the ceiling. The water and electricity had long ago been cut off. I was doing absolutely nothing. I could stay immobile for eight hours just staring at the bottom of my shoes. I didn’t do anything until my time had almost run out. When a friend came to visit me (but rarely did someone visit me, what was left of me to address), I remained prostrate. I was indifferent, in the shadow which had found its way into my vision—this grayish screen, each day more empty, more unfocused—paying attention to neither his presence nor his departure. If this friend had been knocked down, I wouldn’t have moved, just stared at my boots, waiting for him to die so I could pick his pockets. JFB: Was heroin an interesting experience? WB: No. JFB: You would have been able to write the same books without being an addict?
WB: I never wrote any book while taking heroin. It’s strictly impossible. Heroin reduces not only perception of the surroundings, but also of the mind and body. Unlike for an artist who has to be in control of his senses and his conscience, for a writer, every experience is profitable, even a destructive one. JFB: What were you living on at that time? WB: I was receiving a small amount of money from my parents. JFB: Did they know? WB: Most certainly did, yes. JFB: A lot of people think that people who take heroin do so because they have psychological problems. WB: That’s ridiculous. The majority of those who are intoxicated are that way because they ’ve had a taste of it. In South America, the Indians numb themselves with coca.They could just as well be alcoholics if they had the opportunity.They take what they can find in order to forget the misery of their lives. It’s the same with peasants in India who have access to opium. JFB: How did you prepare yourself to write Naked Lunch? WB: I quit heroin. But I kept my notes, unfinished manuscripts and my memories. I worked on the book using cannabis in 1957 and 1959. So when Maurice Girodias became interested and proposed publishing it, I assembled my notes. A part of these writings were also part of the The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded. JFB: You write every day?
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
WB: Yes, except when I’m on vacation. JFB: Cannabis is the only drug you’d like to see legalized? WB: With either drugs or alcohol, the law is never a solution. Don’t forget the fiasco that prohibition was in the United States. The solution could lie in an intelligent approach to regulation. Certain drugs are more destructive than others. Young addicts should be encouraged to quit by providing them with that possibility. If they don’t succeed, that’s that. But it’s impossible to encourage the free circulation of hero i n ,m o rphine or opium. In any case, any legislation that tries to dictate individual behavior is ridiculous. Can someone prevent me from gambling? The same thing is true for drugs. The matter shouldn’t be dealt with by the law but by medicine. It’s a drug problem. JFB: Have you ever been the victim of laws that regulate sex? WB: Homosexuality has been suppressed for a long time. That’s h a rdly the case today, except for certain practices that are provocative. Since I’ve never been among those that frequent public toilets, I’ve never been bothered. But I want to repeat, all laws concerning sex, drugs and so on, serve absolutely no purpose. It is an aberration to every day pass laws that will necessarily be regularly broken by a large number of individuals. Translated by Richard C. Ledes
I N S P E C T O R J . L E E O F T H E N O VA P O L I C E
London, 1970 AM/PA: How does it feel being an American in London? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: There is a job waiting here for some dynamic tycoon to bring England into the 20th century… Supermarkets with a sign, “No checks cashed. It isn’t that we don’t trust you, we don’t have the time…” And a weather map for that day… “Don’t talk to the clerk about the weather. Look at the map…” AM/PA: What do you think of Ronnie Laing? WB: I admire his work and the work he is doing in his psychiatric practice and have recommended a number of patients to him.We need more psychiatrists like Ronnie Laing… AM/PA: Psycholinguistics, what does that mean?
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
WB: No idea. Perhaps the relation of thought patterns to language which has received inadequate attention. The equanimity and quiet self-possession of the Chinese in the dreariest surroundings I attribute to their linguistic structure which immigrant Chinese carefully preserve. Second generation Italians do not speak Italian but four-generation Chinese in any country will speak and write Chinese. As Korzybski points out in Science and Sanity, there are falsifications built into Western languages that impose aberrative thinking. One of these is the is of identity… Korzybski points to chair and says,“Whatever that may be, it is not a ‘chair’”That is, it is not the verbal label “chair.”The is of identity which equates the word with the object or process to which the word refers is a source of confusion ranging from muddled thinking and purely verbal arguments to outright insanity. A follower of Korzybski has proposed to delete the verb to be from the English language… Another falsification in inherent in the concept “either/or,” true or false, right or wrong, mental or physical, hereditary or environment… “Either/or” doesn’t correspond to the multi-leveled structure of the physical universe, what we know of it and still less to the structure of the nervous system. The definite article the is also misleading with its implications of one and only: The way, The God, The Universe. A language in which such concepts could not be formulated would eliminate much confusion from Western thought. Pending such a language, as the first step, everybody’s kids can learn Chinese. AM/PA: What do you think about "the kids" today?
WB: I am not very musical. I like his singing when I hear it. AM/PA: Do you think that subversion should resort to invisibility? WB: Subversion invisibility,Yes or No? The either/or error. Both and. In The Invisible Generation, first published at the IT, I examine the advantages of invisibility. This article is reprinted in my forthcoming book, The Job, to be published by Jonathan Cape in April. At some point any underground must really go underground in order to survive.This point has not been reached as yet, but may be close. Meanwhile the Hippie dress serves as a demonstration and a symbol of protest and solidarity. No reason for “either/or.” The invisible and the visible protest can exist at the same time. AM/PA: Yo u ’re writing a script about the gangster Dutch Schultz… Why are you interested in the Mob? WB: I set out to write a far out script about quite ordinary people, and gangsters are as ordinary as stock-brokers, policemen, reporters, judges, district attorneys, all part of an old film set. Dutch, however, was far from the Hollywood gangster. He never paid more than two dollars for a shirt and he held silk shirts in horror.“Such display is vulgar,” he said. He was also one of the last big time operators. AM/PA: Do you know about who reads you? WB: Yes
WB: When the present generation of reactionaries die out, who will take their place? AM/PA: Are you a fan of Bob Dylan?
AM/PA: Are you the yardstick for the drug experience? WB: There is no such yardstick. Everyone has a different metabolism. Cats for example are allergic to morphine. Rabbits thrive on it.
Pope. BURROUGHS AM/PA: You’ve been involved with Scientology. Epileptic fit waves if your think is fits. In time we should be able to talk fluently about feelings such as brain wave production. Joe Kamiya of the Langley Porter Neurological Institute in San Francisco.‘to drive his own heart.And the ever poplar sex waves. Emit pot waves and put the narcs out of business. Only the deconditioned would be allowed to vote in any thinking society and no hostess can ask her guests to put up with the man who has not been deconditioned—there he is on about student anarchy and permissiveness. Allah. intestinal contractions. “The results of such experiments tend to support the theory of mind over matter so long ridiculed by modern science. Peter Lang has applied autonomic learning to control the human heart rate. Let’s set up a center where all these techniques are pooled and interchanged.’” “In one test eight of ten subjects were able to control the tone. how a man wa l k s . blood pressure and so on. But the body’s glandular and visceral processes. Generalissimo.” Alpha waves are the waves of sleep and dream a relaxed calm state of mind. Country. The Woodstock Festival portends a new mass consciousness.’” “Man may be able to control his internal processes. The Job. Quote from Time. I describe the experiments of doctor Neal E. Fidel Castro. and we’ll all be less of a bore. “The vistas are staggeri n g . In my forthcoming book.M a ny other brain waves can be isolated and subjects trained to emit them.t a l k s . Find a wave you like and emit it. Let’s explore and chart inner space. Other researchers have proved that man can learn to control even such functions as sweating. the mind is able to dominate much of the body. t h o u g h . have long been considered beyond the reach of conscious contro l . Dr. July 18. a language he can use to explain more effectively and completely how he feels inside.’ says Dr. Engel’s work in ‘autonomic shaping’ has enabled him to alter heart rates. Do you consider it useful to your work? W B : Some useful techniques and a clear statement of ve ry important question: Can man exist without a physical body? Can he detach himself from body without physical death? AM/PA: What does deconditioning mean? WB: This means the removal of all automatic reactions deriving from past conditioning.e t c.A nything rats can do you can do better as subsequent experiments with human beings have demonstrated. reduce breathing and brain waves. So we hold Alpha Festivals where 400. blood pressure. regulate digestion and improve sexual response. all automatic reactions to Queen. President. It is time to demand what is yours and to challenge anyone who claims to have knowledge of inner space to come out and show what he has. run by what the scientists call the autonomic nervous system.D r. and rhythms to alleviate irregular heart beats and high blood pressure. who has experimented with conscious regulation of brain wave. Miller who has taught rats to lower blood pressure. The subject becomes able. as Lang puts it.000 brains get together and emit alpha wave s . B e rn a rd Engel of the National Institute of Child Health in Baltimore. looks forward to the day when men will have ‘an internal vocabulary. the CIA… When automatic reactions are no longer operative you are in a condition to make up your mind.Your inner space belongs to you. emitting or suppressing brain waves as requested. Any kind of wave you want. The Communist Party.Very promising techniques now exist suitable for mass deconditioning. ‘People are reexamining old concepts like mind body dualism.e x p e rimental psychologists have proved that the body’s autonomic nervous system can be taught. 1969.” “Unimaginable extensions of awareness are now possible in terms of existing techniques. He has taught rats in one hour to do what yogis take 20 years to learn .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. page 50: “Through the cerebrospinal nervous system. This consciousness with the mass emission of 132 133 . Christ.N ow. to relieve insomnia.
A problem once posed becomes insolvable. AM/PA: Does it matter? WB: To who? AM/PA: William Burroughs.A blizzard of sugary benevolence about to blow. The ESP waves have been isolated. disposal of atomic waste. Hope for the future? Only a miracle can save the planet from disaster. Any waves you like.The President calls for a nationwide alpha day. Everywhere people pool their funds and buy an encelaphotographic unit. it is doubtful if they could solve these problems. Nothing has ever had any “reality.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. AM/PA: What are the possibilities and probabilities? WB: As it is. Burroughs? WB: Nothing ever was. AM/PA: Is there anything real any more. BURROUGHS brain waves can produce far reaching effects. Mr. Tinkerers make their own. worldwide inflation. If present trends continue. Sex wave orgies sweep the world. Even if all nations could get around a table with actual good intentions and try to solve the problem of overpopulation. we see no inkling of good intentions or sanity. Mass telepathy breaks out.” except the reality assigned to it by the observer. there is no hope for the future.There are pop festivals to rock and roll brain waves.Whole cities are dreamy and somnolent with alpha waves. horses paw the ground and dogs howl. Peace love and beauty waves engulf the cops.You can feel the aura of an epilepsy fit for miles.They are throwing away their guns. where are you? Would tell us if we asked? 134 135 . We see these problems getting steadily worse as the bungling politicians refuse to admit that such problems exist. air. water and soil pollution. AM/PA: Do you think that paranoia is a sickness? Do you have any hope for the future? WB: A paranoid might be defined as someone who has some idea as to what is actually going on.
Brion’s surroundings include Moroccan rugs. then you’d have some idea as to how to go about producing it. say at the borderline of infrasound. that could produce rhythmic vibrations that would not necessarily be fatal or unpleasant.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. were in and out. reader. There has been a great deal of work done recently in autonomic shaping and brain waves—people now being able to reproduce brain waves and to learn to control heartbeats. Could you expand on that? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: The point is that here it has been developed as a we a p o n . two Ushers. RP: What about your experiments with projections? 136 137 .N ow there are possibilities. many of whom Burroughs met while teaching at the University of the New World in Switzerland. no experiments have been done along these lines while listening to certain music to see what the actual physiological and psychological correlates of that music are and what happens when someone listens to it. all art is really attempting to do—very definite psycho-physiological effects in the audience. which records brain waves. BURROUGHS R O L L I N G S T O N E I N T E RV I E W London. and an extensive library of sounds recorded in Morocco. people can now learn in 10 hours what it takes a yogi 20 years to learn.‘50s rock and roll.e t c. etc. experimenting with very slow sounds. resistance. t e n s i o n . That is. So I wanted to suggest the possibility of very precise musical experiments. presumably you could kill a whole Shea Stadium full of people in their seats. a few of Brion’s paintings of Marrakesh and the desert. But if they were successful. blood pressure. heart beat. they might be quite the contrary. viewer. If they had they would have taken over years ago. Sun Ra and Coltrane played in the background and various young people. Of course. if they want to. they’ve never been completely successful in that. all writing. In other words. but I would suggest the same experiments be carried out.William Burrough lives downstairs.As far as I know. blood pressure. [RP] ROBERT PALMER: You’ve mentioned the possibility of using this infrasound in music. as the case may be. If you knew what a state of trance was. RP: How would that relate to Moroccan music? How precise do you think Moroccan trance music is at producing definite states? WB: Certainly Brion knows a good deal more about this than I do. a stereo. and also you’d know when you are producing it and when you’re getting close. what the brain waves. 1972 The interview took place in Brion Gysin’s flat. heart beat and so forth were. Tapes of trance music.They have a battery now that they can plug people into. it would be another step toward producing—as all music. which he recently occupied after an extended residence in Tangier.
RP: How would that work with writing? WB: Exactly the same way.i t ’s a real mask of light. It’s a question of getting a sufficient degree of precision. you don’t know until you actually do it. Perhaps fortunately. they’re not that successful. Antony Balch 36 and I did an experiment with his face projected onto mine and mine onto his. I think. RP: Do you think the force and amplitude of rock can make it a force for liberation. it is now part of the establishment. it was something quite extraordinary. I could write some- thing that someone would read and it would kill them. very friendly and very unfriendly faces and words and then alternate them 24 frames per second. They thought it was all a film. Another experiment that Antony and I did was to take the two faces and alternate them 24 frames per second. it looks like the other person. I sat there. RP: What about your story in The Job about the Buful Peoples projecting baby faces on their audiences and making them run out and shit in the streets? Is that you idea of what the effects of such an experiment might be? WB: That could be. A n t o ny and Ja n Herman were fooling around and they managed to suck up the television.You can’t tell the differe n c e . BURROUGHS WB: I’ve said quite a lot about that in The Job.What is the writer trying to do? He’s trying to reproduce in the reader’s mind a certain experience. or if pop singers make a lot of money and their records make a great deal of money for big companies they are now part of the establishment.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. so that you got a real time section. Brion was the first to do this at Rue du Dragon in Paris. there’s no point. even to put one minute of alterations of 24 frames per second on a screen. which was re-photographed on the video camera. then fade back to the now face.An experiment I always wanted to make was to record and photograph. If I really knew how to write. I think words possibly above all. but it was quite extraordinary. People tend to say that if an underground paper succeeds and makes money. the reproduction of the experience would be complete. but it’s such a hassle to cut those and re-splice them. but that faded in and out so that it would be that face. But even seeing it on a little view screen. which was:Antony brought up the Bill and Tony film. or any effect you want could be produced if you were precise enough in your knowledge or technique. Jan Herman37 was here with his little video camera outfit and we did quite a precise experiment. but we c o u l d n ’t because the cycles we re differe n t . but the underground or any movement is not going to succeed by not succeeding. We wanted to project it onto the television screen from the camera. If you publish an underground paper that nobody reads or produce music that nobody listens to.That should have a quite upsetting effect. Now if your face is projected onto someone else’s in color. and no one would believe how it was done. regardless of the lyric content? 138 139 . And if people do read your paper or listen to your music then you are subject to make money. anti-control message? WB: I think the dividing line between establishment and nonestablishment is breaking down. RP: Back to music: do you feel that a pop group’s dependence on costly equipment and established media makes it difficult for these groups to disseminate an anti-establishment. and he projected it onto my face.The same way with music. and if he were completely successful in that. RP: Can words actually be that successful? WB: I think so.
RP: You’d say. but nothing has ever come of it. which is implicit in our language. But the mere fact of the number of people reached and that these people are young. say. purposely mix the words down in the track. Or all sorts of va ri a t i o n s .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. RP: Do you think a group that’s operating its own record company has a freer hand. some groups. Because the publisher is set up to distribute just as the record company is to sell records. but the establishment itself would like to suppress the media altogether. WB: Right. where whatever is happening anywhere people can switch on their televisions and see it.There was a program on television the other night where they came right out and said that showing wars and riots on television can produce wars and ri o t s . they might be doing both at the same time quite well. People talk about establishment media. like the Rolling Stones. they wouldn’t have time. RP: Do you have anything to say about the music of Soft Machine and the Insect Trust. makes them a terrific force. RP: Bob Dylan has mentioned his interest in and indebtedness to your work. Anymore than writers should take over publishing.” Have they been into your work from reading. and how hard they push it. pop stars to do all that themselves. and you’re not going to do it as we l l . in view of the experiments that I have suggested. although they’ve talked about it. or from talking with you? WB: I have only met Bob Dylan on one occasion. So it must be from reading.f o r. and Mick Jagger about four or five times and there were other people around. and then all sorts of similar incidents broke out.N ow that doesn’t mean that record companies and publishing companies may not have all sorts of establishment preconceptions about what they distribute. but it’s not a part of it. the riot pictures we re shown in the Convention Hall live as they were happening. Really it’s not an either/or proposition. but a similar question: Do you think that writers would have more effect if they published their own wo r k ? Definitely no.T h e re ’s never been a comparable situation. If you’re going to try to do all that yourself—for one thing it’s going to take up all your time. Cops blackjacked delegates. but the question of taking over their f u n c t i o n . WB: Alfred Korzybski pointed out that one of the basic errors of Western thought is the either/or proposition. BURROUGHS WB: I would say so. and several of your phrases have popped up in Rolling Stone’s songs—like in “Memo From Turner”from “Performance. The media are really accessible to everyone. that pop music is not part of what you’ve called “the control machine”? WB: No. than a group that must operate through a conglomeration? WB: I do not know enough about the music business to answers that question. and therefore the most subject to revolutionary ideas. RP: Well. very definitely. I recall in Chicago. groups which took their names from your work? 140 141 . I usually can’t hear the words. RP: It’s hard to say how much it has to do with the words and the lyrics. it might overlap with it. then.And potentially a tremendous force. WB: Very difficult to say.There was no discussion of the books. RP: And it might effect each listener differently. “Are they broadcasting an anti-establishment message or are they…” Well.
like the noise that howler monkeys make. spoken tapes. at least in the Joujouka record [Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka.T h a t ’s what tunes are all about.I ’ve used quite a bit of these techniques actually—that is. for example. And very often the soundtrack is mu s i c a l . RP: Do remembered tunes call up stronger and more specific associations than images that aren’t related to tunes? WB: Very definitely. RP: What about the many references to popular songs in your books. but not quite. because there’s nothing quite like it. Now recent experiments have indicated the possibility of simply reprogramming reaction patterns as you would reprogram a computer. setting programs which could then be fed back the other way. especially some of the sequences in The Soft Machine which are made up of song titles and lines? WB: In writing. and they haven’t mentioned it in their interviews. particularly a past scene. But I hadn’t thought of a soundtrack. a sentence to be sung to a certain tune. which could actually be quite carefully pre p a re d .. what a completely deconditioned human being would look like. Rolling Stones Records] . Scientists have attached an ape’s brain to a computer. the music is played on a location so there will be background noise as well. It’s intere s t i n g . the chauffeur snoring in another re f e re n c e.We don’t know. and it has a soundtrack. I mean many people don’t know that The Soft Machine is actually one of my titles. you can just take so much. any hang-up resulting from the past conditioning must express itself in actual physiological reaction patterns. but the record simply consisted of a spoken tape of the book. But I notice that they are tending. a neutral soundtrack of words.I t ’s certainly very fancy music. It’s like wind in the trees. BURROUGHS WB: Not really.i t ’s got pictures. RP: You wrote in The Job: “It is now possible to decondition man from the whole punishment-reward cycle. The idea of spoken books is completely unworkable. I even did that. RP: Do you think their music relates to your work in any way? WB: None whatever. shall we say. Now undoubtedly they could get to the point of simply reprogramming. I see it as a whole set. etc. Or some of the sound effects that people haven’t heard. It’s got a scri p t . but be principally musical.t oward deliberately using some of the background noise: shouts. RP: Would you like eventually to put out books with accompanying records.” WB: I simply mean that if we had sufficient knowledge we could—any neurosis. 142 143 .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. and they might be able to do that in a matter of hours. or act like. having the musical and sound references along with the writing? WB: I think that is a very brilliant idea because people have not put out books with a record. very sophisticated music. which in this case was a short book. But to me. It’s a different operation than reading. I’ve listened to the music. than. And listening to it for a few seconds is much more precise than talking about it. ye s . so the electrical impulses from the ape’s brain were giving orders to the computer—that is. I think it’s pretty well established pragmatically that music is more precise in evoking a scene. T h a t ’s something I think that has to be done with a very precise hand. because it has never occurred in history. dogs barking in Jo u j o u k a .h ave some of the dialogue. and I can say that with a clear conscience because they have never underlined the connection. In practice.
The more people that know about it. let’s see. but this equipment is not all that expensive.A ny incident that disturbs you. usually not more than 10 or 15 minutes at the most. It may come back. There’s a rise which means “boredom. it may disturb you tomorrow. If you’ve got a business associate and you get a strong read on his name. and usually with good re a s o n . RP: What kind of effect is achieved on a personal level after you’ve learned to get a floating needle on very highly-charged questions? WB: It’s a very handy thing. “Did you ever fuck your mother? Did you ever fuck your mother?” I’ll get a read. BURROUGHS RP: Or whether he would exist at all.You can read anyone’s mind with it—but not the content. WB: Right. Anybody can do it. [Laughter] And if it is. It may take varying lengths of time. there are others. It is directing a very small electrical charge in a certain brain area. say if I ask someone. I mean. It seems to me that the best insurance that the discovery is not used for control purposes is people knowing about it. I mean there’s no beating a lie detector on a direct question like that. you run it on there until you get a floating needle. which anyone can learn. it sort of evaporates. it still reads. what the hell. the people who control these techniques are the ones most opposed to deconditioning? WB: That argument is always raised with any new discovery or any piece of equipment. which the scientology processing aims for. If I ask a specific question. A fall is only one reaction. I use it sometimes for that. If some disturbing incident has just happened. fantasies. particularly such very simple techniques as these. or difficult.m aybe dreams.” So the current is going through there. quite free. which indicates a reaction. A floating needle means that it’s gone for now. but it works very well. the less chance there is to monopolize it. which indicates a read. not very much anymore. RP: Isn’t it going to be very dangerous if.You can have a stuck needle—very rare—where the needle doesn’t move at all—that usually means you have a mental defective or something wrong with the apparatus. we’re all black centipedes at heart. but the most common is a fall. “What are you willing to talk about with me? What would you like to tell me about that? Repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. because it consists of repetitive questions like. Now the E-Meter is in fact a lie detector and a mind-reading machine. RP: How does the machine read the subject’s reactions? WB: It is read on a needle. you’re much more suspicious of him than you may realize. as it seems likely.inattention. only the reactions.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Now there are many actions that you can get on this needle. “I don’t know. by God. Now there’s every evidence that a floating needle here would correspond to alpha 144 145 . so why worry about it. Takes quite a while to know how to work it because you have all sorts of reads. if you run it to a floating needle. But if after going through all of that.”There’s also a floating needle. The needle floats back and forth.That’s a protest re a d .” RP: What about the giant black centipede the de-anxietized man turned into in Naked Lunch? WB: I have no reason to think that the result would be… of that nature. Now Scientology processing on the E-Meter—the E-Meter passes about a half a volt through the brain and body—is really sort of a sloppy form of electrical brain stimulation. he did. All sorts of things can happen. But as Korzybski always used to say.
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waves. Joe Kamiya38 in San Francisco has done an awful lot of work with this autonomic shaping. He found that the way to inhibit alpha waves is to make anything very solid in your mind. All you have to do is to get a very clear picture of something and that knocks out the alpha waves. So this could be cross-checked with those machines. RP: Aside from the value of the E-Meter, are your feelings on Scientology pretty much what they were when you wrote The Job? WB: No. I’ve written another little article since then where I c riticize their re a c t i o n a ry policies. And some of the old Scientologists have defected and set up a new organization. RP: You’ve talked about hieroglyphic or picture writing. Do you feel that we’re living out the end of the age of literacy, that people are going to be reading more and more picture books? WB: Well, that is not all that certain because the actual picture magazines are going out of business, Life, Newsweek, all of them. There are ideas that I had, which have not been borne out. Like when I said in the Academy Series, “recommend that the daily press be discontinued.” Remember that the Academy Series was all predicted as occurring in 1899, and it was my feeling that if certain measures had been taken then, the present mess might have been avoided, 1899 being an arbitrary date when it might have been possible. But this is 1972. I would certainly not recommend it now. RP: You’re working on a comic book? WB: Yes. It is a comic book in that it has whole sequences of actions in pictures. But there are also about 60 pages of text, so it’s something between a comic book and an illustrated book.
Malcolm McNeil39 is doing the artwork. It is most closely similar to the actual format of the Mayan Codices, which was an early comic book. There’ll be pictures in the Codices, and sometimes there’ll be three pages of text in the writing that we can’t read.We can read the dates, a great deal of dates.The story concerns someone who has discovered the control secrets of the Mayan books. RP: The fact that the Mayan books were a system able to control the people very precisely through calendar dates and knowing what stimuli were going to be applied on any one day, is that your main interest in Mayan civilization? WB: Yes. It was a control system that required no police, working on psychological controls. The priests were only about one percent of the population. Priests and artisans would certainly not come out to more than five percent.And how did they keep them working? RP: Any ideas how they might have done it? WB: Oh, very precise ideas, which I’ve developed in the books. RP: Have you looked at the Mayan books here in London? WB: I’ve seen them all, but there were only three.You see, Bishop Landa40 burned a stack of them as big as that rug. Somebody who was there grabbed three out of the fire.They’re burned around the edges.Those were the Dresden, the Paris, and the Madrid Codices, named for the places where they now are, in the respective museums. These turned up, I think, in the 17th century, in some old book shop somewhere. There are copies of those available. They have them at the British Museum, and I went over there and looked at the copies with Malcolm, and then we had photostats made. But, of course, those are not colored and the originals are
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colored, so there’s no way of knowing what the others consisted of. I mean a whole civilization that went up in flames. It’s as if you piled all our physics books, Shakespeare, and everything else and burnt the whole lot.We don’t know what is left, you understand. The books that we now have, we assume, but perhaps not with good reason, were of a similar nature to the others. RP: In this new book are you using any of the simplified hieroglyphic script which you gave samples and explanations of in The Job? WB: No. That is something that will have to be worked out because there are all sorts of problems. I started trying to learn how to use Egyptian hieroglyphs, but picture writing at a certain point becomes incredibly cumbersome. The grammar is very complicated.To get around this and get something people could write, the scribes must have started at a very early age, I suppose, like the Chinese and I presume they each had a different style. RP: So you don’t feel, as McLuhan does, that print is on the way out? WB: Well, no. What does he think is going to take its place? We know that physics and mathematics have whole non-verbal communication systems. RP: Apparently he thought electronic media, spoken words, and pictures were going to take the place of print. WB: Well, you still have the problem of actual prose. In this book that I am doing with Malcolm, there are lots of sections which go just like film, but the text is really still essential.There are 60 pages of text; we’re already having problems with translating that into images—not that we can’t do it, but that it would take 300 pages to do it all. If we took every sentence and translated it into pictures, we’d have a huge book which would be way out of our
budget. And there are things really that there’s no point in translating into pictures, since they are much clearer in prose. There’s another point where a page of prose can’t do what a picture can. RP: Well, when you said, “Rub out the word,” was that another way of saying, “Learn to use words instead of being used by them?” WB: That’s one I will have to think about. I don’t think when I said that I had any clear idea as to what it would involve, or even what words were. I have been thinking about a whole field theory of words. I have a much clearer idea now as to what would be involved, but it’s something pretty drastic. Of course, it was Brion’s suggestion originally. Let’s say that you would have to first have some idea of what the word is and how it operates. I predict that the word is an actual virus, a virus that has achieved equilibrium with the host, and therefore is not recognized as a virus. I have a number of technical books on that subject, and there are other viruses that have achieved this.That is, they replicate themselves within the cells but they don’t harm the cells. RP: Are you thinking of something like the proliferation of responses to Mailer’s article about Women’s Lib? WB: Not precisely. I mean that a phrase can replicate itself and jump all over the world. It usually is a pretty simple formu l a .A n example: years ago I found out that a cure for the common cold was Vitamin A in massive doses. I’ve used it for years, and it definitely does work.Well, someone seems to have a vested interest in the common cold, because Vitamin A was completely ignored and they started this Vitamin C bit. And Vitamin C is absolutely worthless for a cold. Now time and time again I’ve told people about Vitamin A and they immediately say, in exactly the same tone, “You mean Vitamin C.” It’s a turn-off on Vitamin A.
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RP: Where do you think that turn-off originated? Has it been implanted by some of these vested interests you spoke of? WB: At the time I made this discovery I was working for an advertising agency in New York, and I said, “We’ll put it on the market as a patent medicine.”The company did not want to know because it might wo r k .T h ey said, “The AMA is very down on self-medications.” For years the doctors have been afraid of any really effective panacea, or effective medicines that anyone could use, which are also harmless, so that they wouldn’t have any necessity for a doctor’s prescription. RP: Is this similar to the fear of apomorphine? WB: Yes, I would say so.Apomorphine and the possibility of synthetic derivations which would have a much stronger action— and they could probably eliminate the nausea altogether—could be just such a general panacea against conditions of anxiety and intoxication: a metabolic regulator.Well, a drug with such general application is something that they would regard with considerable misgivings. It is not a dangerous drug actually, and if it were widely used, that would become apparent; there really isn’t any necessity for a prescription. RP: Do you have any information on the introduction of weight heroin into Harlem and into the ghettos during the ‘40s, which seems to have been the beginning of the current problem? WB: I don’t.You see, I was there in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, and the agents then were just beginning to bother addicts. Before they’d been more interested in pushers. RP: Why did they start bothering addicts rather than pushers?
WB: In order to spread it. They kept the pushers continually looking for new markets. RP: Do you see that as a very conscious attempt to spread it for certain, say political ends, or as a tendency of bureaucracies to perpetuate themselves? WB: Both.The tendency of bureaucracies is to increase personnel, of course. If you’ve got one person who isn’t doing anything, then he gets five or six subordinates in, and so it goes.They tend to make themselves necessary. RP: Well, they’re really cracking down on grass and psychedelics now, and causing lots of kids to turn to dow n e rs .T h ey called last year the year of the downers, and none of my friends who used to take acid, say, once or twice a week, have had any in the last year and a half. BRION GYS I N : Did you get uncomfort a ble physical side effects from acid? RP: No, some uncomfortable psychological effects occasionally, but never a bad trip or anything like that. WB: I think it’s horrible stuff. RP: Why do you think it’s horrible stuff? WB: So far as I’m concerned, it has absolutely nightmare reactions—symptoms of an extreme and depressing nature. I felt as if I was on fire. Maybe someone didn’t get all the ergot out of it. But I just don’t want to know about acid. RP: Do you think it can have value for some people?
RP: Do you think cannabis has any effect on sleep or keeping you awake? WB: No.The only result that I have noticed from cannabis is that if you smoke a lot of cannabis. I don’t think anybody has to take it more. RP: Do you have any ideas why many of the popular rock groups today are those that put out a wall of noise for people who come in with wine and seconal head? WB: I don’t know. BG: Oh. cannabis. I was there two years ago for six weeks. in fact. and you never have to increase the dosage or depend on it. and of course. I’m not really in touch with the situation in the States at all. except in certain extreme cases. absolutely none. But you’ll sleep when you are ready to sleep.You really get some terrible effects from that. that is absolutely terrible. in combination… Also it’s very dangerous. but I think everybody should have taken it at least once. OK. and the most unpleasant hangover in the world is the barbiturate hangover. I hear that from a number of sources. you won’t dream as much while 152 153 . So since ‘65 I have only been back for the Chicago Convention and a brief stay in New York… it seems that alcohol is on the increase as opposed to pot. but at least there I’m in an area that I can control. absolutely none. Before a week is out. RP: “Ripple and reds…” WB: Oh my God. BURROUGHS WB: It seems to. But apomorphine is very good for insomnia. WB: I find both mescaline and yagé. I think. It doesn’t take you quite as far out. It’s frequently prescribed in France. Essentially very square people have taken it just once. you’re not going to sleep without them. though it could be—it’s just a question of chemical analysis—much more interesting. and it’s made an astounding difference in their lives and their outlook.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. WB: But couldn’t they have done the same with majoun [a preparation of hashish]? BG: I don’t think so. but I don’t as an observer. which has never been circulated. Amphetamines. Lots of people that take it all the time think they’re benefiting. RP: How about for going to sleep? WB: The worst thing possible because all you’re doing is further interfering with the cycle of sleep and waking. Barbiturates. has the most value. alcohol ups the toxicity by about 30 percent. BG: No. You know. speed. I think barbiturates are really the last indication. I hate the sensation. barbiturates. I just can’t see anything that could possibly result from either barbiturates or amphetamines that could be considered desirable from any point of view. psychedelics—which ones do you think have some value? WB: Cannabis. so sick I couldn’t get any enjoyment out of it. RP: Of the drugs people take to get high—say. Peyote made me terribly sick. but then it’s very dubious. but the experience is to get into an area that you can’t control and realize that you can go there and come back again. you take one nembutal and you go to sleep. No addictive properties at all. and before that I left in 1965.Worse than alcohol. WB: Not quite as far. I’ve always hated barbiturates.
around two years before that. and I just wasn’t doing much work. It had a garden and… WB: Another memorable Madame… BG: The lady from Saigon.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. and there’s talk of decriminalizing it entirely. Now if I’ve been smoking a lot of cannabis and not dreaming. the eventual publishers. then? WB: Right. BG: In a hotel we called the Villa Delirium. RP: Let’s delve into the past a little. The number of people who revolved through those two hotels is really remarkable. who might have made herself rich and famous if she had laid away just a few of the manuscripts of what was written under her roof. On the other hand. She was a funny mixture of peasant shrewdness and hardness along with the most disinterested generosity. It’s quite obvious that you’re doing your dreaming while you’re awake. RP: Do you foresee a situation of cannabis being legalized in the West any time in the near future? WB: I don’t know. I didn’t get there myself until 1958 when I ran into Burroughs on the street. She had her own ideas about who she wanted in her so-called hotel and some people waited forever. and he told me he lived in Room 15. RP: Had you written Naked Lunch in Tangier. WB: O h . buying drinks at her little zinc-covered bar. That’s where the Beat scene in Paris was born. RP: Were you working on the Naked Lunch materials at that time? WB: I wasn’t doing all that much at that time. A Dutch painter turned Allen Ginsberg onto it in 1956. the more likely she was to turn them away. she could see the municipal undertakers going up the stairs to take out a poor old French pauper who’d died in his rent controlled ro o m . Where and what was the “Beat Hotel”? BG: The Beat Hotel was in Paris at 9. I am told. and then I suddenly don’t have any cannabis.t h e re ’s no doubt about it. “Grant too many concessions and they’ll ask for more and more and more. I’ll have very vivid dreams every night. or collected some of the pictures painted in her hotel. Americans pay more. no matter who they were or what they had been in for. The hotel was run by a wonderful French woman named Madame Rachou. If America legalized it. which was another great spot near the beach in Tangier. and she certainly preferred young people—even troublesome young people—to old. RP: Many state laws have been amended to make simple possession a misdemeanor. the better-off anyone looked. had turned the manuscript down the first time. I don’t know if it might happen. All the Beats… 154 155 . For a lot of young people in Paris it was more than a home. rue Gît-le-Coeur. actually. I remember her telling an American that there would be a room ready in 10 minutes. From behind her bar. even beatniks. Girodias of Olympia Press. She would do anything to help anyone just coming out of jail. It would seem to me to be a concession that they could not afford to make. BURROUGHS you’re asleep. everyone would because all the pressure’s coming from A m e ri c a .” It seems doubtful that they could risk making that concession. Lots of politicians have been talking about it. just off the Place Saint-Michel in the Latin Quarter.
which is the area in which it has worked best over a period of time. A book of Rimbaud’s poetry or any extremely visual text will cut up and give you new combinations that are quite va l i d . particularly of images. And I took some of them and arranged them in a pattern which was visually pleasing to me and then typed up the results. there’s only minutes to go!” and I said wow. RP: Does this technique relate to 20th century painting? BG: A whole lot. I don’t know. a single sensation that happens just that one first time. RP: What was it you saw in the cut-ups initially. hurry. Look at it like this: 20th century painting ceased being representational. that is the only question that readers still do ask.” and I slammed the door. An enormous number of musicians.n ew images. And I think it was Gregory who cracked up and said. he was a fantastic cat.41 WB: Terry Southern.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I remembered one day in winter. Mason Hoffenberg…42 BG: The list is really endless. Mel Van Peebles. fat. and I opened the door. after you stopped laughing? WB: Well. Perhaps there could be abstract literature. and I had cut up a number of newspapers accidentally. It was very. that’s the title obviously. and she went banging on the next door. you are drawing a whole series of images out of this page of text. whether being produced on instruments or being played on tapes or re c o rd s . it’s really very funny. for example… BG: Oh. “What is that you’re doing?” RP: Was it during this time that you discovered the cut-up technique? BG: I had a big table on which I worked very often with a Stanley blade. He was around the hotel quite a lot. and I started matching them up. it seems to me. and was very impressed by William’s immediate recognition that here was something extremely important to him. and the title was really pulled right out of the air. But I must say that I had though of it as a rather superior amusement. I saw the possibility of permutations. And it had exactly the same effect on him. and I thought Wo-o-o-o-ow. The pieces sort of fell together.gave up story-telling and became abstract. doing your own cut-ups and seeing the results. “Hurry. It’s a oner. very cold. and here was this big. as abstract as is what we call abstract painting. and did. With great excitement we put together a book. What are words and what are they doing? Where are they going? 156 157 .That young filmmaker. Today only squares can stand in front of a work of art whining: “But what does it mean?” Confronted with a piece of writing. and I have never laughed so heartily in my entire life. We began to find out a whole lot of things about the real nature of words and writing when we began to cut them up. The place was always bubbling with music. In other words. But I was really socked by that. what are you doing?”The old man had got himself into drag. which was Gregory Corso’s across the hall. She really put on such a scene that I just told her. BURROUGHS WB: …and so many people who have really gone places since then. “I don’t know.“But Mezz.They had been underneath something else that I was cutting. The first time around. that he could put to use right away. black woman complaining about something.Why not? We wanted to see. put some kind of makeup on his face and he went through the entire hotel until somebody just said. It seems to me we were standing in the doorway to my Room 25 when someone said. there’s a sort of feeling of hilarity… But it doesn’t happen again. Mezzrow’s son lived there… Mezz Mezzrow!43 My God.
much like a speeded-up movie.William? I have a whole book of permutated poems I’ve never been able to get published. at a certain point. raw material with rules and reasons of its own. Painters and writers of the kind I respect want to be heroes. which follow each other in apparent random order. of intensity and changes of pattern.The biggest block was THAT. wasn’t it. RP: Where do you feel you’ve used cut-ups to greatest advantage? WB: I would say in sections of The Soft Machine. and it does give a much clearer indication as to what I’m doing and the whole theory and development of cut-ups.i t ’s a stroboscope. Within weeks of stumbling on the cut-ups.w h e re art has always been nothing but abstract. But regulated to produce interruptions of light at between eight and 13 flashes a second. In certain sections it has worked. bright color and infinite pattern which is quickly elaborating itself into fields that appear at 180 degrees to begin with.All that period in the Beat Hotel was one enormous intellectual high. Abstract painters found that the real hero of the picture is the paint. so I decided to leave it in the middle.“Mektoub” means “it is written. I fell back on my bed in Room 25 hearing this stage distant ringing in my ears like Newton said he heard the music of the spheres when he stumbled on the laws of gravitation. But depending on one’s own state or the length of time one watches. BURROUGHS The cut-up method treats words as the painter treats his paint. in one word.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. My first move was to put at each end the word I. Make them make a new world. RP: William. imaginary events occurring at a certain speed. In 1960. or eventually bringing the two into phase. one begins with sensations of extraordinary. I came across the Divine Tautology in Huxley’s Heaven and Hell. what about your Dream Machine? You’ve both used it? BG: Ye s . That sounded more like a question. I AM THAT I AM. They went on asking and answering themselves like the links of a chain. I’ve had science fiction dreams. they become like the most elaborate highly structured sort of dreams. I heard them. complementing the alpha rhythms in the brain. I feel that in all those books there was too much rather undifferentiated cut-up material. The Ticket That Exploded and in Nova Express as well. It read: I AM THAT AM I. I gave a program of them on the BBC. I heard the words running away by themselves:THAT I AM. Ou. I’ve imagined that I was swimming over what seemed to be an ocean bottom and that big 158 159 .” So… if you want to challenge and change fate… cut up the words. would you encourage people to read Minutes to Go before reading you subsequent books? It is important for people who want to understand what you’re doing? WB: I think it’s quite an important book. I AM. Representational painters fucked over their paint until they made it tell a tale.What had been one of the most affirmative statements of all time had become a question. As I began to run through some of the other 120 simple permutations of these five words.The cut-up technique has very specific uses. immediately. I took a long look at it and found that the design of the phrase did not please me at all. I actually heard the world falling apart. Ian Sommerville put them through the computer for me. and then give way.There are several different areas of color. I decided to make it more symmetrical by displacing the words. and a poignant one. and they have come out on records issued by Henry Chopin for his review. jingling against each other as they fell apart and changed places musically. simply by changing the word-order around.What is fate? Fate is written:“Mektoub” in the Arab wo r l d . and eventually seem to be occurring around 360 degrees. RP: Brion. challenging fate in their lives and in their art. which I eliminated in The Wild Boys. to things recognized as dream images. and at the moment. I was as high as that. AM I THAT I AM? etc.
RP: Brion has talked about a decay of services—canceled mail deliveries. We struggled along for years and years to try to get someone to manufacture them. under the present circumstances. I’ve watched for literally hundreds of hours. by Ian Sommerville and me. unsafe streets—before the fall of the Roman Empire. there simply isn’t room. Of course.All these empty stre e t s . We put on shows that most of the people who later went into the thing as a business were turned on by— those shows we did in Paris with projections and tapes and sound poetry.S o m e of the people who’ve investigated them. that is the set that I presupposed in The Wild Boys as already existing. so we used to sometimes have to hook up two or three rooms together to get things going. RP: Do you think things might get to the point of there being guerrilla armies of young people throughout the world. Bore down kind of heavy on the whites. But there just haven’t been many of these machines aro u n d . too. people are going back to signal drums or other primitive communications systems. All of them have been related to the sort of visions that one has with the Dream Machine. or flights of them.marching on the citadels of authority? WB: There is a presupposition in The Wild Boys book of some disaster or plague which has reduced the population of the world by about three-quarters. Would I consider events similar to The Wild Boys scenario desirable? Yes. being stronger. So they are in a set that is already quite depopulated. If you started using too many watts. WB: Yes. you’d blow out a fuse. RP: You’re assuming that this plague would’ve killed off mostly older people—that the younger people.e t c. In The Wild Boys civilization is reduced to holding enclaves. have identified a great many of the elements of design all over the world found in weaving or in pottery or in archaeological objects. which means that communications have broken down. about someone.any such thing is impossible. BURROUGHS mollusks at the bottom opened up and through them appeared swimmers in Leonardo da Vinci-type helmets. RP: Did you say something. and a lot of dreams about fights between them. South America. I think it was 99 percent fatal in South Africa and the Bible Belt. And with the very small amount of electricity we were allowed by Madame Rachou. RP: Are the technologically equipped homosexual warrior packs of The Wild Boys projections of yours. they were invented by us in the Beat Hotel. and nothing has ever come of it. and things never repeat themselves.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. including a group in G e rm a ny. Were you thinking of historical parallels? WB: Well. definitely. or a prediction? And are there things about the developments in The Wild Boys scenario that you would consider desirable? WB: Is the book a projection? Yes. would have survived. It’s all simply a personal projection.Well. who like all French hotel keepers rationed it out with a fuse box down in her bistro. doing some of the first light shows during this Beat Hotel period? BG: Yes. There seems to be no end to it. Patterns do. RP: Why aren’t women involved in these bands of wild boy guerrillas? 160 161 . A prediction? I hope so.i t ’s never been possible to have them made. there’s very little gasoline. desirable to me. Apparently they can eventually be learned and re c og n i z e d . there’s no place to go.
they would appear superhuman. Quite a bit of it is really 19th century. WB: Indeed they wo u l d . sifting through them many. Have you read African Genesis? Well. RP: Have you got any ideas on what that might lead to? WB: I don’t know. It’s a quite complicated machine.And that’s what no politician can ever admit.T h ey could be given female babies to raise from birth. and very carefully selecting the phrases from the cut-ups.Well. I’ve seen rather more lately. too. “Boys the whole thing just won’t work. but what I was proposing on an overall scale is that the present human product seems to have gotten itself into a real bind. they may be indispensable to some people. but they’re not necessarily indispensable to me. if they never dropped anything.They go on trying to do the same things that just don’t work. There is only one game and that game is war.You can’t get up there and say. 162 163 .That is. It is another organism with interests perhaps basically irre c o n c i l a ble with the male interest—which has installed itself as indispensable. nowhere near. RP: Have you seen any signs of mutations such as you’re looking for beginning to occur? WB: Well. they’re quite capable of doing. fumbled anything. RP: Do you feel that that game is genetically built into the species as it exists now? WB: Yes. there was the aggressive southern ape who survived because he was a killer. RP: What kind of characteristic do they have that are different? WB: Well. RP: Did you use cut-ups in The Wild Boys? WB: Yes. Now. obviously. I certainly have no objections— if lesbians would like to do the same… RP: Women who had never had contact with men would be a pretty different animal. And what we need is variety. but sparingly. I don’t know whether a genetic mutation would be necessary for this. but if people were actually in control over their bodies. So I was merely proposing this as one experimental line that I would be most interested to follow. BURROUGHS WB: I have a number of things to say on that subject… Because women are trouble. at one time there may have been many humanoids. It’s a different style of writing. The only problem is that after thousands of years they’ve never learned to operate their own machine. boys who had never had contact with women would be quite a different animal. perhaps. I think that in The Wild Boys I was really quite deliberately returning to older styles of writing. many times. but only one strain survived. Which. in the direction of mutations from the present humanoid form. in other words. They could mutate into birds. mutations. occasionally you do see really quite extraordinary people that look like they might be mutating. and has really in a sense forced his way of life on the whole species.” RP: Does the writing technique in The Wild Boys differ from that of the previous four novels? WB: Yes. I didn’t use it to the extent it was used in The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine and Nova Express. they should learn over a period of time. but still. that is.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. We can’t imagine what they would be like.
RP: Eric Mottram calls your first four novels “The Tetralogy. around 1955 or 54.That is. And a month later it was out on the bookstands. So I used that in the dream section where the Boy is dying in the jungle. That was Naked Lunch. it’s set back. is make capitalism work.The Soft Machine. I thought. And I did. I thought it might have more popular appeal… And that of course brings them into conflict with the sinister forces of Big Money. and he sent Sinclair Beiles over to say that he wanted to publish it within two weeks. In high fevers the images cut in quite arbitrarily. but they’re much more efficient. RP: Is The Wild Boys closely connected to your previous novels. RP: Succeed at what? WB: Well. A few years later I was back to Pa ri s . everything I’m doing now is connected with The Wild Boys. and Sinclair Beiles44 took one look and said.And they succeed because they are incestuous.And then I had to get together one book for Girodias in two weeks. or does it stand by itself? WB: I think it stands by itself.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. RP: Is that the last or the next Depression? WB: The last one. two brothers and two sisters—completely interc h a n g e a ble sexual combinations. RP: So this is a very different scenario sexually from The Wild Boys. That’s just sure chance. because that is what is happening. 164 165 . “Why don’t you leave it like this? And we did.” Is a similar grouping emerging from your new work? WB: Yes. as the chapters were going in as we typed them out. and to some extent The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express even. they buy up the dust bowl. That is how it happened. and I sent one version to Maurice Girodias. in a sense. and nobody could compete with these families. so they keep people there on the land and turn them all into incestuous family groups. and others in which they are not.There’s no carry-over of characters as there are in the other books. by selling short during the Depression they’re able to fill a swimming pool with gold dollars. which chapter goes where is going to be very complicated. And also there are literary situations in which they are useful. mother. Naked Lunch. but it came back from the printers. I think. were all part of about a thousand pages of manuscript. Then I had lots of material left over and I started writing The Soft Machine from that but there were no cut-ups as such used in Naked Lunch at all. but it’s approached in the same way? WB: Yes.The comic strip is using one of the same characters. liberated from all their inhibitions. Now in recreating a d e l i ri u m . BURROUGHS RP: Has there been a progression in your writing to use them more sparingly and with more precision and control? WB: Yes. as well as the other book… RP: What does this other book have to do with? WB: It concerns an incestuous family of father.t h ey ’re good. Not only are they happier. They piled up over a period of years.What they do. they’re subverting the whole meaning of money. who didn’t want it at that time. RP: How far does that material go back? WB: The actual notes for Naked Lunch started.
completely. I don’t see how you could bring about any deconditioning in two talks. I went into those ideas in The Job and in the Academic Series. and who will be controlling in 25 or 30 ye a rs . so therefore they knew how to go about doing it. for example. to achieve the level of awareness that they claim they’re able to achieve. In other words. the general proposition of all these free universities is there to teach people to think for themselve s . and I feel that in view of electric brain stimulation and autonomic shaping. To fight for that world in the streets. and I think that would teach them to transport themselves efficiently. Of course. like how to make change. They’re running things now. suppose the young people are in power simply because they’re the only people left in 30 years. before you can go about taking the necessary measures. but I don’t think any writer has ever lived long enough to really discover these or codify them. I would teach people very definite things. etc. and so on.Were you applying the deconditioning process we talked about early? WB: Hardly.” Would you still say that today? WB: My ideas have undergone a number of changes since The Job. RP: If you were running such a university. Now by product I mean. If they were able.“If you want the world you could have in terms of discoveries and resources now in existence. it would seem odd that their area is in such a complete mess. All of those things mentioned could be taught and would be extremely beneficial. BURROUGHS RP: We haven’t talked about your teaching gig in Switzerland. after all these thousands of years. and I had 20 to 30 students in each talk. through yogic disciplines. What I mean is. when the old reactionaries and that whole stratum has died out.You must have some idea as to the product you wish to turn out. And what are they going to do? 166 167 . personally I’ve always drawn very much of a blank on yoga. or as efficiently as possible. RP: You said at the end of The Job with particular reference to young people. And I think that’s where that university. I would not be inclined to spend much time on slower methods for accomplishing the same thing. If I was running such a university. There are techniques of writing. I was vaguely teaching “Creative Writing. be prepared to fight for that world. the English public schools were set up to turn out these old school ties. certainly nothing of the sort is taking place in the East. in sufficient quantity. It’s questionable whether they can go on breeding their old forms. and many others that were formulated on a similar basis. There’s not much point in that now. My impression of the University of the New World was that while the general idea was good. English gentlemen who ran the Empire when they had one. but at least they knew what they were trying to do. It’s questionable in my mind whether these Eastern disciplines do have very much to offer.They haven’t come up with solutions to the overpopulation. even in a street crap game. I mean. Now. stockbrokers and lawyers and whatever. How to do things. But certainly the most important factor is the young. have broken down. I would set up a number of dummy situations.w h a t ever that may mean. there was not a clear enough concept as to what the education process was supposed to bring about. in this case of what they were going to teach people to do. soil exhaustion. how to get service. where is India? If we’re thinking now in terms of possible new mutations into more efficient forms. their statistics are not all that good. would you offer the synthesis of Eastern/mystical and Western/technological disciplines you proposed in the Academy Series? WB: Well.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I gave two talks. But it all has to be quite precise when it comes to actually giving courses.”There’s a question in my mind as to whether writing can be taught.
so leadership is casual and you have no control machine. In Vietnam they’re getting their arms from the N o rt h . you must remember that America is not in a state of revolution. particularly in rich land. education. You may have. is terrific and ultimately insoluble. workers and priests—in other words. in order to survive. or even a good percentage of them. spears. I mean. and some approximation of small arms. and any guerrilla movement. like electric brain stimulation. And one reason that they are is. which can only number about 30. no guerri l l a 168 169 . It is not even in a state of pre-revolution. stratification. would impose certain necessities on anybody that used it—that’s another consideration.N ow the question of whether the control machine.. the advantage of slave labor then becomes apparent and you will tend to get inequality. stone axes. and therefore make the changes. Now as soon as you get an agricultural society. either occupying all those positions or nullifying them. The control machine is simply the machinery—police. as to the effectiveness of street fighting in a revolutionary context. Now in 20 or 30 years all the Wallace folks.—used by a group in power to keep itself in power and extend its power.Are these generation ties more binding than national. The liberals in the Colombian civil war had seized an area that bordered on Venezuela. and so on. The workers all had such weapons as were available. tanks. Of course. The ancient Mayans had almost a modern control machine through which about one or two percent of the population controlled the others. planes. Now. the media. of course. They will become their elders. there’s nothing that could be called a control machine in operation. RP: Do you foresee these ties eventually unifying the world’s youth to the point where they can destroy the control machine being perpetuated by their elders? WB: Certainly. RP: Is the modern control machine’s dependence on heavy weapons a sign that psychological control is breaking down? WB: Yes. if they’ve got some cool pot-smoking cat as President. no government has ever survived for any length of time anywhere by sheer force because of the personnel that they would have to have. will have died. hear the same music. family ties? WB: Yes. Anybody can make a sword or a spear. machine guns. in a hunting society. So it was pure psychological control. if they have to. the whole concept of revolution has undergone a basic change with the introduction of heavy weapons. very definitely. But they certainly would be more willing to listen to the idea of basic alterations. as you said earlier. and to some extent it would. etc. Of course. BURROUGHS RP: You’ve often pointed out attitudes and styles shared by young people all over the word—they dress similarly. use cannabis and other consciousness expanding drugs. without police. Without something comparable to that.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. etc. w h o ’s going to take their place? Occupying all the positions that are now occupied by their elders. etc. as with the Mayans and Egyptians. so they were getting their arms in through Venezuela. they’ll all have to get out of Vietnam. and perhaps change it. without heavy weapons. must have supplies from outside. For example. So with heavy weapons five percent can keep down 95 percent by just sheer force. but they can’t make automatic weapons. They would have to have constant surveillance unless they used some form of psychological control. cultural. a control machine. We l l . They must function effectively as a hunting party in order to survive. The French had to get out of Algeria. he’s not going to make the same kind of decisions or impose the same policies . you’re bound to have a whole different picture. repression. of course. But the problem that you see in all guerrilla warfare of occupying a territory where the governed are hostile.
the right wing? 170 171 . They may talk about guerrilla movements in the large cities. there’d be no reason for their existence. street fighting is a very important factor. But a new generation just might not be interested in such things. I don’t take back what I said in The Job. Usually they develop antitoxins at the same time. RP: Do you think any particular dissatisfied group in the society might be most inclined to use this kind of weapon? Say.” WB: Yes. In the chaos following an atomic attack on America. And that. any small country or any private group with a good biochemist and a small laboratory. It could be done in a place as small as this room. you understand.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. countries like Colombia and Pe ru — t h ey all have armies and they all consider that Peruvians are bad people. but they’re just not talking in realistic terms. They don’t have the potential for much support in America. And incidentally.They accomplished something. and therefore they could supply their guerrillas in the cities. a virus that will do what you want it to do. It could be quite possible.This is a game universe. if they know how. They can make a virus to order. It is not once a country reaches a certain technological stage. BURROUGHS movement is ever going to be able to survive. because it’s not meant to be solved. Basically there’s only one game and that game is war. Someone will do it. Nothing big. of course. with that much technical knowledge and about $300. that there should be more riots and more violence. If they can make life particles. RP: What would you say to young people who want to change things through street fighting? WB: The only context in which street fighting would become important would be in the wake of some catastrophe. to develop a plague that would attack only whites. or Ecuadorians are bad people. Everyone just feels a little worse and a little worse until they can’t get out of bed and the whole thing founders. can turn out a low-yield nuclear device and take out New York from Times Square to Central Park. of course. Now if a generation took over that just wasn’t interested in maintaining these states. it is already insoluble. Otherwise. In Algeria the rebels occupied the mountains. It could just come on as a paralyzing depression. I don’t think street fighting is at all a viable tactic or a revolutionary tactic in the States.” That means. because at that time—May. 1968—they were indicated. for example. So that would not seem to be a viable tactic at present. any college physics major. and we just have to keep it going if we’re to have political/military units at all. Any small country with good biochemists can now make the virus for which there is no cure. is kept going by the military and by the very wealthy people. no violence. The thing about virus weapons is that they need not be recognized as such. They’ve got all those countries on the West coast of South A m e ri c a . there’d be no reason for these countries to have any boundaries or armies at all. there’s no doubt about it. There are. RP: You also wrote in The Job “once a problem has reached the political-military stage. possibly an atomic war.“This is the beginning of the end. If there had been no riots. they would not pay nearly as much attention to militants or their demands as they are paying now. of course. they can make death particles. I have a reference from the science representative of one of America’s major embassies commenting on the discovery of the synthetic gene.And also an underground army must have popular support. RP: But how do you protect yourself from it if there’s no cure? WB: No cure for the attack. and those are biological and chemical weapons.000. weapons that anyone can make in their basement.
They said they spent a great deal of time and money on it. somebody who could take the whole thing together and see it as a whole.” that is. blending one into the other. BG: That is where we picked up the title. of what the two of you have achieved through your collaboration? WB: Yes. Since 1965… WB: So much work has gone into the project… BG: …not only ours but… WB: … the designer’s at Grove Press. what did you mean when you said “Rub out the word”? BG: “Rub out the word” has essentially to do with the fact that all the religions of the “people of the book. And I suppose as Grove’s troubles grew.I t ’s probably one of the saddest stories in publ i s h i n g . Tim Leary’s Jail Notes has a credit at the beginning saying it was designed by Bob Cato. all these three religions are based on the idea that in the beginning was the wo rd . The left is still back there with Che Guevara and barricades and bullets. From the beginning it needed a stylist. And it has something to do with publishing itself.They presumably did. apparently outrageous to them. like Robert Brownjohn did. maybe cut it differently.” What’s the source of this concept? WB: A book called Think and Grow Rich. And that’s the kind of thing we were after.E ve rything seems to be wrong with what was produced from those beginnings. Obviously the whole problem of how to get text and image together is beyond them except at really outrageous prices. RP: B ri o n . and never got. the Christians and the Moslems. and presumably Bob Cato does. RP: Any ideas why it hasn’t been published? BG: Well. from the very first cut-ups through elaboration into scrapbook layouts.There are several different typefaces used. We’re very sure that we’ll have to sit down and look at it. contrasting.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.I t ’s taken so long to get nowhere. I think. something that they weren’t willing to admit. the Jews. and so let’s rub out the word and start afresh and see what really is going o n . I think it’s partly connected with Grove’s troubles in general. Our book The Third Mind is about all the cut-up materi a l s . in words and pictures. would definitely be foolish. BURROUGHS WB: I think the right wing more than the left. RP: The book is statement. and it’s a very handsome book typographically. after years of yathering and great insistence on our part. exactly that. but that’s neither here nor there when their legal position was that they had to either do it or hand us back the stuff. they kept putting this thing off. BG: It says that when you put two minds together… WB: …there is always a third mind… BG: …A third and superior mind… WB: …As an unseen collaborator. cut texts and images. RP: You and Brion have described your collaborations over the years as the products of a “third mind. and they finally have handed it back. But to hesitate to use them. The methods we re first of all a disruption of the time 172 173 .
and we don’t. verbalization has got us precisely where we are: war is a word. and that his alteration was then genetically conveyed.The whole war universe is a verbal universe. If the whole thing began with the word. it would certainly be a step in the same direction. And in order to break out of that impasse it would seem desirable to explore alternative methods of communication.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I’ve seen the Naked Lunch filmscript which Brion adapted from the book. as William said a few minutes ago. The reason apes can’t talk is because their inner throat structure is not set up to do so. RP: What precisely is the desirability of not verbalizing? WB: Well. so an attempt at finding them would begin by rubbing out the word. Most people never stop talking— “talking to themselves” as they call it.We can imagine that the word could have occasioned the alterations in the inner throat structure that made the words possible. What these alterations would be we have no way of knowing. not simply disrupting its sequential order and finding out some other way. rubbing out the word could make objective alterations in the actual physio-psychological structure. There are other ways of communication. the more you know what you’re actually dealing with.What is the current state of your movie making project? BG: The shooting script is finalized and budgeted. All we need is half a million dollars to finance it. and one had the idea of rubbing out the word itself. And by knowing what it actually is. But who are they actually talking to. 174 175 . and why? Why can’t they simply lapse into silence? RP: In my case. WB: Rubbing out the word would probably entail considerable physiological alterations in the whole structure. Now. let’s get right to the root of the matter and radically alter it. what are you thoughts on the future of writing? WB: The future of writing is to see how close you can come to making it happen. Have you got any ideas? RP: Ummm… Just one more question: William. produced by the cutups. BURROUGHS sequence. because I have just a couple more questions. you can supersede it. which means they’ve got us in an impasse.The more precise your manipulation or use of words is. Or use it when you want to use it. RP: How would you compare exploring these avenues to exploring more and more precise manipulation of words? WB: Well. well then if we don’t like what was produced. what the word actually is.
say. But they can’t go too far without cutting the ground under their feet. that the word is. in the We s t . 1975 In May 1975. you can immediately communicate with anyone in writing because the symbol remains the same.We have to face the fact that a leftist revolution is out of question in this country. as can be seen very clearly in a pictorial or character language. an image. Now as for the global depression. T h ey can pro d u c e depression.a n d what are their relationship to language and to communication? WB: Nobody seems to have any clear idea and perhaps it is wrong to say. Because of this I suggest that writing may have come before talking. in fact.William Burroughs was invited to lecture at the Naropa Institute in Boulder.We. If you know a hieroglyphic language. “What are the words?” as though there was something that words implicitly are. That’s gone.] ANGELO LEWIS: In 1969 you postulated a future of guerrilla armies marching on the police machine throughout the world. as witness the breakdown on censorship and the phenomenon of Watergate. [Ed.What are the principle means at our disposal for transforming the planet? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: The situation has changed immeasurably since the late ‘60s. or Chinese. Now we’re in 1975 and the world seems on the verge of global depression. I think Nixon will go down to history as one of the great folk heroes of America. you postulate that the white race results from a nuclear explosion in the Gobi desert some 30. In this sense. He has destroyed the whole diseased concept of the revered image of the Presidency. On the other hand there 176 177 . So a written word is something that refers to a written word. like ancien Egyptian. Colorado. in my childhood. BURROUGHS T H E W H I T E T H R E AT has been a terrific cultural revolution.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Could you tell us just what are wo rd s . there’s very little difference between a written word and a spoken word.h ave lost sight of the fact that the written symbol. I don’t think it will ever make a come back. It will never enjoy the prestige that it had. they can collapse currencies at will. the most powerful instrument in the hands of the rich. Burroughs will often spend his summers teaching at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics founded by Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg. AL: For me the genius of your work is the successful manipulation of word and image towards achieving an altered state of consciousness in the reader.The political hopes that many of us held proved to be unfounded. is economic contro l — t h ey control pri c e s . Exterminator!. AL: In your latest book.000 years ago which wiped out the civilization and tech- Boulder. which merged Tibetan Buddhism and counter-culture. of course. That is the essence that has permeated Western philosophy—there is something that isn’t there by the use of the symbol.
no virus that exists at the present time acts this way.” Freud called this ancient parasite the unconscious. was very decisive.The only survivors were ignorant slaves who became albinos as a result of radiation and scattered in different directions. the difference being that this virus was due perhaps to some radiation which is no longer in effect. And this radiation may not be the same kind as we are accustomed to think of. the yellow race may have resulted from an attack of a virus like jaundice which turned their skins yellow. If you go back 200 to 300 years. AL: So it is this unconscious feature of the white that. you would have found it described… It seems that cancer came in with the industrial revolution and that any lead is worth following… AL: In your work. however. Eastward towards Persia and India. BURROUGHS niques that made the explosion possible. The Arabs are white and they didn’t have it.I t ’s harmless. is a disease? WB: It would seem to me to be so. are the white race? WB: This cave experience. Anyone who have not had the cave experience is basically different… Who. It’s also becoming pandemic—one in five will die of cancer. But the medical establishment won’t even listen or try to do any t h i n g . Of course. The whites who went to India and Turkey didn’t have the cave experience. 178 179 . in your opinion.We know. but if there had been as many cancer cases as there are now. why not try it? AL: Because they have a vested interest in the cancer patient? WB: It’s a big business. I think that the importance of Reich cannot be overestimated. And I’m con- vinced that experimentation could lead to something. Similarly you could imagine a radiation or an illness which caused people to turn white and then this white color was genetically conveyed. that people who lose power can have quite severe symptoms. I talked to a psychoanalyst who is treating Moroccans and he said that they simply did not have an unconscious… Their whole inner structure is different. in your opinion. like a nuclear blast. Now. I was thinking rather of Orgone Accumulators as possible cancer cure. I extended that into a whole theory of evolution by postulating a virus which occasioned biological changes which were then genetically conveyed… In other words. you’ll find no references to cancer. “a hideous threat to life on this planet. you frequently suggest a relationship between drug-addiction and control-addiction. which was only undergone by certain whites. It is in these caves that the white settlers contracted a virus that made them what they are today.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. It does become a bit confusing to speak of control addicts or reading addicts. Not so much for his experiments with sex. For example the image of the president as a contact junkie in Nova Express… W B : I would be inclined to modify this statement. etc. Also remember that cancer is a new disease. or settling Westward into caves. There is some similarity in that the buffer between them and the world suddenly has been removed… AL: What advice do you have for any of us in the 20th century who are interested in transforming the planet into a garden of Eden? WB: [Laughs] Get rid of about half of the people. medical diagnosis was very imprecise. What you are speaking of in actual addictions is a metabolic dependence on that particular drug.
The Old Lines Are Breaking Down: American Celebrity .
who they are. feminists booed male speakers. not referring so much to clinical schizophrenia but to the fact that the culture is divided up into all sorts of classes and gro u p s . Laing. and he delivered an important paper called: “The Limits of Control. fights erupted. Joel Kove l . organized an international conference on Prison and Madness. Complete control of the mind was a practical possibility. Jean-François Lyotard.” [Ed. Burroughs outlined the limits encountered by the new techniques of control used in the United States. the audience split between French theorists 182 183 . declared that this was “the last countercultural event of the '60s. ex-cons. or counter-culture is? WB: Well. a new cultural magazine. originating in the French Department at Columbia University. Just returned to the United States the year before from his long European exile.This was one of his first US performances. BURROUGHS SCHIZO-CULTURE and American lecturers. Gilles Deleuze. but without will or motivation. There would be nothing there. William Burroughs had temporarily settled in Denver.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. control becomes a meaningless proposition.”Actually it announced the '90s. This cocktail of minds proved to be explosive. ex-mental patients. Foucault.”Twenty-five years later.e t c. Foucault. “When there is no more opposition. Alerted by the media. Some of the old lines are breaking down. In this paper. Semiotext(e). yes. It is during this two-day convention that William Burroughs and John Cage for the first time met their neo-anarchist counterparts.This defining is a luxury which our affluent society permits itself. Q: Do you think too much concentration is being placed in our society on identifying and describing what exactly our culture.” subsequently published in the Schizo-Culture issue of Semiotext(e) in 1978. artists. in front of a rowdy audience of 2. Poor people in Morocco and Spain are too busy keeping alive to think about what they are. Q: Do you think there is a chance the United States will go fascist? New York. life would become unconceivable. at the time of the Nova Convention. deeply upset. and this is a healthy sign. psychiatrists Felix Guattari. Deleuze referred to this lecture in his “Postscript on Control Societies. Colorado.f e m i n i s t theorist Ti-Grace Atkinson and Arthur Danto. Publicly accused of being a CIA agent (like Laing). 1975 In November 1975. yet unknown in this country (except for Michel Foucault) and American artists and intellectuals whose views on politics and aesthetics were in close resonance to their own. the conference halls were mobbed. planted provocateurs sprang to their feet.000 mixing late '60s radicals. feminists. and Marxist academics. but also Ronald D. The idea was to put together a group of post-Structuralist philosophers coming from France.] QUESTION: What is a “schizo-culture” according to you? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I think Schizo-culture is being used here in a special sense. young activists.
E ven 10 or 20 years ago. then control reverts almost to a medieval warlord state where anybody with a small army is in a pretty good position. Q: Your analysis is quite good. Is that what you mean by control reaching a point at which it doesn’t exist? Q: But we are not in the Middle Ages anymore. because you won’t. BURROUGHS WB: Every time they’ve done it they’ve regretted it. If you have complete anarchy. they have made a concession. I don’t say that they won’t. Q: You don’t see that point coming? WB: I could see it coming under certain circumstances. We are not anywhere near that. I am talking about what’s happened up to now. The right to protest is a very i m p o rtant concession. I wouldn’t speculate about the future. I say they’ll regret if they do. that there is going to be a trade-off point? WB: Trade-off point. Q: You said that you are optimistic that change would continue in the present dire c t i o n . should come down to an area of total noncontrol. A minority group 30 ye a rs ago had absolutely no recourse against police brutality. They know what happened in the Roman Republic. Don’t expect to get everything at once. Now at least they can protest.A re we then to assume that this is going to terminate in complete lack of control at some point in the future? Or rather.When they start revoking a censorship. more pragmatically.A g a i n . they can’t very well take everything back at this point.theoretically at least. and that’s important. but it might only be valid for enlightened self-interest among leaders . I think there will be continued modification of contro l . fooling ourselves with all these cultural revolutions? WB: Are we fooling ourselves? Very serious concessions have been made. Q: What do you mean by a continued modification? WB: What we have seen in the last 20 ye a rs . the specific techniques that will have to be established. Remember that all censorship is political. or reestablished when the level of control is low? WB: It depends on what you mean by a low level of control. Some of these people have read history after all. But none of these things are right here now. or anything else.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. there was no right to protest. 184 185 .A re we not. according to you. but how would you see that happening now? WB: It doesn’t happen. But it seems clear also that societies reconstitute themselves at high levels of control. What are. It isn’t happening now. or even around the corner. Q: Are we to assume that there will be a culmination of this process? WB: I am not a prophet.We may be able to explain how power would be reconstituted in the Middle Ages. they know what happened in Germany. and that undoubtedly has had an effect. such as you might have if we got into a war with China and this country were subject to atom bombing. Q: We seem to be going through a continual diffusion of power which.We are not in a state of anarchy. after all. all those places. and to a lesser extent what happened in Spain. if we got a war or with a complete economic collapse.
Like the Jews. which is not actually a community since there are people in it with disparate interests. 186 187 .Where is all the food coming from—it is brought in. as we have seen in actual practice. They have the same sort of hysterical reactive attitude which you find in any kind of persecuted group. That state of pro t e s t becomes a state of aggression that’s totally binding. a persecuted minority. BURROUGHS Q: Can you envision a complex social organization where control doesn’t exist? WB: No. They’re scared as hell that suddenly we’ll have a fascist state and all gays will be thrown in concentration camps. right? The whole unseen bureaucracy is bringing that food and putting it in shops. these things can happen. So any system must find a way to keep those people on their jobs. So really they ’re continuing a circ l e because they realize that suddenly they may be the big scapegoat. providing power. not with regard to a heterogeneous city population. etc. A certain amount of control is absolutely necessary. A LM O ST M I SS A M ER I CA WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I was speaking about the so-called gay community. doing the crusade against homosexuality. and no wonder after we’ve had such phenomena as Anita Bryant. It’s all very well to say that they should get out of their position of defense. the Miss America down in Florida. It’s very important that they get out of the whole defensive protest position which they’re still in. millions would be starving overnight. JOHN GIORNO: I agree with yo u . but it’s going to be difficult because.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. If those people didn’t work.
JG: There’s never been a battle—that’s totally correct! There’s never been a battle in the world except in our minds. WB: I’m inclined to think it is. that gay writers are more profound. I think this is shallow and inadequate. It’s a different object.N ow. since we’ve been forced into the same position as the Jews. 188 189 .” and actually rattlers from Florida wiped out a whole nest of snake handlers. JG: There must a non-aggressive. JG: Do you think of yourself as a gay writer? WB: No. JG: How so? WB: Well. and if it’s done properly there’s some kind of energy. Like snake handlers. I do not for one minute think that homosexuality is any different from any other kind of sexuality or desire. dangerous lunatics. what makes me a gay or homosexual writer is working with images of desire. perhaps we should enact the same strategy.We should try to get our own state like Israel.” Can “Kill a Jew for Jesus” be far behind? And she’s got 5. WB: I have no quarrel with that. JG: That’s the point. WB: Well.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. JG: But don’t you think there’s some other space? The reason why everything now for gays in the Western world is so good is because of you and Allen. but in totally accomplished sexuality there is no man or woman in the space of their sexuality. the moral is the abysmal ignorance of this fucking lower-church Protestant thing. it’s a different object.000 signature s .” An abomination from the Bible. I don’t know what that means. We know that a lot has come from the Christian religion. “It’s an abomination. Talking about man and man lying with each other and doing that which is inconvenient. my dear.Well. “Pick ye up serpents. The panic reaction is always met by a larger reaction. I agree with you about the aggression that comes with being a politically active gay.There’s some kind of other dance. Paul. absolute lunatics. and this has been going on for thousands of years. but there’s another non-aggressive way of doing it in a very active fashion. They’re lunatics. Someone who’s attracted to a candlestick may not be attracted to a boot or an old tin can—it’s a different object. Not from Christ himself—he was probably a faggot—but from St. doing this thing which expanded and expanded. I wouldn’t say that either. Gays have been living in relative security. Like the Jewish Defense League trying to ally themselves with the most reactionary elements. non-hysterical way of dealing with the anti-gay backlash occurring in the world. WB: And the defensive doctrinaire attitude that gays are more sensitive and better than other people. Quoting the Bible or any long book out of context you can prove absolutely anything. JG: Do you consciously have that sexual division? Because the way I work and feel. you know what I mean? WB: Of course. years ago. It’s energy. just as there should not be two men. I’m obviously a homosexual writer with hardly a woman in his books. The question arises as to who is really down on homosexual practices and precisely why. “Kill a queer for Christ. BURROUGHS WB: It also brings down the very thing that they fear. And as Anita Bryant is saying down there.
This is a very important idea. But queers are taking over our kids with dope. WB: And also to protect us against our enemies outside of our state. JG: Do you believe every gay should have a gun? WB: No. Heterosexuals would be welcome in the Gay State so long as they don’t engage in any subversive political activity. I believe that gays should be allowed to live in an allgay community. whereby we are saying that as long as one enemy to our sacred community draws breath. JG: Do you think the CIA has been affected by all the bad publicity? Do you think it has affected its operability? WB: Not seriously. a gay everything. Of course.They are. a ghetto is really a sublime place.Were a person associated with only the people he wanted to associate with. JG: Unless you have a good secret service and a very powerful state. JG: William. Well. may not ever want to see another white person as long as they live.This would be a very healthy thing—a gay laundry and a gay restaurant. yes. I really think they are the best secret service in the world. we are not safe.What I’m saying is the lunacy on which we’ve all been brought up. have an all-black community.That’s not what I’m saying at all. they don’t go as far. what do you think of communities like the West Village where ninety percent of it is gay? WB: Well. but they don’t attempt as much. BURROUGHS JG: It’s the mind projecting it in space.There’s also the question: if you’re happy and secure in a ghetto situation. that’s fine. you may not be aware in time of dangers brewing from the outside. The CIA is more in touch with present times. Because god knows he might organize an anti-queer crusade. There may be blacks who. WB: Not at all. He doesn’t always have to be faced by some hostility from someone who has a different idea. it could be managed that way. the right of a person to live in a community of people he relates to and who relate to him. JG: What would be the policy regarding heterosexuals? WB: Well. JG: Would you model it after the CIA? British Foreign Service? WB: If I modeled it after anything it would be the CIA. JG: Is the Gay State a real geographic place too? WB: It would have to be. Gay State! WB: We’ll have the best secret service in the world. If this could extend through our society. there wouldn’t be any policy. the thing escalates. this would be a great source of harmony. with good reason. Now you can see we’re getting into a very interesting philosophical area. WB: In a sense.The fact that there’s 190 191 .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. From mild anti-Semitism to death camps. But the more extreme it gets on any side. JG: So in other words. JG: And that is what the secret service is for. For all its mistakes the British never get caught with their pants down. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t arrange it.
in this country or that country. JG: How do you say we deal with these illusions? WB: I don’t have any panacea. naturally.We’ll have a black hole. evil is anything that fucks me up. We’ve got to kill them all. So this whole irreconcilable conflict of interests is obviously the terminal insanity of the Dualistic universe. In the hope of averting such a confrontation. WB: We poets and artists have to think about our work. JG: But don’t you think. do you think. Suck your orange. if it were in your power. isn’t it? WB: And the Christians say. JG: But isn’t that the basic nature of the world of desire? It doesn’t have to be Jews or gays. the Christians always assumed that they were right and were going to win. across the river. Good or Bad. We don’t need many of these fuckers. Like. Burroughs?” 192 193 . it gives an equal push to the other side. good is sure to win. JG: It’s like going to Hollywood and being a star. being rooted in stupidity. the Christians are at a great disadvantage in the struggle. But it goes through the whole society. like we took America from the Indians. known as D u a l i s m .William. JG: It’s just like fucking. gives rise to the stupidest terms like. Obviously this is the most primitive kind of thinking that dates back to the origin of the species. And this has been going on for thousands of years. good is anything that helps me and improves me.Ask me a question. We have all we need now. The forces of Good and Bad are absolutely equal. Simple as that. They couldn’t believe they could possibly lose. I would think.“Mr. In the spirit of our society. With the illusion that they are going to win. is just part of the same dynamics. would you make heterosexual activities as illegal as homosexual activities are now? Do you think that you would have it in your heart to do this? Mr. WB: And the Mafia only has room for about 15 hit men a year. WB: It’s the nature of rivalry and time. If anybody’s got something they took it from somebody else. People falling all over themselves to be an abject hit man. get to be a hit man. But illusions try to make themselves as real as possible. BURROUGHS terrible people out there. and that’s the important thing. territorial rights. it could be anybody. that the dynamics of the situation you describe are based on illusion? WB: Remember everything is illusion.” Obviously they have no objective orientation at all. Burroughs.The most sought-after job in a slum environment is being a hit man for the Mafia. “There ain’t room for both of us in this town. JG: A black hole. In Christian terms.Talk about a travesty of civilization. If you really accept the doers of Good and Evil. “We’re going to win because we’re right. you come to realize that the actual power of each of them must be the same.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.” There ain’t room for me and Anita Bryant in the same town. Out of thousands of street-corner punks maybe ten or fifteen get in the Mafia. white or black. the whole shit-house will go up. Because every time Evil gets a big push. which leads to a stalemate or an anti-matter explosion. people are being encouraged to leave the industry. and this is the Manichaean philosophy—the fight between Good and Evil. But in the Manichaean terms it was a fight that was up for grabs. in order to gain currency. And there ain’t no compromise.There’s a possibility that what we call Good and Evil is really matter and anti-matter and when they get together for a final confrontation.This stems from a very ancient reputable philosophical concept.
I would not hesitate. queers. more life.k i ke s . unless there was some smart son-of-a-bitch starting some trouble.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. 194 195 . huh? Yeah! So that’s the way I feel about this whole thing. And I said to him I haven’t been thinking about homosexuality for the last past half hour. And it’s just desire. It’s unthinkable that I would harm any person at all or do wrong to any man. JG: There’s this thing called desire which is a basic unexplained energy. JG: We were conversing about money. I would not hesitate. JG: There’s no difference between gay and heterosexual men. It doesn’t matter what the object is: it’s desire.L i ke the senator said.“I believe in more of everything. the grasping of something. every fucking thing that crawls around on this earth. I would not hesitate to use that power even if the whole fucking universe blew up!” JG: Right on! WB: Right on! Ye a h . which is basically great.” So he must have been neglecting his business. I would not hesitate. Like long hair and macho.“I would not hesitate to use the cobalt bomb against Russia. a stranglehold. exactly. Because after all. and then you can have heterosexual men who are obsessed with sex. After all. JG: Well. So I think this follows what I was saying about gays getting out of a defensive prickly position where they’ve got to be gay twenty-four hours a day. I will tell you that if I had to use that power to prevent certain forces from taking over and corrupting and degrading eve rything that we Americans hold dear.You can relax and think about other subjects. what do you say? WB: I go all mealy-mouthed. I remember this phrase from a man. And then John says we’ve got to record something for this interview. and that is my sincere feeling. but is like a poison for most people. or conversing on it. women. the most extreme the most extreme the most extreme BOOM! Maybe it’s just as well. and quite a bit about the basis of the American Dream. more everything for all people on this great planet earth: men. to use to use to use. except style. and it takes all their time. more happiness. BURROUGHS JG: That’s a great question. Under no circumstances. JG: Do you see any difference between heterosexual and homosexual beside the difference that one likes a woman and one likes a man? WB: You can have a heterosexual man who spends half an hour three times a week. heterosexual or homosexual. “And mad with sensuality.William. The idea is that desire totally captures people and locks them into a grid. a masochist—it was from Krafft-Ebing. Everyone says. what the hell… John and I were talking about readings and professionalism. any decent pers o n . Jew s . like any old politician. which is money. or whatever the hell how much time he spends. how much time does sex actually take in anybody’s life? And once gays can be gay and do what they want. sex has to be kept in some sort of limits.a ny decent WASP.” So this is the impasse of a dualistic universe. I rushed all through Central Europe. Money! Power! WB: Yes. WB: Ain’t that a great question? And shove the mike right in your face. the whole matter shrinks down to a small percentage of time. no matter how much power I had. I would not hesitate. WB: It’s stupidity to be obsessed with any subject. would I abuse that power to harm any decent fucker.
Straight people are not as dumb as all that. JG: And then you get rich and famous and it all works itself out because you get exactly what you want to get only in a different vein. making it together. of course.000 gay people living. That is. cities where there are giant areas with. It was on a money basis. JG: In the good old days? WB: There was certainly a better situation in those days for people getting on in years. the same desire syndrome. Gay supermarkets. but with a constant mental preoccupation. there’s the guys who run antique stores or sell art. which you were describing. perhaps things were better. 200. this magnificent old type who was totally obvious in his behavior. an assistant professor or a cardinal. Now they want more more more. And then one is exactly in the weird space of being totally old and ugly? WB: Time hits the hardest blows. a Victorian out of the 19th century could be flagrantly gay. For 60 years he kept this facade while living with six or seven English boys. and very few others in the world outside the United States. Still. everybody knows about you!” So there isn’t really one gay community. But externally it’s just like a fantasy. It’s an achievement over what existed in Europe. there’s the whole one-night-stand scene. it’s a great time for young people who are pretty and on the same level as the people they are approaching.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.Yes. there’s many different patterns and so forth. “Oh really nobody knows anything about me!” “My dear. And I remember one English gentleman telling me about his greatuncle or somebody. I couldn’t take any sort of census. When you’re young you’re always broke. Of course. Like London in the early part of the century. And the respectable people that they circulate among actually know this. don’t you think it’s totally amazing that once one was young and beautiful—the whole visual trip. like New York and San Francisco. you have to make the boy a movie star. [Laughter] JG: But William. some of these young people complain that they haven’t got enough. BURROUGHS WB: Historically. WB: I think hypocrisy has its advantages.There’s the whole bar scene. Every kind of thing that’s fantasized about. Obviously a lot of people are racing around in a public search. JG: That’s the same syndrome.You got no leverage anymore. I’m sure those old characters got some very good sex from their six or seven resident Arab boys. particularly gays? WB: Well. gay apartments. but never once did he admit to anyone that he was gay. JG: There is something I think is totally great that’s happened in a few cities in America. when you were rich in the 1890s there was no limit to the boys you could have. It’s totally horrible and painful for each one of the people. where there was 100 percent hypocrisy. they are like any ordinary person. say. like this don at Oxford who had six or seven boys living with him.and incredible promiscuity. so that’s rather terrific. Two shillings and you had them coming. just totally fucked up and out of their fucking neurotic mind. Extraordinary state of mind. not in a maniacal way. or going back. no matter how much money 196 197 . endless areas. WB: My dear. and you didn’t have to be all that rich. Now you got to get ‘em in the movies or something. JG: Do you think young people are consumed sexually. But no one said anything about it because you could do anything so long as you didn’t say anything. Now every fucking punk’s got money.
your uncle. if it’s not the garment wo r ke rs . if you’re living off the opium trade in the 19th century.When I was 20 years old I’d never tell anyone I was gay. but the behavior is not. and that’s exactly where everyone is. your father would turn on you. where what you do privately is one thing and what you do publicly is another. It was a real double standard.These young punks in America never had it so good in history.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. He doesn’t realize how easy he’s got it. yes.You’re fucked over. It was the most horrible thing. but most people aren’t. if you never said it. complete disability insurance for being absolutely good for nothing. BURROUGHS you have. But to admit this is totally shameful. JG: You’re right. but you can’t say it. Well. there’s no doubt about it. Still. WB: I wonder about that. The money a good looking boy brings in is keeping the family going. or it’s some trip in Africa. to hear them talking.For example. of course. WB:Not right at all. he was scandalized beyond belief. I was living with a young boy.You can do it.And actually the Victorian attitude is endemic among the Arabs and the Spanish. or somewhere else? WB: I don’t know. JG: Then there’s the whole American trip which I know you do not frequent. Can you think of any of the great fortunes in America? If it’s Frick. JG: Has that ever happened to you? WB: Well yes. shame. WB: And they beef and they beef and they beef. Look through history for any young people who’ve had it easier than the young people in America today and you will not find one instance. JG: You’ve lived in Tangier? WB: I have. the more you give people the more they beef. everybody knew it and didn’t give a shit.They can get $250 a month. for the mother to meet the tourist would be extremely shameful.80 it’s the coal miners. It doesn’t matter if you’re from some grand New England family. But at the center of the total hypocrisy. I mean. for an Arab boy to be making money by sleeping with a British or American tourist or resident. So the acknowledgment is shameful. If you’re a Rockefeller. JG: It’s work. JG: The source of all money is shameful. but it’s a very widespread thing. everyone is totally broke. in Asia. everybody knows this. Now this is the whole dichotomy of private and public behavior. WB: Yes.They can do anything they want sexually. or the Arabs. 198 199 . it’s the steel workers. So the young American gay today is really very spoiled. and if I suggested that he should introduce me to his mother. that’s not shameful.i t ’s ten-year-olds slaving away. Well. Unless they’re very lucky somehow. this unpleasantness is not disclosed. JG: Where did the Victorian attitude come from? Did it come from England. JG: But that’s no different from anything that exists in this world. if it’s somebody else.Your friends.The source of all great wealth is abhorrent. in Tangier the Arabs have this word called hushima. This is. the reverse of the whole Calvinist ethic. WB: You’re suggesting that about the source of all wealth large or small.
Then they had this conversation which was totally innocuous because they didn’t get to Anita. and they had some conversa- 200 201 . how do you feel about being a West Coast Gay? JG: I think it’s sweet.”“Well.” Or whatever.”Then you rush down to the South and say. JG: At least not for 50 or a 100 years or so. the Tangier that I knew is gone with the winds of change. But for the last 20 years it’s been amazing. “Well. the situation in America now is very encouraging and offers a lot to young gay people who are just popping out of the waterclosets. I feel like it was sorta my upbringing. WB: Yes. G i o rn o. such a phenomenon could hardly occur without a complete disintegration of what we call society now. [Laughter] Your roving reporter could jump out at all sorts of people and shove the mike right in their face:“How do you feel about being a potato-eating Irish?” Or “How do you feel about being a wop?’’ The first thing off their head. I’m an old-fashioned man. WB: Well. Everything is so impermanent. He jumps out of the car and says. I was brought up in another tradition.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. It hasn’t happened here yet.When the Middle Ages came in.There may be some kind of giant backlash about to knock everyone on their asses. what would you say to Anita Bryant? He’d bring it up that all of his kids are gay too. In fact this could be a television program known as How Do You Feel about What You Are. we don’t know. but certainly not to live for any length of time. I’m influenced by my European training.The Hiltons and the jets are still wo r k i n g .a l l ’s right with the wo r l d . l i ke being the Gay State. WB: As for a total backlash.And so what do you say about this. WB: I like expensive hotels.I ’d like to retire to a simple old-fashioned community where money still meant something. I’ve come to deal with it. [Laughter] JG: I know that sounds good. And. they got to her husband. ‘’How do you feel about being a lousy son-of-a-bitch” and then you say. J G : Do you think of any preferability between Tangier and America in terms of sexual openness? WB: Of course. and so on. who would kill who first. WB: Well. “How do you feel about being a redneck?” And then asking a redneck what he thinks about gays. [Laughter] Myself. if I had some. JG: And very proper. BURROUGHS WB: Oh. Don’t you like expensive hotels? WB: Got anything else to say? JG: Not much. and asking gays what they think about rednecks. Mr. Anita Bryant? What would you say to this man if you were confronted with him? And what would you say to this woman? JG: On television they had this gay guy in the studio and they telephoned Anita Bryant down in Florida. of course. while I’m sticking the mike in your face. certainly not in the next few years. I’m getting a jump on this.“How do you feel about being a WASP. J G : I t ’s totally great in A m e ri c a . the Greco-Roman culture crumbled away to nothing. Now you’re a queer faced with Anita Bryant. the more expensive the better.
I’ve had them say to me that most of their emotional feelings go towards men but that they simply can’t sexually make it with men. are just karmic habits. One is that it’s absolutely sweet and blissful and everything one would ever want. and this was largely Communist propaganda. JG: That’s a great title. JG: What would you say? WB: Oh I’d say. “I understand. you got some questions to ask me maybe?”That’s the way.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. it’s like an instrument for cutting through conception. the things that were being passed? About hiring? WB: Oh. Not that they don’t understand and 202 203 . you were one time almost Miss America.This absolute menace. WB: No. did you? Well. but you didn’t quite make the grade. any kind of sexuality and everyone has his preference. And I don’t think they are any more repressed homosexuals than all gays are repressed heterosexuals. God knows who they are.You form these habits and then you get more attached to them because they feel so good. Gay people are now trying to get on the cops here with the understanding that they’re gay. in my experience. They talked for five minutes without saying anything. if used properly.The people in the Pentagon are not Bible at all. If people with that mentality ever got a super atom bomb— JG: But don’t they have it? Aren’t those people in the Pentagon? WB: The archetypical Gestapo questioner was represented in the 1930s as being gay. And second. [Pause to make drinks and roll a joint. to everyone’s chagrin. One is totally at the mercy of them. WB: And watch Anita Bryant confront the champion of the gays. JG: Which is a gay fantasy in a lot of physical sex scenes. All his emotional relationships are with men. It’s a very mysterious thing.As far as I’m concerned there’s two advantages in being gay. WB: In the Western world all the objections to homosexuality are culled from the Bible. policemen and firemen. JG: What do you think of equal rights for gays.We still have the Bible Belt with us. this sociological time-bomb that could blow up the whole fucking planet. you’re oversimplifying. the man who hates women but can only make it with them. JG: Do you think that’s a worthy thing to pursue? WB: It’s entirely a matter of choice. One of the archetypical figures of evil has been the gay Gestapo agent.] WB: We were discussing the fact that. JG: It’s a very common phenomenon. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be passed if they want to. and it’s very hard to alter those points. BURROUGHS tion about grammar: how do you spell gay or something. Now we know the whole gay thing was officially eliminated in 1934 with Roehm and the SA. WB: The name of this program would be Confront.These points. But they’re very far removed from that mentality. many sophisticated heterosexuals are not repressed homosexuals at all. Anita Bryant. He’s just stuck at a certain point. You know the whole syndrome: sucking and fucking and fist-fucking.
BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. because I don’t think that there’s any reality that corresponds to that. Freedom from fear. You get strong enough so that you’re not scared of anybody. no. “What do I need a tong for?” High teacup queens. There’s so many conspiracies and counter-conspiracies. JG: Do you feel in your personal life that your activities are more involved with heterosexuals? People who are on the road. WB: I think you got a point there. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have gay tongs.The whole idea of t h e g ay community is extremely misleading indeed. Nor is there any gay community in the sense of any sort of organized mutual aid. So. you know. It’s a much more sophisticated phenomenon. It’s getting rapidly to look like some kind of a 204 205 .N ow if I’ve got a billion dollars I don’t have to be scared of nothing.There’s nobody more riddled with fear than a heroin addict because he’s afraid of having his junk cut off.Anything corresponding to the. just a moment. and the other is to become a junkie. and anyone who’s frightened is thinking in very short terms. and that means if you’re ever in trouble you get bailed out. it isn’t fear floating around in a va c u u m .You have the support of the tong at all times. JG: Do you think all those millionaires like Getty. he’s more scared now than any junkie in the street has ever been. a lot of gays will say. I don’t think anyone has a clue. or the Du Ponts are any more or less riddled with fear? WB: Well. Rockefeller. If you lose your job the tong will support you. two years. One is to become a Rockefeller. but they’re not of it. how long. Of course. WB: Oh. say. But as to what is actually going on on this planet. JG: A moment of being totally high is no different from being rich. JG: Do you think we should start a gay tong? WB: I think that the whole tong principle is a very workable system. even in a penthouse like this— JG: In your fortress on the Bowe ry — WB: Disagreeable things could happen. Anyone who’s looking for immediate safety is very much frightened. a year. Well. I don’t feel that one necessarily preponderates. Because heroin temporarily gets you away from the fear.What is the greatest prize that anyone can get in Western culture? JG: What is the prize? WB: Very simple. BURROUGHS use it. Chinese tong system. they’ve got much less to fear. The important thing for an artist is just to do his work and not be concerned with all kinds of conspiracies.The Bible Belt is the people who take orders. JG: So there’s two ways.You pick up the wrong kind of person. Getty’s been dead. If he isn’t reborn. or who invited you to this dinner and arranged meetings or business? WB: I seem to meet a fair portion of both when I’m on the road. if they’ve got any sense. I don’t think anyone knows at all what’s going on. Fear is people afraid of something.You join a certain gay tong and— JG: Dues like 15 dollars a month? WB: Yes. But on the objective level.
they often tend to extend the area of that influence.” These are two almost untranslatable worlds with the general meaning of creeping. police—”You know what these fruits want. So you have these terrible characteristics of being cringing and whimpering and at the same time trying to get power over other people. JG: So how does one cut through that? 206 207 . If people are persecuted as homosexuals. Picture of a Jew accused of some c ri m e :“ F rom his horrible Jew eyes speaks the crime world of the Talmud.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. And while allegedly simply protecting their interests. blacks they will. and at the same time. I was studying medicine in Vienna at the time when all this was getting started. in a slimy way trying to dominate people.This is the pretext of the Cold War.The directive was that they were “kriecherisch und herrsuchtig. JG: As if faggots’“swish” were like Yiddish Jewish or something? WB: In 1936 for a year.T h a t ’s all.A. When Hitler issued a formal order.” JG: Is this true? WB: The concept of unlimited license has a certain appeal to a nybody homo—or hetero s e x u a l . ready to leap on any advantage.l i ke the Jew s .h ave certain inherently disagreeable characteristics. On this planet we have groups with disparate interests. Someone said that the world consisted of Hitler and lebensraum—life room. A ny group using phy s i c a l power to foster the interest of that particular group without any limitations on them can become intolerable. organize to defend their interests. JG: Don’t you think this is a basic characteristic of human nature? WB: Yes.The specific unpleasant picture of homosexuals was that they were at once servile and cringing. cringing or skulking. They want a fruit world. “We are just trying to protect our intere s t s . Jews. JG: When did you study medicine in Vienna? WB: It is a very basic problem. the presumption that homosexuals were a sort of race with certain despicable qualities inherent in their condition. and there is no viable defense of one’s interests that does not involve certain political and ultimately certain military objectives. just exactly like the evil Jews. and in many cases. BURROUGHS shake… This is an argument used frequently by anti-gay movements: that gay s .” And there is no end to Russia and America protecting their interests. And Anita Bryant with her “youth recruitment” comes down to the same proposition: that homosexuals are bad by nature like devils. JG: Are Nixon and Kissinger and Ford just the same way because they’re power junkies? WB: No.” And this image was then grafted onto the homosexual. at the same time. A Jew head with a spider body. or any war. the whole Gestapo went into action against homosexuals. The concept of the homosexual as a fiendish plotter is indoctrinated into the L. JG: The corrupting influence being that you’re taking our sons and corrupting them? WB: Yes. the separation has been forced on them. I read the Volkischer Beobachter and saw the emergence and manipulation of these fiendish archetypes. It was very similar. if given the opportunity.
It was almost possible to take the whole issue casually and get on with one’s business… To my way of thinking the basic difference between a shit and a decent person is very simple. TERRORISM. UTOPIA AND FICTION Paris. For one thing. If the book’s too experimental.A shit has no business of his or her own to mind.Take the case of Joyce who spent 20 or 30 years writing Finnegans’Wake. In self-defense.Why’s this? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: If your objective is to have people read your books. he’s not going to read it.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. and there are people of another category. Except to say that there are people who do want to mind their own business and be left alone. some connections. Cities of the Red Night is a carefully executed nove l . How can Anita Bryant be contained? Hit her sponsors where they live—in their $$. any more than a smallpox virus. A decent person wants to be left alone to mind his own business and he is willing to let others do the same. and a clear story.c o n s t ructed a little bit like a roman à clefs: a beginning. Total boycott on Florida oranges in any form. you may have to take measures against someone who doesn’t yet know he’s going to have to take measures against you. 208 209 . then there has to be at least a line of narrative they can follow. but for precise enough reasons. a middle and an end. in order to describe a state of mental dissociation or delirium. 1978 GÉRARD-GEORGES LEMAIRE: Against the ultra-sophisticated technology of power you’ve come up with an equally sophisticated technology of writing.“ O n l y fools do those villains pity who are punished ere they have done their mischief. like The Third Mind. I have to make a living.” Before Anita Bryant opened her big orange-sucking mouth the position of gays in America was steadily improving. BURROUGHS WB: Perhaps one doesn’t. a book no one can really read. The cut-up technique gets used a bit in the new novel. But at present you appear to be going back to more traditional and simpler forms of narrative. And there is the question as to what degree of force is necessary to protect your interests and where to stop. In the words of the immortal bard . I can’t let that happen.
but they believed. I realized at the end of the four months that I hadn’t been able to write a single line the entire time. Obviously. people can get very touchy. the earth’s round.You’ll doubtless recall that in the Middle Ages people practically knew that the earth was round. most especially when I was filled with the notion that I would teach “Writing from Imagination. no one could tell it was simply an apple. create suspense. it’s simply a question of one or more protagonists that keep moving on. Satyricon by Petronius. posing a challenge to interpretation. It was a college where the students had lost interest in what they were studying. specifically at New York City College. They were simply there to take exams. but they’re not aware of it. even seriously upset. In the picaresque tradition. a middle and an end. B riefly put. it shows people something they ’re acquainted with. it’s simple. Voyage au bout de la nuit by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. you also see the cars that were there yesterday and those that we re there ten ye a rs ago. cinema. It’s a totally artificial form. for the sake of a real or imagined voyage.This data is made clear by painting as by writing and other forms. GGL: A number of years ago you gave a series of college classes. And they got very touchy if somebody took it upon himself to point at the horizon and say—Just look. If you go out on a street. nor if what I have to teach can be in fact taught. orange or a fish seen from a certain angle. you don’t only see the cars that are there. But if you put this phenomenon on a canvas.This happens without what we could call the very arbitrary structure that the novel developed in the 19th century. each chapter has to plunge you into anticipation.” In any case.When Cézanne displayed his early paintings for the first time. written by Thomas Nashe in 1594. BURROUGHS GGL: While reading you I have the impression you try to defy any form of definition. How do you go about escaping the categorical imperatives of reason? WB: Actually.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. to say the least.With this kind of construction. People are often upset when they find out they don’t know what they thought they knew. and what I took away from that experience is that nothing in the world would ever make it worth my while to ever teach again. people will often ask—what’s that supposed to be? It’s supposed to be what you in fact see: data from human perception. Simple matter of slicing time. I place myself squarely in the picaresque tradition. I’m not certain what I could have taught. that’s not how things happen in reality. a sober- 210 211 . an all-knowing author who’s aware what his characters think and what’s going to happen. I’m the owner of a painting by Brion Gysin in which he shows a number of vehicles arranged according to different thicknesses. as sure as chickens lay eggs. What did you take away from that experience? WB: In fact I taught an entire semester. This results fro m mnemonic associations. in a sense. one of the first picaro novels. It occurred to me the same thing was true for those with whom I was trying to have a dialogue. they took a lot without giving much in return. And that’s what artists do. during which they meet up with a certain number of adventures or misadventures—more often the latter. that the earth was flat. The basic idea is a beginning. and of course. particularly a street that you’re familiar with. Brion Gysin has had a lot to say about the relation set up between painting and writing. Every day by the end I was completely empty. He explains how painting makes extremely clear a certain amount of the typical data of human p e rc e p t i o n . traced by The Unfortunate Traveller. for example. Most of them provided little feedback.That’s. And when someone points out the mast coming over the horizon. and then building by chapters. be it positivist or literary in nature.You’re forced to keep going through the next chapter before you can return in the third chapter to what was going on in the first.
they contribute to the creation of a terrorist state by their actions. without ever mentioning writing. if they were really serious about their goals in a big way. a kid in Arizona says to himself. For any guerrilla movement to be successful. That’s not as difficult. But it’s very rare indeed that someone gets the idea for a crime from reading fiction. It happens all the time. forgotten writers for the most part. and the support of a considerable part of the population in the country itself. word gets around. 212 213 . an the other hand. On the other hand. Dry material like mathematics or similar material— it’s rewarding to just make it accessible. of course.” This kind of thing… Among the forgotten or neglected authors I’ve selected is Denton Welch. next thing. his influence on the way of living of millions of young people. If Kerouac had written his books 20 years earlier. I will ask them a series of questions. they’d. So how can we believe that they’re the extreme left when they’re acting as agents of the right? Purely on the level of terro ri s m .” Goes directly out and kills six women. has meanwhile taken up the flag of terrorism. I will be teaching a series of courses of a shortened duration at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. two conditions have to be met: a source of supplies from a friendly nation. it’s possible he’d no longer be in circulation. I don’t think it’s very probable that these new terrorists will profit from either one of these conditions. the Black Panthers. but what kind of support do they have among the population of either Italy or Germany? In other words. GGL: The United States appears to have fallen back into a kind of ideological sluggishness. there’s suddenly an epidemic of them. and may even bring it into being.The influence of a writer may not be as direct as that of a journalist.86 an English novelist who died in 1948 and about whom no one’s ever heard. GGL: In your opinion. I’ve always been of the opinion that a revolution starting from the bottom does not have a prayer of succeeding in an industrialized society. on what I call “creative reading. but it may possibly go farther. “What did the writer want to accomplish? In what measure has he succeeded? Stop after a specific number of pages and ask yourself how you would end the novel. Europe. Kerouac comes to mind. of course. Weathermen and other radical movements are no longer anything more than a dim memory. Many of these writers have fallen into obscurity because they didn’t show up at the right moment. what role does the writer have to play in the modern world? WB: An important one and I think also an influential one. and ask the students to read in a creative way. his influence on the generations between the two World Wars. Censorship logically first has to deal with journalism. Ireland is the classic example. have to use biological or chemical weapons. No one goes out on the street and cuts peoples’ throats because he read Treasure Island by Steve n s o n . given that the IRA benefits at the same time from a common border with Southern Ireland and the support of the Northern Catholics. Are they of the left or right? They say they’re the extreme left.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I have no doubt they possess certain light arms. but the fact remains that their actions produce a totalitarian situation of the right. I’ll be satisfied this summer if I can give three consecutive courses.” I’ll take certain writers. No one thinks of writers as actually making events happen in the way that journalists do. One guy kills eight nurses.A nybody but anybody knows it’s not real. “Eureka! That’s the ticket. what they say in the papers. BURROUGHS ing conclusion. I know. Think of five or six possible endings. because on a regular basis it’s clear that someone got the idea for his crime from reading the newspapers. and what’s your opinion of them? WB: I don’t follow them closely. When journalists start to talk about airline hijackings.Then there’s Scott Fitzgerald. They identify themselves with it by their actions. Do you keep up with the events in Italy and Germany.
Quite obviously. Of course. No. no degree in physics. but of discovering it as anyone could have in his period.The characters. the plans were immediately reclassified top secret and the whole thing hushed up. Due to the fact that this happened in America. I don’t think there exists an ideal utopia.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. the gunsmith comes up with an even more efficient weapon. Cities of the Red Night . but adequate. in a certain sense. But if this kid could do it. And arms being what they are. Later on. to put in place a utopic society. Not too long ago. a young man. dehumanization. anyone can. it could have been thought of at the time of the pirates. In modern societies. maybe I can make this or that improvement…”The beginning of this story is already mentioned in Port of Saints. Somebody takes a look at something and says to himself. however. GGL: Do you believe it’s currently possible to envisage a utopic society that wouldn’t at the same time be totalitarian? WB: That’s one of the hardest questions to answer. you relate the story of some filibusters who manage. As with EdgarRice Burroughs. from what I’ve heard. It’s simple. People wouldn’t have needed 500 years to realize that the head of a bullet can be made to explode on contact. George Orwell described some of the underlying tendencies of our societies—tendencies towards mass control. In the case of the cartridge rifle. also the time it takes to reload. it’s already been inscribed in the past. at least for a certain period. All my books make up one book.You just cannot imagine an utopic society where the population is so enormous and interests so diverse. In the first place. to judge its intentions as something other than utopic. managed to make public plans for an atomic weapon based on non-classified documents. GGL: In 1984. the saga of The Wild Boys hasn’t ended. individuals’ interests are spread out to the point where what may be Utopic and fortunate for some is very likely to be unfortunate for others.You have to realize how incredibly cumbersome flintlocks are to carry around. to take out the center of a city. I’d say people will never be capable of doing anything that might possibly resolve all their problems and make them completely happy. “Hey look. no unemployment and so on? These problems don’t exist in restricted groups. Could you say something about your borrowing from history in order to construct this basically political fiction? WB: Yes. it continues. It depends though on what you mean by utopia. If they wanted to take things that far. This means the firepower of each combatant gets multiplied 50 times. BURROUGHS And they may even now be in a position to procure such weapons. the time periods pass from one to another. the situations. Anyone with a degree in physics is in a position to make an atom bomb with just a little radioactive material. Is it your feeling that things are going to get worse until there’s no turning back? 214 215 . With you. if any of them had had a bit of originality. it was only your garden-variety hydrogen bomb. it’s utopic because the pirates do manage to take over the American continent and create the world they want. some kind of an economist. Where does one run into utopic societies. for terrorists it’s a small matter to obtain this… These possibilities are out there. God knows what would happen… GGL: In your latest novel. or even in the present. It’s not a matter of his going back in time with a knowledge of modern weaponry. in societies thought of as being primitive. a gunsmith invents a cartridge rifle and that gives them the chance to take over the continent.A cartridge rifle is worth 30 or 40 flintlocks. 90 percent of the world’s population has to be gotten rid of. Others are bound. repression of the instincts and hostility towards intelligence. where you have no more than 30 or 40 people. we get the impression that 1984 isn’t sometime in the near future. everything is connected. if they weren’t so slow. even so.Too many people. meaning no crime.
For example. MW: How long did the colony last? 216 217 .T h e re were only 300 of them. you keep a dog under control. It’s the English principle of never go too far in any one direction. In other words. t h e re was a colony on the coast of Madagascar founded by Captain Mission. My impression is that Orwell’s book is superficial in a lot of ways. c e rt a i n l y. Because. BURROUGHS WB: It’s hard to say. one of privilege. you keep a worker under control. Ledes New York. 1981 A S T R A L E V O LU T I O N MICHAEL WHITE: I would like to ask you about Cities of the Red Night. And there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the human organism cannot survive this kind of treatment. It gives the impression that what’s happening is a kind of invasion by something foreign to human nature. Yes. you see. Is the information about the pirates’ colonies based on historical fact? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Oh ye s . If someone controls individuals totally. what you’re really dealing with is the extermination of the human race. MW: What happened to them? WB: They were slaughtere d . no one can survive total control. Translated from the French by Richard C. but closer to a state of transition on the way to extermination. The control has to remain partial.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. at the end of the book. that is quite accurate. but you don’t need to keep a tape-recorder under control. you defeat your own purpose—if your purpose is practical. it’s not a state of control of which he’s speaking. such as maintaining your own position. and the natives just suddenly ganged up on them. If you recall. because if you do. they’re no longer there.
it has everything it needs. and then find out there is no way back. The human species is in a state of neoteny. There was an island that was held by pirates and ruled by pirates for a long while. I ask.That is a biological word used to describe an organ that is fixated in what would ordinarily be a larval or transitional stage.That was not the only one. that is. like the walking fish.You can tell when an animal or person is dreaming by their brain waves. Supposedly they were navy. it is irreversible. However. By whatever means the change takes place. One of the most important is weight. It happened in a number of places. start here and go to there. all right: the limitation imposed through biologic structure and the potential for transcending these through biological change. A lot of them had respectable positions. Now if you consider these evolutionary steps you get the feeling that the creature is tricked. This is very important. I’m advancing the theory that we’re not biologically designed to remain in our present state any more than the caterpillar was designed to remain a caterpillar. but the line was very thin. I also keep folders with writings that go with the scrapbooks.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.The space program is like a fish in an aquarium. Recent research has established that dreams are a biological necessity. One of the most successful pirates was the governor of Jamaica. For instance. looking for more time he may find space instead. I use scrapbooks to overcome writer’s block. go over it. there are lots of things to consider. How does this fit in? First I write a rough draft. juxtapositioning pictures from newspapers and magazines and other bits of writing that are relevant to what I am writing. They raided. they were all different. Such an evolutionary step involves changes that are virtually inconceivable from our present point of view. I wouldn’t say forward. there were several in the West Indies. I often write summaries. look at it. Then there were the privateers who were supposedly not pirates. I think dreams do give us an insight into space exploration. evolution is a one way street—once you lose your gills you never get them back. the humanoid weighs about 170 pounds.We have a much lighter mode. They have to encapsulate the whole environment and transport the environment with the weight. not pirates. almost like a diagram or schemata. BURROUGHS WB: One for seven years. the astral or dream body. MW: Could you give a one sentence description or summary of Cities of the Red Night? WB: Yes.There were many different types of pirates. MW: Were there any pirates like the ones you described in the book? WB: No. they were attached to the navy of England or France or Spain. He took the city of Panama and lived to a ripe old age as a very wealthy man. once he leaves his gills behind he has made an involuntary step. The space program is simply an attempt to transport all our insoluble problems and take them somewhere else. but they were small and isolated and couldn’t maintain themselves.While I think it is a tremendous achievement to get off the planet. MW: Would you remark as to your style in Cities of the Red Night and how you wrote it? WB: The beginning of Cities of the Red Night is set in the style of Graham Greene. If they wake an animal up every time it 218 219 . MW: Could you talk about your ideas concerning evolution and the possibility of the next biologic step in evolution? WB: Yes. Perhaps the next step the human makes will be made in the same way. I discard more than I use. as far as the fish is concerned. but they said that they only raided enemy vessels.This model gives a clue as to the change. the astronaut is not really looking for space. but it is a step—looking for water he has found air. he is looking for more time to do exactly the same things.
Titles are very import a n t . They think the people described are the real people. a good review in Newsweek would not be so prestigious. It may not even be a picture in the book. BURROUGHS begins to dream. WB: Well.The title of the next one is The Place of Dead Roads. It works well when images are shifting through your head. WB: It is rather self limiting.] I’ve been rereading Kerouac. no matter how much dreamless sleep it has had. I’ve never been to Istanbul in my life. He has me in Istanbul. People don’t realize that. [He picks up a copy of On the Road which has been lying on the table. not something that would persuade people to buy the book. But he gave me titles. MW:You didn’t seem to use the cut-up much in Cities of the Red Night. when arbitrary images come and go. yeah.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. It was very poorly written up in Newsweek. MW: How do you get your titles? WB: I’ve gotten titles from various places. a novel. They have done similar experiments on people.What a ridiculous completely fallacious picture he draws of me. WB: By and large your titles should convey a picture. To my point of view. MW: Does it affect sales? WB: It’s very hard to say whether a good review in Newsweek necessarily sells books. MW: You got excellent reviews from what I could see. But I may change titles. he didn’t intend it for a book title. Dreams are a vital link to our biological and spiritual destiny in space. 220 221 . it’s absolute bullshit. it leads to coma and death. MW: Do you pay much attention to them? WB: No. I think of machines as hard. It was a sort of fiction. The Soft Machine was someone else’s title. MW: Cities of the Red Night has that heavy visual impact. W B : The cut-up technique works best with image pro s e. but he used the phrase and I got a title from it. [Long pause] MW: What do you think of this sexual practice? MW: It’s a good word combination.The sexual hangings appear right from Naked Lunch through Cities of the Red Night. WB: Yes indeed. usually I have the title at the start.T h ey had 200 titles before they hit on Jaws for Jaws. just in a business way. WB: Some good. MW: I’d like to find out more about the hanging scenes. Well. that’s all right—he’s writing fiction. like you hear the Valley of the Dolls. some of them were terrible like Leviathan. that derives from a cut-up of Rimbaud. I don’t think so at all. you see something right? I see just a serene valley with a lot of d o l l s . I saw reviews in Time and Newsweek. Rimbaud always cuts up good.I ’ve never read the book. I saw somebody whose book was praised to the sky and I checked around and found it wasn’t selling at all. I think that’s a good title. Naked Lunch was his title. MW: Was it real for him? WB: No. some bad.
MW: What about the various gods in the Invocation? WB: They are a sort of hodgepodge.We have a very stratified reading market. MW: Where did you get the names for the six cities? WB: The names of the cities is something that Brion Gysin happened onto.The Ismailis still exist. although they may well exist. My god. then how come we got so many extra births? It seems to go way beyond the need to replace the ones who die. It’s as simple as that. you can’t have one without the other. It’s part of the same process. MW: Are you interested in being on the best seller list? WB: Selling books is my business. That’s part of the mythology. WB: Different writing styles are often dictated by the different types of material. the whole point of birth is to replace the ranks that have been decimated by death. by the way.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.When I was writing Cities the material seemed to dictate a more or less straightforward technique of writing. His claims were supported by the English for political reasons. the old man of the mountain. I look out the window. if you repeat those names just before going to sleep with a question in mind. they should put contraceptives in the water supplies. and the Aga Khan claims to be the direct descendant of Hassan I Sabbah.This seems to me to be very dubious indeed.Would you speak to this point? WB: Sure thing. everyone knows the greatest cause of death is birth.You have all these stratified and separate markets. It’s just the people who shouldn’t have high birth rates that do. That market is distinct from the academic. Supposedly.A lot of them are Mayan and a lot of them I just invented. and he certainly reflects no credit.The biggest buying market in America is the Book of the Month Club. but the relationship between death and birth isn’t so clear. if the point of birth is replacement. MW: The relationship between birth and death is clear. MW: Well.You are limited to your particular strata. Take 222 223 . It’s a big problem we face. where are you going to put them after a while? But more than that. Can you tap any other strata? In many cases. BURROUGHS MW: Does it seem the general public has a certain kind of book they want to read? WB: I don’t think there is any such thing as the general public. MW: Do you have a daily reading habit? WB: No. whether you are in this or that strata. and the question is. everything born must die. If people keep getting born and don’t die. MW: Your style seems different in Cities of the Red Night from your previous works. but not so many know that the reverse is also true—the cause of birth is death. overpopulation. or the Playboy constellation. you will obtain an answer to your question. MW: Have any of your books reached the best seller list? WB: No. you can’t. WB: It sure does. on a train. A lot of it relates to the Ismaili doctrines. One of his descendants was associated with the Paris Review. not at all. I love to read on the airplane.
repeating the same theme or having a distinctive style that you must repeat and even overwriting. WB: I hear you had some trouble in your neck of the woods. as soon as the state agents arrive they know what’s going on. wash it off. Even if you have a couple of days off you can’t get back into it. the wire was right there. There was an old cop and a young cop. and in a real sense a writer lives on in his works. the person had been dead for a week. they take his money. MW: I understand you have studied Mayan culture? 224 225 .i t ’s not hard. I don’t like to think about it. what do you consider the function of art? WB: Writing is a form of self-reproduction. whatever you can enjoy. It is the role of art and creative thinking to give us orientation in space. the real money is in the drugs. reading. WB: Ye a h . MW: Any tips for me? I’m starting my first book. That’s bad for everybody. it is a model of urban blight. once this other cop grabs him by the tie. MW: I liked what you said about telling the good guys from the bad. killed him dead too.You can’t get them to listen to reason. He went around with a wire on. Now it is well over 20 million. Story of a Cop.There are ten percent good and ten percent bad and eighty in between. Of course.” They found 600 dollars. It’s written by a cop but as told to somebody. There is a very good book. spatial and social maps.Well. Then it will take care of itself. MW: Somebody killed a state agent in a pot patch in Kentucky. For writer’s block I found that the way to get around this is not to force yourself but to do something else. WB: So somebody went and shot a revenuer. it always takes a lot of uninterrupted time and concentration. people never do until it’s too late.The bad guys are shits. too much interruption. BURROUGHS Mexico City. they take his junk and sell it and what’s he got? If he opens his mouth they’ll shoot him. MW: Let me ask you a broader question: considering writing as an art form. they lean on the pusher. when I was there in the ‘50s it was a city of about one million with clean blue skies. the money was under the mattress and all these putrefied juices had soaked through onto the money. WB: Well. like maps of space.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. most cops are natural born thieves anyway. I can’t seem to go and do something else and come back to it. “All right kid. MW: What do you see as the biggest traps for a writer? WB: There are several: the first is writer’s block. They know the sheriff must be paid off. Writing is the process of making maps. then trying to write the book which can’t be understood. MW: That’s good to hear. I talked to someone who had tried to go around and teach birth control to these underdeveloped countries and he said they think it is some kind of trick to deprive them of their military potential. Overwriting can lead to block. Well. they put on the sirens and rush over there hoping they will find some money. The old cop gives the money to the rookie and says. so they report 200 and kick back 100.The cops had a deal where when it comes on the radio that they have found someone dead. Like the destruction of the rain forest. If they had found that wire they would have killed him. it’s too depressing.The cop in the book finally got caught and then he ratted on all the other cops. When I was teaching I couldn’t write. it’s obvious.They have cut down every stick of wood in Mexico Valley for firewood.
Of course. MW: Can you read the Mayan hieroglyphics? WB: Nobody can read them all.i t ’s a long way to go. I used to be able to read some of the dates. but we don’t know what the other symbols mean.We haven’t made any headway in that direction. but young New York artists I associated with at the time had a tendency to glamorize terrorism from a safe distance.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. little is known about it. They have no Rosetta stone. It was the last gasp of the class struggle. the self-appointed Marxist avant-garde violently taking politics in their own hands Their ruthless strategy of kidnapping. E X T E R M I N AT I N G New York. confusing punk anti-aesthetics with spectacular violence… The following conversation was published in the “German Issue” of Semiotext(e). MW: It seems that you are a writer who has tried to undermine the word as that which comes between perception and what we are. charging the wrong target. side by side with a long interview with a fugi- 226 227 .The manuscripts were destroyed by a Christian bishop.We know how their system worked on dates and can read them.That’s the only complete thing we know.Taking them at face value then was just acting like a bull in the ring. the same bishop prepared the only Mayan/Spanish dictionary. charging the red cloth of Western democracies in the hope of bringing out their fascistic face. He considered that conflicts only became visible when the disease had already become inoperable. in 1982. BURROUGHS WB: Yes. had the manuscripts not been destroyed no doubt we could. 1981 William Burroughs’ distaste for politics and contempt for politicians is well-known. WB: Ye a h . Political desp e radoes who were making headlines at the time—the Red A rmy Fraction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy—happened to be doing just that. MW: So the codices are really untranslatable at this time. Paradoxically. knee-capping and murder had raised an intense soul-searching among the European Left. WB: They don’t have enough cross references.
1975. But they are deluded in their methods: in a media world.” and he started going through it with an obvious sense of relief.” they are keenly aware that Western affluence is achieved at the expense of the Third-World.” SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER: Do you think some form of terrorist action can be justified? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Some of these groups are quite rational. but I had brought at his intention a copy of a speech by Ulrike Meinhof on “Armed AntiImperialist Struggle. a close friend of Klein’s when Fischer himself was a left-wing activist). whom he found too haughty. Struggle comes out of motion. no basis from which to operate. which is to me some sort of intellectual sickness. the “ m a s s e s ”d o n ’t respond to any message.The Red Army fraction is violent because it comes too late. eyes half-closed. outrage is no weapon.While in Frankfurt. especially when they fail. James Grauerholz obligingly arranged for a meeting at the Bunker. Then there is another kind of terro ri s m . I can’t understand why they do it. The overall analysis of German terrorists is sound. Revolutionary action—no matter how it is brought about—will always be understood by the masses. cat-like. after all. these terrorists don’t. played a crucial role in turning the German “alternative movement” away from armed struggle. Eventually he joined the terrorists—not the RAF.Their revolutionary romanticism is a luxury everyone now is paying for in Germany in terms of police control and State repression. but the more popular and spontaneist “Revolutionary Cells.i n t e rnational terrorism. 228 229 . BURROUGHS tive from the RAF. It is just a hysterical version of orthodox Marxism. they had something to gain. I handed him the galleys of Klein’s interview “Slaughter Politics. Terrorists like the IRA in Ireland or the Palestinians do make sense. then in hiding. in which he participated by the side of the infamous South American terrorist widely known as “Carlos. Its blind walls were shutting us off from the world outside. only to the violence of the spectacle. Klein was no “intellectual.They are. The guerilla perceives class struggle as the basic principle of history and class struggle of history and class struggle as reality. in 1980. I don’t see what it corresponds to. an authentic prole. There’s nothing direct in their motivation.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. All that matters is the aim.” Actually he was this rarity among the German terrorists. the same fucking abstract language. in which proletarian politics will be realized…” Burroughs quickly leafed through Meinhof’s tract and put the it down down impatiently. moving on and is moving on.” He finally renounced armed action after the bloody attack on the OPEC headquarters in Vienna on December 21. it takes action. WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I can’t visualize anything when I read this kind of material. Hans-Joachim Klein.They can easily visualize what they want to achieve. His insider’s account of the German urban guerilla and its international connections. An angel passed.These people don’t seem to have a fucking idea of the kind of life they’re fighting for. he happened to fall upon a group of “anti-authoritarians” and fought with the squatters. Everything is constantly in motion. Is it some kind of religious belief or mysticism? Mystics at least believed in another world.The Guerilla has no real viewpoint.Their motivations are clear. It’s the same logic used by their enemies. Words are senseless. their goals concrete. creating a fierce debate around Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. SL: Ideologies can be very powerful. A joint was passed and Burroughs took a long drag. so is the struggle. a by-product of the ‘60s anti-authoritarian movement.” a strongly-worded political incantation directed at the silent masses: “Reality can only be perceived in a materialist way related to struggle—class struggle—war. Like the “alternatives. I mean life as it is lived on a day-to-day basis. (Klein recently resurfaced in Germany.
BURROUGHS WB: I never quite understood why people were taken in by M a r x i s m . It’s not my concern. I don’t know why they didn’t survive. So why are they doing what they are doing? I just wonder if there’s no overall organization. fundamentalists.And then Marxism is just one among many ideologies. SL: How long do you think this planet is going to last? WB: Some scientist was giving it no more than 40 years. F i rst of all. usually in terms of where food had been found before. is only an instrument. SL: We thought we could survive because of our intelligence and technology.are just dangerous to other people. Two people would suffice to plan in detail the extermination of a whole population. You’ve got people that can’t be flexible. Our two men could easily protect themselves from the radiation and wait until people had finished killing each other. L i ke 230 231 . Still. it was written by someone sitting at his desk who had no idea what things really were like. No one would know who set it off. and flexibility is essential. But the obvious thing is nuclear or biological weapons.The message is passed on to the front brain and the cat starts looking for food. all it takes is some college physics and. WB: Intelligence. that have some nonsense about isms and everything. For example a cat wakes up and the cat is angry. like technology. I don’t believe they’ve made all these projections for nothing. t h e re food will be. Then they would come out of their hiding place. SL: You mean they should go all the way? WB: If they’re going to. $200. then it gets an order going out to the front brain. it’s puzzling to me why they don’t go any further.Very often the advantage they had in the first place is their ultimate destruction. Some of them were quite practical. If these people were crazy.They are dangerous to the species. M a r x ’s predictions went all wro n g .There were a number of half-reptile and half-mammal species at one time. Nowadays anyone can make an atom bomb. It’s very easy. they might as well be terrorists. Any action goes from body to emotional brain. about the size of a wolf. I don’t mean the planet.Today we live in a situation of maximum change.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.With what they call a small yield nuclear device. SL: Can you imagine that happening? WB: Anything could happen. and that’s it. Revolution occured not in the most. WB: Any species runs its course. but people on it.000. practically a world-wide terrorist network.What can they really hope to gain from their action? There’s no way they can change anything. I’m told. with reptile-like teeth.That’s the basis of the simplest sort of animal thinking: w h e re food wa s . In itself. that’s the back brain. communists. SL: Whatever the motivations. but what the hell does that mean? Those who believe such things. Emergency plans are ready to be activated. SL: Forty years? He may be optimistic. I don’t know. you can take out an area in New York from Times Square up to the end of Central Park. it is completely static unless someone pushes it.That’s probably what we’re going to be destroyed by. but in the least industrialized societies. do you believe terrorist strategies have any chance to succeed? WB: If they want to be terrorists. not big.The dinosaurs got so big they couldn’t get enough to eat. at least it would make some sense. Their whole orientation is biologi c a l l y unsound.
you can make them in this loft. but not in an aqualung the way they’re doing it now. WB: Of course. Although nothing proves that we will. Everything is a matter of roles. particularly so. SL: I heard you would be quite willing to go to the moon. We’re thinking about life as we know it. just like a computer.Who wants to come back? SL: But there doesn’t seem to be any other form of life anywhere else. not to substitute one form of government for another. SL: Terrorists have definite limitations in the face of the universe.The front brain does not do anything unless it’s told. SL: In a sense. like old bomb-throwing anarchists of the 1910s. 232 233 . SL: We seem to be losing our sense of purpose. It is so much more complicated than an ABomb.They want to remain anonymous. what has prevented various terrorist groups from going overboard is their political or ideological beliefs. which seem much more viable really than nuclear weapons. this is ridiculous. Only 300 people in the world know how to make one. SL: At this point a modest A-Bomb would be enough to throw the world in chaos. SL: But what if. SL: If they didn’t stick to the 19th. temperature. But that doesn’t necessarily apply to any other forms of life. WB: I would be willing to go anywhere. Intelligence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. if some people had the idea to use it as a terrorist weapon. It only exists with regard to a purpose. All you need is some laboratory equipment. without hesitation. WB: Why should we detect it? Particularly if they didn’t want us to detect it. we certainly wouldn’t make it to the end of the 20th. SL: Even with the prospect of no return? WB: Of course. WB: Also there are all sorts of biological weapons. all sorts of things. SL: So far we haven’t been very successful at detecting it. as you suggested. which has very definite limitations. WB: What makes you think so? WB: Oh. A 19th-century type of action. At least they were into acting. and what a good role it was. I mean. including the H-bomb? WB: Besides A m e ri c a . BURROUGHS Hollywood. what made money will make money. but terro ri s t s refuse to take the stage. I’d get in right away. Historionism is a very powerful factor.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.t h e re are few places that have any facilities to make an H-bomb. and they are much less detectable anyway. Nothing would be easier than to prevent it. I suspect they’re intellectuals who want to prove that their theory is right. WB: It is their 19th-century thinking. If flying saucers want to take me out of the solar system. WB: To me the only purpose would be to get into space. their bomb-throwing involved atomic weapons. that would be the ir intent: to create total chaos.
If yo u ’re accustomed to carry any sort of weapon. for example. WB: Yes.f o r example. SL: In as much as there is such a thing as a pure “gene pool. It would. WB: Of course. do far less damage in limited wars involving conventional forces in distant parts of the world.And the Jewish population is much more subject to diabetes.They might even be forced to use any weapon that had at their disposal. is almost predominantly a Jewish illness. I may carry this gun around for the rest of my life and never use it. WB: That’s not necessarily true. or Mongoloids. Someone had planned a real final solution to the Jewish question. this will be the time I’ll have some trouble. SL: It’s a lack in chromosomes. BURROUGHS SL: Hans-Joachim Klein. 234 235 .” which is highly debatable. like sickle-cell anemia for bl a c k s . you don’t feel right without it. WB: Yes. Have you ever felt that yourself? W B : Of cours e. Tay-Sachs. maintained that as soon as you have a weapon you've got to use it.You can select the target. anyone can get diabetes. but statistically it’s much more a Jewish illness than any other race or group—another bit of information I got from a book called The Judas Gene. they say.You feel.They can produce a plague that would only affect white people. “including the pine forests of Germany. but they haven’t invented that much.T h e re ’s a number of illnesses that are either confined to or predominantly Jewish. of course. But to make a blanket statement that because you have a weapon on you have to use it.You start with these differences and then you look at all the diseases to which only certain races are subject. the fugitive from the German underground.These we a p o n s . SL: Klein talks about the sense of power you derive from carrying a weapon on you. WB: The whole question of selective pestilence is quite within the range of modern technology. Milk is poisonous to some Chinese because they don’t have some enzymes that break it dow n . You become somewhat dependent on it. or black people. One time I went out in Boulder and got bitten by a dog. Someone who only has a small amount of Jewish blood would be less vulnerable. but the more Jewish they were. SL: Actually bacteriological warfare is in again. People would tend to use them when there was a war. SL: Once you told me that there is no example in history of a new weapon that hasn't been used. No doubt. The Pentagon recently declared that poison gas could be considered a cheaper substitute for nuclear warfare. were in existence over many years. It may also be true for all these missiles we keep stockpiling all over the place. the more they were subject to it. not buildings.” I’m sure the Germans appreciated it.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. and I didn't have my cane on me.T h a t ’s where you start when you want to use a selective pestilence. this plague that only Jewish people contract. it is just not true. WB: It’s an hereditary illness completely crippling and requiring a great deal of care. SL: Selective pestilence is an equivalent to these neutron bombs that destroy people.
but since the beginning of disagreement. I’m surprised the Nazis didn’t do more work on that. It was a disaster. and a foreseeable disaster. and he thinks. moving away. one on top of the other. and the propagandists say. too much. Remember when the Romans tried to invade Pa rt h i a . In a way. WB: He messed it up. WB: It is one of the rules of wa r fa re that people will develop such efficient weapons. Basically there’s only one game. Not since the beginning of warfare. We ended up spending God knows how many billions of dollars and we most ingloriously lost the war. he wouldn’t think if I didn’t have a club. or somehow propped up again. A Jewish plague. Invading Russia was just a straight military mistake he should have learned from Napoleon. The Germans could have profited by Napoleon’s example as we could have profited from the French experience in Viet-Nam.O K . we l l . sensibly. It showed that this was a war that couldn’t be won. the easier to exterminate. Do you think this strategy remains effective? WB: The matter of the situation is now as it has been since the beginning of time. Meanwhile the Romans are dying of thirst and illnesses. SL: That will be for another generation. SL: It is what you called the limits of control: Control needs opposition or acquiescence. SL: He messed it up. I would have opposed the Viet-Nam war even on military grounds. One person picks up a club. Jesus. maybe he’s going to hit me.t h a t was the way to do it. There are pictures of people being kicked off the last plane that went out. and there is just no time left to think.These were too much [laughs]. the war game. further.The more you think about the whole thing. they get to a point where it would end the whole game—if you call it a game. and finally they have the Parthians behind them cutting their supply line. If Hitler had played his cards right. They liked the idea that the trains were on time. WB: Absolutely. So ultimately the enemy must be spared. the weirder it gets. the Parthians shoot some arrows.After the fall of France. But he might have even gotten away with that if he hadn’t invaded Russia. and that game is war. We’re reaching the point when instant destruction is making even deterrence obsolete. which is total victory. that was too much.That’s the thing about biological weapons. and another person picks up a club. further in. SL: But clubs now have a way of becoming invisible. BURROUGHS SL: The more defined the minority. 236 237 . they end the game.You cannot invade a country successfully where there is any amount of room for withdrawal. the Romans marched in.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. So if I hit him. you can’t be sure who’s done it. But if anyone achieves what they’re allegedly trying to do. he would have had everything he wanted and the whole of modern history would have been different. Hitler had everything going for him. All games are hostile by their nature because they involve winners and losers. Then he embarks on this concentration camp nonsense. we can’t be associated with something like this. otherwise it ceases to be control. It was completely an ideological conflict.Two pieces of lunacy. as happened with Germany after the war. They could say they have nothing to do with it quite easily. literally they were stepping on their hands as they tried to get in. WB: Since they really wanted to get rid of all the Jews. And there was no reason for it. People here would all have done business with Nazi Germany. SL: We’re relying on the “balance of terror” to exorcise the nuclear holocaust.
the better for his products and for his factories. if implemented. sensible wars are here to stay.We’re exhausting resources faster that they could be replenished—and what’s the end of it? If you cut the population in half.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. those who are manufacturing consumer goods. but those are small groups of people. BURROUGHS WB: Yes. As soon as you get to what we have now. But also there are the military necessities. They’d say. I don’t know. it would become vulnerable. It’s economical.You wouldn’t have to impose it. immune from the temptation of the State. Most people. “We are no more in the military game than Holland or Denmark. Pierre Clastres. WB: We’ve got to realize that we just can’t allow the population to increase without any sort of limits. wars for territory. recently argued that war between tribes wasn’t an accident. who cooked up this plan. even with new technologies. would upset the whole military balance of the world. In 20 or 30 years. Only in places like America and Western Europe would they want a balanced family. where males are at a premium. The Germans win one time and then the French come back. Conflict allowed them to remain divided and heterogeneous. the number of males of military age in the underdeveloped countries. It’s an interesting idea. SL: Overpopulation is also a choice on the part of competing powers. the reduction of population would not be immediate. SL: A French political anthropologist. or a natural phenomenon. particularly in underdeveloped areas. you’ve got a situation which cannot be anything other than hostile. who put it there. a heterogeneous population with terrific divergences of interest within the society itself. you have to.T h e re isn’t enough water to go around. Postgate is the man who proposed to give this pill that reproduces only male children. SL: Can you imagine any type of society that wouldn’t depend on war games? WB: There are societies where war is a minimal factor. that would simplify a lot of the problems. This plan. The more people. WB: Why war was there. so one group grabs it.War was intrinsic to “primitive” cultures because it was by war only that they managed to prevent the emergence in their midst of a single authority or an overall power structure. it would immediately put itself out of running as a major power. would be such that they would overrun Africa.When he put forth his theory the 238 239 . In fact a lot of Arab wars are sensible wa rs . or land. Of course.This is just the development of the industrial revolution from the point of view of the manu- facturer. wars for water.” SL: How would you achieve that goal then: would you impose population control? WB: You distribute a pill so there would be only males born. it would occur over several generations. would prefer male children anyway. whereas if the Germans won completely there would never be another time. But we can’t take care of new people. If any country allowed its population to reach a reasonable level. whenever you have a situation where there is only a limited amount of water. SL: Judging by the increasing number of “underdeveloping” countries. WB: Of course. which might be a good thing too. SL: Is this a fairy tale on a world scale or a concrete proposal? WB: Dr. There are very practical wars.
all these services on which city dwellers are absolutely dependent. But the system itself could induce chaos. shooting anyone in uniform. like in Cambodia. Then. You may decide that the political danger comes from the cities. and the Russians were coming in.They have a terrific crime problem in the big cities. no food. OK. people were dying in the street. but somehow history doesn’t repeat itself word for word.This is a possible scenario. SL: You don’t think that the confrontation between the two syst e m s .This is what happens in all the disaster novels. police. the SS were going around hanging anyone whose papers weren’t in order. fire. and you could get some approximation of it in a state of chaos. And in a year or so. WB: These ideas. Postgate received hate letters from the women’s community and he’s not even a homosexual himself. put up walls to defend their position. terrorists already act as warlords. no electricity. but I doubt it very much. or even that the terrorists succeed. has anything to do with the exhaustion of world resources? WB: These words mean absolutely nothing anymore. People are stock-piling automatic weapons.There was no water. dry 240 241 . many people have them in America who are not terrorists. warlords assert their power. you’ve got order. capitalism and socialism. Suppose the communists would take over A m e ri c a tomorrow. The chaos there was un-be-lie-vable.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. whatever their political justifications. at least he claims he isn’t. I’m talking about problems like food distribution. The right to kill has always been the prerogative of the State. I don’t say this will happen. Even terrorist groups in Germany can’t help being organized. but it’s here now. BURROUGHS t e c h n o l ogy wa s n ’t there. SL: Or they’d have to be shipped out of cities. WB: Well. SL: So the future is behind us. but we’ve seen it happen many times in history where civilizations collapsed and reverted to the city-states like in the Middle Ages. SL: I don’t think the German State would ever induce chaos.That’s what they did in Argentina. They never think that chaos could come from the institution. In a sense. t h e re ’s going to be millions of people starv i n g overnight. A good clean-up. but when that order cracks… SL: It already happened once after the 1929 crash and galloping inflation… And you got order again under the Nazis. The world will become a big Beirut slum. The chaos would be such that there wouldn’t be any possible way of relocating them. They would have weapons. They’d swarm out into the country like a horde of locusts and strip everything bare. I was just reading a book about the last days of Berlin. they wouldn’t know how to manage the fa rm s . Clans will form again. murdering the fa rm e rs . I mean. They’d have to do much the same things that are being done now. Radicals always assume that the army wants things to be in order. So you switch the generator off. And they would have to learn how to farm if they wanted to survive. WB: It could happen. sanitation. If those a re cut off. WB: They couldn’t ship them anywhere in the USA. T h ey can do it. And then you apply a plan of total eradication. everybody was trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. Needless to say. just grabbing what food they could. fortify it. I wonder if it’s all that orderly in Germany. There’s no difference between them so far as the basic needs that they have to satisfy. Some 30 or 40 people would grab a place. and that’s Germany.
that a handful of terrorists can capture people’s imagination? It is the combination of old attitudes and modern communication systems that somehow proved effective. One group might be religious. SL: And these people are perfectly legitimate… WB: They are settled. Carlos didn’t speak German.They are more rooted in their culture and traditions than survivalists in their fortresses. BURROUGHS food and they’ve got places. usually with forged 242 243 . like an agent.” as they are called. They have to get themselves from one country to another.The only problem. they are armed. because he always said the only thing that makes any sense is bullets. although. SL: Terrorists don’t have a territory. It would be fatal to them. SL: [Straight-faced] They would become Weathermen… WB: [Shrugs] Well. so they knocked him off.There's no unity among “survivalists. WB: That’s fine for a small group living in isolation. The terrorists would be hard put to compete with them. these words don’t mean very much. is that the “ m a s s e s ”d i dn’t budge… WB: Look at the number of people involved: it’s really no more than a handful. I doubt that. SL: Isn’t that strange. These people would be violently anti-terrorists in theory because many of them are right-wing.Then he was approached by the Palestinians.They try to be self-sustaining. in their case. but they derive their cohesion from their beliefs. There was some disagreement or other. He didn’t find the Russians good at all in this respect. In a heterogeneous society set beliefs are at a disadvantage. asserts that he was not an ideologist. Nomads don’t have a territory of their ow n . though. WB: Why not? A good terrorist should be a linguist. and he was closely associated with Carlos for a while. but they’re colonizing the m e d i a . another group political fanatics. but a pure technician totally indifferent to the human cost of his actions. I heard that he had been disposed of. T h a t ’s what the Palestinians did. City conditions are not conducive to any settled belief. SL: Hans-Joachim Klein. a few families at most. But then they have no sort of cohesion among them. SL: I lived at a Tuareg encampment (actually Tamachek) for a while in Southern Sahara. which were much more his sort of people anyway. WB: He went to Lumumba University in Moscow and was thrown out because he was resistant to discipline.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. country places that they are prepared to defend. like so many of them are by their own. WB: I read a book about Carlos. and they know how to use their weapons. So this doesn’t necessarily come from the terro ri s t s . at least to a point. SL: Can you really put underground fighters and secret agents in the same bag? WB: They have to do the same sort of things.T h ey ’re split in small units. or the Red A rmy Fraction. somewhere in the Middle East. SL: Klein couldn’t really tell that much about him. But you take your Tuaregs and move them to New York City: see what happens to them.
this didn’t work out.The CIA have the power of the mask. And they know that. but one in a thousand is selected. 244 245 . it was too late for him as a poet and writer.This boy is a natural. as they think. and that was one such point in my life. He hated C o l by. No one knows who they really are: this is a very powerful motivation.There are a lot of people who want to be CIA agents. the power to feel different from what they seem to be. SL: Would you have missed writing? WB: I don’t know. Angleton told A l l e n Ginsberg that he felt his life had been wasted. An uncle of mine had told him. and they have to have people they can trust. some day. I never had to deal with danger. I volunteered. Just like the CIA is a very select club. Remember this Colonel from the KGB. It was the man who’d been the head of my House at Harvard. He just didn’t like me and I didn’t like him.They are not going to take everybody who wants to be a terrorist. We don’t want this guy. the interest of their country. WB: Oh yes. He was the one who really saved Ezra Pound.T h ey have to have codes and set up tails. So that was that. So you see. In anyone’s life there’s a real point at which you could have gone another way. he’s traveled a lot and so on. If Donovan would have accepted me. [Laughs ] Nietzsche said: Men need play and danger. something that’s meaningful.This fucking Baxter. BURROUGHS p a p e rs . SL: Would you have really liked to be accepted? WB: It would have been interesting. Chief of the OSS in Washington. that was his name (he later became the President of Williams College). I could have wound up head of the CIA and I probably wouldn’t have written what I wrote. civilization gives them work and safety.There’s not much of a difference. Rudolf Hermann. it gives you something to do. And I might. I would have enjoyed it. who eventually threw him out. They have to keep their numbers down. It takes a special kind of person. who lived in Brooklyn for ten years pretending he had a totally different life? He must have got an incredible kick from it.Which may well be all for the good. SL: How did you deal with that yourself? WB: Unfortunately. and probably would. I went down and saw Bill Donovan.are protecting. who they are will be known. It is the same operation in many ways. SL: Going to an office and working everyday isn’t quite enough. if they are Palestinians. I would have been into that whole espionage thing. SL: There is something very seductive about any sort of clandestine action. yes. That was considerably later. put the skids under me. Not everyone can be a double agent.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. have turned out to be quite good at it because my whole intricate turn of mind would have lent itself very well to this kind of job.Well.An important thing about terrorism is that it is exclusive. SL: The CIA isn’t a good school for the arts. God knows what would have happened. James Angleton had started as an intellectual and a poet and he became head of the CIA. WB: No. SL: So what is the difference between them according to you? Is it that some are professionally trained and some are not? WB: But the secret service and the terro ri s t s . Something is meaningful when your survival is at stake.
They also need to be provided with what they need to operate—forged papers. one of which in his head. The man wasn’t dead.”A place where you are safe. all secret services do the same. SL: Carlos apparently was quite a perfectionist with weapons. requires cooperation with others.Well.Terrorists don’t get anywhere unless they have other people to help them and hide them.They don’t want them in any secret service. WB: People who think? Hell. They do not want any people who are in the CIA. like Ulrike Meinhof.That's terrible. Some. He didn’t. They don’t think about things like that at all. I read the account. at least not the RAF people. Would you consider Carlos a good agent? WB: The two French detectives he killed in Paris didn't expect it. They even use the same terminology: you have to set up a “safe-house. Meinhof had a remarkable career as a journalist. because you get yourself into a very limited situation. He just turned around and ran. of course. he fired one shot which hit the man in the jaw. This is the most important thing. WB: He bungled that. to get away afterwards. First. BURROUGHS WB: Not really. SL: Basically. And she wasn't wrong to think that. SL: And what is that point? WB: The point is seeing a number of sides to any questions. not on the scene of the crime.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.T h ey have to be very resourceful. SL: This certainly doesn’t apply to most terrorists. they do not want someone who can see too many sides of a question. food and. no. WB: They think up to a point. SL: I know very few healthy people then. ye s . knowing where other species went. were quite brilliant intellectuals. and not beyond that point. Where do they think they’re going as a species. SL: But they do not want people who think.And that feat. weapons. No. WB: Well. you should make sure you put at least two more shots. and you are not expected to think for yourself at all. The man recovered. Many people would deserve to be terrorists on that account. though. they want good technicians. SL: Are you suggesting that there should be a code of honor among terrorists? WB: I do not think in those terms. very clever in some ways. It was no great feat to kill two unarmed people. I think they were checking on a possible immigration violation. in some cases. Now if you're going to kill somebody. It’s not a question of honor. 246 247 .They get too many ideas. and then quit when she felt that nothing she did was going to make a difference. SL: A technical mistake. It’s not too healthy to think such things. Although he did his best to expedite a few unhealthy specimens. you find you are expected to do things that you don’t want to do. even questioning the whole human endeavor. I’m sure Carlos didn’t meditate on the future of the species. it’s a question of success. It was a great feat. I was there—I mean. He went in the house. but in London.
as he should have.Will that all go into their files? Now how do you classify those documents? They are historical documents in a sense.(SL. When you take over.A n d . I would have said. so Carlos shot him dow n . So they’ll go out. but they've got 200 pages of notes on that story and 100 photos. 248 249 . Now that they have microfilms. who hadn't resisted their arrest. WB: The most interesting element in this interview of Klein is the idea of destroying documents. Time and Life have terrific files on everything. practically everything you could think of. They don't want them destroyed. Then the next question is: do you destroy just any historical document? Do you destroy any back issue of newspapers? You see. In fact.)] A new idea—I thought of it a number of times. [No wonder. WB: I would say that destroying identity records would be a very good idea. I don’t see that it serves any purpose at all. “Give him to them. there are all kinds of technical records. I bet they still have all the records from WWI somewhere. SL: And you would destroy these records? WB: [Still looking through the Klein piece] I don’t see what he says… No! I don’t see any point in destroying those because they are so useful. All you can use it for is what it for… SL: …which is police work. [Leafs through the galleys of the interview] .they wouldn't have any money. then you would destroy all the identity records. All the dossiers of the CIA and the FBI. More and more of it. Mourkabel put his hands up. SL: Everything that has to do with people's identity? WB: That's a very interesting question: what documents do you destroy and what documents do you leave? Of course. they would have shot him for that alone. Records from all the wars. that everything has to be written down somewhere.You can get all sorts of books to tell you how to raise anything. Terrorists don't usually think in these terms because they want to get hold of the enemy's documents. Michel Mourkabel.That might be something to do.A n d they were good friends. or build a cabin. But where do you draw the line? SL: If you want to protect the identity of a whole bunch of people.You can't use them to start a fish fa rm . to destroy all this crap. criminal records.Are those to be destroyed? SL: What kinds of technical records? WB: Well. you should destroy all the documents you can find. files that are piled up.” because there is no excuse for bungling it. this is a fairly recent notion after all.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Let me see what records Klein wants to destroy. SL: According to Klein. Suppose you went in and wiped everything off the computers at Citibank? Nobody would know whether they have any money or not. It's all computerized. BURROUGHS WB: Exactly. all that stuff. all modern banking is completely a matter of records now. WB: [Getting annoyed] I can’t find that section about destroying records. There are terrific records in Washington of any type of farming. they can store more of this stuff. that's exactly what he did to a friend. SL: The idea that we have to keep records. of course. all the birth certificates. and the story may be that long [shows between his two hands]. death certificates. All that shit. If I had been in charge. Identity records and all the criminal records. right now. it wasn’t there. This is a really far-reaching idea. Why keep it? It's only of use to police forces.
SL: So you have to accumulate everything. The only people to be really hurt if newspapers ceased to exist.“Wait a minute. history might cease to exist overnight. but hardly to people who are reading it. As soon as you get professionally engaged in anything.Well. but it wouldn't bother the rest of us. People live here and work over there. her age. well then these things become necessary. they don’t have to have news-papers.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. not irreversible. SL: There’s something frantic about the way we collect all this information. Any object or any technology will make itself necessary as soon as it gets going. SL: People get very neurotic about these things. Eighty years from now you could find out in a newspaper that an elderly woman died in a roaming house fire and the address and her name.All we have is new s . Imagine the gasoline goes up and they have to find an alternative. BURROUGHS WB: Oh completely recent. like cars for example.like newspapers. WB: There’s nothing strange about it. I remember.Accumulate data to death. They don’t have to have television. It is a very questionable benefit. SL: You can never know in advance if something is going to be of interest later.a n d it’s their job to collect the news. WB: That’s true.” And they've got a story.There’s so much information gathered everyday that we are hardly informed at all anymore. except statistically perhaps.Then they keep these files. it’s happening everywhere. but they soon would get used to it. but as soon as you have them. They are not developing alternatives fast enough. SL: The scenario becomes irreversible.They are working on electric cars. I think nobody knows it yet. which are important to you if you write a newspaper. although the information is of no conceivable value.We don’t need all this communication.. S L : C o m munication has a way of making eve rything look identical.Two hundred years ago it would not have existed. I don't think we have to do it now.“Now look at this.They really are not certain how close they are to exhausting our oil.And without power we can be certain that this whole communication system would collapse. It would upset them for a while. WB: Oh.You say. Is that the same name? Go and get me this file. WB: Yes. SL: Would that be a great loss? WB: Not necessarily.w h i c h is more of the same.What the hell. but not very hard. would be the people who work on newspapers. After all. SL: We discussed earlier the possibility of reverting to warlords and city-states. We didn't have those for a long time. A columnist for The New York Times recently went on vacation and said he felt guilty not reading the paper everyday.”And then they say.You’ve got new s p a p e rs .. WB: We didn't always have to do this at all. 250 251 . then the whole economy is built on cars. WB: History is reversible in the sense that it has ceased to exist. and the nearest shopping center is somewhere else—they’ve got to have a car.
the less point there is in going there.T h a t ’s a terrifically useful system.The Tong system is breaking dow n . This account for the Moonies. or 40 minutes. it's a physical need.We’re trying to make something work which isn’t working anymore. they’re finished. the Mafia was some sort of protection for the poor against the rich and powerful. The mafioso is something dating back to the Middle Ages. in some respect. and the fact that everywhere sects and fundamentalism are on the rise. WB: It isn’t just a psychological need. BURROUGHS WB: It does. SL: If the planet were to be destroyed in 40 years. the people in New Guinea and in South America that are not affected by this sort of leveling process of the media and communications.The need for new forms of identification—actually very old ones—is getting to be overwhelming.There are only a few pockets like the Tuaregs. 252 253 . The sort of protection that Tongs used to provide.They don’t have it. would you go on writing? WB: Whether the world is going to last 40 years or 40 million years. like the CIA and the terrorists. All your needs were taken care of by the To n g . Until the world does end. Just a few people are allowed in. it doesn’t change work. they supported you if you were out of work. you have to live. but it has to be on a different basis. they would find you a place to live if you didn’t have one. But it doesn't exist anymore. They’re just so much time and when it runs out. And the quicker you get to some place. SL: There’s a definite relationship between this leveling process. SL: Some do. SL: Isn’t it something we may be going back to? After all.When you belonged to a Tong. You have to go on doing what you're doing just as a carpenter does. WB: Suppose you belong to a certain tribe. and they miss it. the Jonestown fanatics and.You have this feeling of support which is very important indeed. Most people would jump at it if they had the chance. WB: Time runs out for any species.T h e mafiaso still have this thing going.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I can see their value. the eradication of all cultural differences. you know exactly what to expect from other people. in present-day language. SL: Have you ever felt this need to belong yourself? Have you ever wanted to become a mafioso? WB: No. but they’re very selective. People lose that entirely when they live in a large city. They’re out of date concepts. It’s like telling the same joke over and over. the formation of urban guerilla ideologists in Western Europe with the decadence of Marxism.
Afterlives . Paintings.A Landscape I Never Saw Before: Dreams.
he writes for money. my mouth falls open. BURROUGHS N O T H I N G I S I N E V I TA B L E U N T I L I T H A P P E N S be his only source of support. the films they see. 1983 JAY MURPHY: With the final draft of The Place of Dead Roads at the printer.” William S.The need that art fulfills is similar to the need which the dream fulfills—to travel in time and space. I postulate that man is an artifact designed for space travel. He also may write for a whole gamut of other reasons. the ideas they are exposed to. an artist. No justification is called for. Kerouac sent millions of young people on the road. It is the function of art to sustain and amplify that. cinema. Deprived of that lifeline he will die. JM: Gary Snyder said a few years ago. writing does enable the writer to clarify his own thoughts and feelings and act out his own inner dramas in the characters and situations he cre a t e s . This is where they get it from. Writing is a profession like medicine or law in that it takes up all the writer’s time and may 256 257 . JM: Do you see any success in the “consciousness revolution” of the last 20.The past 40 years has seen a worldwide revolution without precedent owing to the mass media which has cursed and blessed us with “Any writer who does not consider writing his only salvation. creative and innovative thinking as well. I include painting. 30 years that your books were such a landmark of? WB: When someone asks me this. thesecondvolumeofthetrilogycompleted. for Christsakes.A rt fulfills a need like medicine or farming. Of course. Dreams serve literally as his lifeline to space.whotoldpeoplethathewrotefor the money? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Does a doctor practice medicine because he is deeply interested in the subject and hopes to make an important contribution? Or does he practice to make money? For both reasons and many others. Fitzgerald wrote the jazz age. I—I trust him little in the commerce of the soul. determine the whole style of an epoch. photography. He is not designed to stagnate in present time anymore than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. He needs money to live and continue his work. some of which may not be clear to himself. the books they read. is the more far-reaching and pervasive for being indirect. but it was a real millionth of an inch. Burroughs Mail Interviews. And certainly.” Do you feel a part of that? WB: I don’t know what Snyder is talking about. The arts.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. how people will dress and talk and act and think and feel. The influence of a writer. He is in a state of arrested evolution. sculpture. “We can say that we only moved the world a millionth of an inch.doyoulook on yo u r wo r k as a personalexorcismofanys o rt ?D oyoufeelthatyouhavea justification forwriting?OrdoyoufeellikeCéline.
S o we can start by examining the human artifact with biological alterations in mind which will.The answers are there. I have known the people connected with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV for many years. JM: Are there any major new developments as far as content and writing style in The Place of Dead Roads and its successor? WB: The Place of Dead Roads.b i o l ogical wa r fa re. now named Psychic TV? WB: Well. Possibly the timely use of biologic weapons may undercut the whole nuclear issue. a Hispanic was a spic and a Gay was a fucking queer. which I have just finished.“hurry up. entirely too many HAs and too little time. states my orientation somewhat more clearly than any previous book. or the use of drugs by government agencies? WB: Professor Delgado stopped a charging bull by pressing a button. JM: Have you continued any research into mind contro l . Endorphin may be the answer to addiction. or does your vision just escape all those critics? WB: It is not up to me to hold out hope. He has elicited in human subjects fear. please. I don’t think mind control can go much further. Hispanics. I am old enough to remember when the idea that Gays. the bands themselves seem to acknowledge the influence of my work. And at my back I always hear.m o re suitable for space travel. Solutions are blocked by short-sighted vested interests. And that was that. render our human artifact.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.” Time’s winged chariot hurrying near. and Blacks had any rights at all was simply absurd.Tremendous progress has been made in leading ordinary people to confront these issues which now crop up in soap operas. Solutions are there. JM: Do you see nuclear war as inevitable? Do you see any hope in the growing disarmament movement? In the survivalist movement? WB: Nothing is inevitable until it happens. please it’s time… We’re closing. BURROUGHS immediate worldwide communication. HA HA HA. it’s time. They are simply not being implemented.The answers then. The book postulates that man is an artifact designed for space trave l . Lustron had the answer to cheap housing—it was blocked by the real estate lobbies. 258 259 . Believe me. sloppy giant flicked grease from his fingers .” Brion Gysin has an all-purpose bedtime story… Some trillions of years ago a dirty. “Hurry up. sexual excitement by pressing buttons. Disarmament movements are rather futile in view of the limited time at our disposal. joy. Do you think that criticism is relevant at all to the new trilogy. Of course. they were not household words 40 years ago. Gay and junky are household words. JM: Do you hold out any practical hope for the planet? Many have criticized your work for its remote politics. HA HA HA. we can depend on the FDA to keep it off the market as long as possible. A Black was a nigger. SPLAT.O n e of the gobs of grease is our universe on its way to the floor.our H A . No politician could put forward the drastic measures that are called for cutting the population of the planet in half. Everything that happens anywhere now happens everywhere on the TV screen.This is a long range research project and try to get an appropriation for such a purpose. go way beyond politics. JM: Are there any younger writers and artists carrying on what you and Brion Gysin have spawned with the cut-ups? Do you agree with those who see your influence in the work of bands such as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. Survivalist movements are predicated on surviving nuclear disaster. rage. hopefully.
but not deliberately. INTE LLEC TUAL GUNMAN Washington D. In the meantime. Afterward a party would be waiting in the same bar where he sat now looking about curiously.C. rain. The Place of Dead Roads. and the liquid blue eyes constantly scanned until he determined to state the case finally. free hand balancing his cane at his side.. and others.] I've always thought of the past as a meaningless proposition. about the time of his death.The past and the future are contained in the present. as if having been attacked on this point for far too long. Outside the sky was gray ink. WILLIAM TRIPLETT: Vodka and Coke? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Yeah [the voice bent. WT: So why two names and two prepositions? WB: Well.] I call it an America Libre. I'm not much into theory.You can't possibly separate language from content or character.] WILLIAM B URR OU GH S . drag on cigarette. I didn't realize the extent to which I'd been inﬂuenced by Denton Welch stylistically until I reread him in 1974 or 75. It's based on the Egyptian concept of the seven souls. C a rson exists simultaneously as Carsons. WT: Do you always know who is talking? WB: I write quite consciously. and I’ll say. It just happens.] Let's seeeee. is the pen name in this novel of a writer né William Seward Hall. and actually everyone in the book is a different aspect of the same pers o n . Denton Welch is Kim Carsons. Kim is delineated by what he says and by his thought processes. snarled. go back and look at it. It's always the present. for Kim Carsons. just about when I was starting Dead Roads. [Pause. I’ll write it. hours before his 70th birthday. W T: Your book is dedicated “to Denton We l c h . Lord Jim. I would say the key to his character (and whoever else he may be) is attitude.” [The long fingers pulled and tore at the straw in his drink. 1984 William Burroughs recently came in from a February Washington D.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. eyes still locked on you.”Why? 260 261 . Gatsby. BURROUGHS WB: I read him in 1948. He is certainly the writer who most directly influenced my work. WT: What do you mean by that? WB: Attitude… like gesture. to talk about his new novel. it should be noted. as he sips from his drink.C. “Hmmm… That’s so-and-so talking. Comus Bassinton. [Carsons. In a short time the Washington Project for the Arts would screen the newly-made documentary “Burroughs. The idea of a (definite) past is a sort of theoretical experience. who writes fantasy Westerns. you read in his face a weird mix of animal madness and gentleman affability.” and its subject would be there in person.
I never know what's going to happen myself. then you are too. WT: Do you work from an outline? WB: I just sit down and write. The author pulled at a new straw.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS I'm not much into abstractions.” he means that quite literally. W ri t e rs do the same thing through their readers. If I can't do something else. W T: In Dead Roads. I'd finished the book. Quite a lot of it will take place in ancient Egypt. There was a huge overflow from Cities.What does immortality mean to you? WB: Whatever it may mean. I couldn't tell myself who had done it. WB: I’d really written clearer than I realized. and when I looked back over it. WT: And what about critics? WB: [Judging from the look on his face. WT: Did you feel the same for Cities of the Red Night? WB: In Dead Roads. WT: So will you ever be able to achieve Immortality? 262 263 . and I didn't quite understand how. For example. he was right. but when James [Grauerholz] told me it could have been only one person. I'll be there. To those three questions for Dead Roads I was able to answer fully. you refer to the We s t e rn Lands a s Immortality. WT: You mean that you had an end in mind when you began Dead Roads? WB: No. Most of what passes for criticism isn't criticism at all. and what we see is not one god but many gods in power and in conflict.They don’t even know Arnold’s three questions. WT: But you knew who the killer was. I just start out and it takes shape. and it’s concerned with the after-death experience.] Mostly I feel that very few critics understand anything about art criticism.“When your arrow hits the target in the dark. the only advancement was that I was clearer in what I was trying to do.When the Zen master says. your books will be around after you've gone. Dead Roads is a wacky mystery with the evidence stated and the killer implied. If I can answer Arnold's three questions—What is a writer trying to do? How well does he succeed in doing it? Is it worth doing?— then I feel I've succeeded. I mean. either… but I do believe in the Magical Universe. It’s just an airing of the prejudices of the critic. He achieves immortality through his students. the land of the dead. I’m already about 200250 pages into it.They disparage a writer for not trying to do some thing else rather than what he is trying to do. the word critic is synonymous with intestinal disorder. about 100 B. as well as in Cities of the Red Night. his America Libre refreshed. with an unequivocal ‘yes’for the last. WT: What is your next work like? WB: It’s a definite sequel to Dead Roads. some of which went into Dead Roads. In some respect. I’m calling it The Western Lands.C. WT: Will there be an overflow of Dead Roads? WB: Every book I write is in effect an overflow. If your books are around. where nothing happens unless one wills it to happen.
but respected only him. He was the only man I have ever respected. ALLEN GINSBERG: It’s one of Bill’s best works. Dead Roads is the quintessence of his writing brought to its most subtle. His presence was regal without a trace of pretension. and applied it to the novel: the use of universal chance. He was at all times impeccable. [Ginsberg continued in that hearty and wide voice of his. July 13. which is usually applied to music. He knew he had only a few weeks to live.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Through his painting I caught glimpses of the garden that the Old Man showed to his Assassins. written in her own English: “Brion asked to wear his Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medallion in a very elegant way and we started dinner with a wonderful Chinese soup. Remember. which is really only a small part.This one. with complete free play of the entire consciousness as opposed to the linear/conceptual part. I asked him where he got his perceptions to realize his paintings. Allen Ginsberg is wild about Dead Roads. however.” PORT OF ENTRY Paris. “I wait for the accident of one stroke to complete the image. He’s taken aleatory form. I have this last glimpse through a letter from my friend Rosine Buhler. The Garden cannot be faked. It reminds me of a conversation I once had with Francis Bacon. 1960 Brion Gysin died of a heart attack on Sunday morning. the Little People. Awakened by telephone one afternoon “I work late”. the Old Man of the Mountain? Certainly that. I was preparing to go to Paris when Brion died. I have admired many others. BURROUGHS WB: I have no idea when I’ll finish. I never do. swift. who will never serve a faker or a coward. esteemed and valued others.And Brion was incapable of fakery. Like all his works. Brion was suffering from emphysema and lung cancer. and delicate accomplishment. seems to be the one Ginsberg knew was coming.A master work of an old artist who knows all his tricks and skill and his craft. even when the books fell short. H e ’s always admired and encoura g e d Burroughs. Who was Brion Gysin? The only authentic heir to Hassan-I-Sabbah. Brion finds the wine slightly rapeux to tease Francois de 265 264 . I found reading it like listening to Mozart.] Most art of the century is a kind of experiment with open f o rm . 1986. and he said. He was Master of the Djoun forces. there’s a great dependency on chance in this one.
when I discovered I could really get into these paintings. The substance of the paintings seems to bridge the gap.as I callit. and then you flash back to what appears on the surface… The substance of the painting exists with a double motion in and out.You think of them as the red world and then the blue world. I can’t see all of these different levels at once because it is as if they existed independently only.A n d then this is related to actual time-sequences presented here. Now you suddenly get all sorts of things here.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Beautiful jungle landscape. All sorts of faces… monkey faces… typical withered monkey faces.The remarkable thing is the way in which the sections. And you do get whole worlds. BG: You mentioned once that you can’t see all of these at the same time. Sometimes it is rather like an archway… Any number of little details or a special spot of color makes the port of entry and then the entire picture will suddenly become a three-dimensional frieze in plaster or jade or some other precious material. both through the forms and through the color because the color makes the shifting form s . blue on a foulard… blue on a young workman’s ass… his blue jeans… a girl’s blue sweater… blue neon… the sky… all the blues.Itisasortoftoyworldandonethatissomehowalarming.This is the first real space-timing painting in which there’s a presentation of what is actually going on in front of the painter and the viewer in a space-time sense. BURROUGHS Palaminy.” I don’t think I had ever seen painting until I saw the painting of Brion Gysin. and went to his room.You can literally see the pull of one canvas on the other. The whole bicycle world… scooters. Here is a transcript of a tape we recorded while talking in front of some of his pictures during the time we both lived in the old Beat Hotel at 9 rue Gît-le-Coeur in Paris back in 1960.It is often a face through whose eyes the picture opens into a landscape and I go literally right through that eye into that landscape.You see things in a sequence which is actually a time-sequence. I was walking down the boulevard when I suddenly felt this cool wind on a warm day and when I looked out I was seeing all the blues in the street in front of me. who has spent and concentrated to find a non-altered wine which is not so easy even in Paris.The eye which I am using as a port of entry jerks me abruptly into a landscape I never sawbefore. He wanted no help to lift himself up from his green armchair. BRION GYSIN: How do you get into these paintings? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Usually I g e ti n by a port o fe n t ry. Suddenly you get a whole violet world or a whole gray world which flashes all over the picture. Something is going streaming right across the vo i d . I know of no other example of the way in which time is represented here. seem literally to pull together. When I looked again I saw nothing but all the reds of traffic lights… car lights… a cafe sign… a man’s nose. I was taking a color walk around Paris the other day… doing something I picked up from your pictures in which the colors shoot out all through the canvas like they do in the street. For example. populated with mechanical insects attacking each other and men in 266 267 . WB: No. Here is space-time painting. as it were.After occurs a dreamlike talk about having a large house by the sea in August.You can see way deep into all sorts of landscapes for instance.When you see one layer of the picture then you suddenly see it all.S u rely this is the first painting ever to be painted on the void itself. when hung a few inches apart.Very archetypical in this world.Your paintings make me see the streets of Paris in a different way. in their time-sequence.This picture in front of me is in four sections. Brion said he knew he would sleep well and was really happy of that good day. the shadowed room where all is burning hot outside. And then always bicycles. I was watching his tall. illuminated by each individual color… worlds made of that color. The worlds are. his secure path… only kings and wild people have this way. And then there are all the deserts and the Mayan masks and the fantastic aerial architecture of your bridges and catwalks and Ferris wheels. straight way to walk.
here are a lot of people on fire… streaming with gasoline on fire across the whole picture… people running and the upper corner of the picture seems to fold back and over them. Each time I look at this picture I see something I never saw before in the whole world. BG: Yes.When you relate to it. Brion. Everything can and does become something else. Now there is a point at which you can see both images simultaneously.” Now when they see things in your pictures that are obscene from their point of view. I can hardly remember what that thing there was a minute ago. BURROUGHS armor from other planets. and up above.The Arab world.There is something that swells up as this is happening. It becomes rather uncomfortable. Or they may be simply modern welders with bridges in the background. Being strictly an experimenter. people have objected.And this is a pink hill.You painters can be as nasty and dirty as you like and people don’t see it as quickly or they simply don’t dare say so because it would be too much of a raw reflection on themselves. we’re not to blame. It is inexplicable.Why.You could look at all this for months and see something new all the time. so there’s something dirty and nasty in me.From some you can get into others and from others you cannot get anywhere and so on.There are some fish-men swimming down here looking as though they were made of waste-baskets from the waist down. A basic fear of suffocation and a loss of support both being contained therein. pure Science! All of us are pure scientists exploring different levels of fact. There are faces and there are cells in which people live in little pools of the stuff. Oh yes. Extremely intricate. is he going to stop because some idiot comes and says: “Pornographer! I must say that my whole family was nauseated by the sight of your slides! You and your filthy pictures. you can switch it back on.Precarious position which is somehow related to the fear of falling from a great height.” Oh. there is what looks like a city… a very strange drifting city that is moving through space-time at an incredible speed. The substance is moving all the time… shivering moving changing. Sometimes this seems to be pulsing with light and at other times it is all made out of stone… porous stone perhaps… an indeterminate 268 269 . I see all sorts of faces… eyes opening into doors and windows… hundreds of them in the most amazing juxtapositions. A laboratory with instrument panels. You can see the canvas become self-sufficient by a switch of the image. Just because someone finds a real nasty-looking microbe. to say the least. Some sort of energy is conducted through these tubes that run through the whole canvas which has become completely three-dimensional. they don’t dare say so.Why.Crystals. She’s caught in a glob of something or under a bowl. Sometimes you see familiar landmarks but it is as if whole constellations changed each time… like a street corner where you recognize the landmarks but there are always new people to change the whole scene. that was a head but now it has become a house flat on the ground.There are great flaring movements across the whole canvas… and then they turn into tubes… pulsing tubes. as being in my own line of work. like shit from a cirrhotic liver.It’sasubstance.The whole canvas is suddenly totally clear and accurate… a fantastic world of faces that are part house and all of it frozen over in a strange gelatinous pink substance… frozen hell there in that substance.That gives this picture a most disconcerting aura.An Arab market.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. It gives you this tremendous feeling of vertigo. I say: Science.that’slikejumping up from your microscope and screaming: “I won’t look at that any more! They’re squirming around down there just carrying on so nasty!” Now I regard you. Now there are all sorts of green men here made of that substance.And there’s my aunt encased in her electric motor car covered with veils. WB:Idon’t seewhytheyshould. “I’m seeing that in there.There is a very distinct little physiological shock when you switch it back to the former image… every time you switch it back and forth. it’s the grasshopper world. as though you had to breathe through your cock and you can only get it up to where the air is if you have a hard-on. and if we turn up something nasty.
and then your attention is suddenly jerked back to a clear long-range view of the picture or its all-over pattern. I had my first show little more than a year ago at the Tony Shafrazi gallery in New York. “Wings tack quietly…Vines crying… not crying… kiss… noisy pissing Tex… Gysin not sin was not crying… Fix Gysin… Brion…” BG: What I read is different:“My dear very yours… not crying…” WB: It looks like letters here too. as if these people I see in there were plants growing out of these tubes you have running through all the canvas. Then you get that strange vegetable substance. So it’s not a new idea. yes. What you actually see at any given moment becomes only a part of a visual operation which includes an infinite series of images. BURROUGHS substance between stone and flesh. I’ve been working with montages for many years since the ‘60s.That is. BG: Doesn’t that look like some kind of writing? WB: It does. 1989 S PA C E A R T William Burroughs returned to his howmetown for an exhibition of his paintings. I find that it takes about twenty seconds to focus at all. illustrated image. NICHOLAS ZURBRUGG: Would you say that your painting represents a substantially new activity? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Well.This leads you along a certain path like a row or series of patterns… a series of neural patterns which already exist in the human brain. very strange! Just for a moment there I caught an absolutely clear photographic picture of Gregory Corso. and so forth. But painting as a separate career from writing is. I can read it. Yes. with the whole concept of image. 271 270 . typed and handwritten words. image to illustrate writing. St. like coral. It is queer how these photographic shocks of yours flash in and out. the idea of actually painting on paper without photographs. but it dates back. but they’re harder to make out. I read:“Creeps…” Looking at these paintings of yours is often like focusing an optical instrument. It has gone now but I feel sure it is really in there and will come back again.These strangely familiar faces are all growing together bound up by vines and tendrils… monkey faces.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Missouri. on December 19. Louis. montages or collages is new. 1987. It is one of the most remarkable phenomena I have ever witnessed in my practice… in all my practice. photos.The viewer has to learn how to flicker back and forth between a telescopic and a microscopic point of view while his attention is centered on some small beautiful scene which may be no bigger than your index fingernail at one moment. N Z : Your earlier scrapbooks have always used graphics and images. At one point a very mean ravished 17th century face with a ruff around his neck standing outside some sort of native hut.
NZ: So you’re actually recycling elements? WB: Yes. anything—of perfectly recognizable objects. the grass. or a wall. There are a lot of secondary images. That’s what I’m looking for. NZ: This process seems reminiscent of some of the references to Paul Klee’s writings that James Grauerholz quotes in his essay on your work. so that they have big posts with a chain across it. It isn’t even an approximation of the thing itself. the windows… NZ: Did you want to do a painting of Portland Place. but I think he does alright here. It’s not subjective. It’s one of the private sectors. or did Portland Place emerge? WB: Portland Place emerged. moving bits and pieces around. I like to concentrate on those. of trees. WB: Oh no. and then impose random order by putting in quite recognizable silhouettes of faces. I have also done some pictures in collaboration with Philip Taafe. a lot of them are ambiguous. NZ: So it’s a picture of a particular environment? WB: Yes. Louis. anyone can see them.there’s some of that in the painting. or cars. It’s just what the artist has abstracted over the period of time that he made the painting. Is Klee a painter you particularly like? 272 273 . I may make a painting using random techniques like shotgun blasts of paint across the surface.Well. Any painting is abstract. the montage method. But Long Radio Silence Over Portland Place  is an image of Portland Place—a place right here in St.Then I’ll use those in other paintings. things like that. After the picture is finished I see what it is. unpredictable images and patterns. But they certainly do not emerge by conscious manipulation.We painted together—he did part of the painting and I did another part. NZ: When you take a blow-up of one painting and put it in another.f l owers. of course. NZ: Towards the end of your essay. a curtain.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. snow on everything. or whatever. It’s like snow. I have a photographer who takes close-ups of the paintings. yes. no. or a cloud or faces—quite definitely recognizable images. In a lot of paintings there’ll be a lamp. or whatever—the silhouette of a bottle. BURROUGHS WB: They do. a recognizable image.” WB: Well. so the viewer can see something clearly—a lot of leave s . He’s more well-known in Europe than he is in America. It isn’t the thing itself. sure.You won’t get anything that way—it’s not the way it happens. NZ: Do these things emerge more by chance than by deliberation? WB: Well.” you say that you are interested in “unforseeable. NZ: I just wondered whether the actual recognizable image became more abstract.These images are quite clear. It’s an abstraction of something. “Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species. I don’t believe that anything is random. It happens with the hands.Then I use a lot of silhouettes. Although it depends upon what you mean by abstraction. taking a piece of a painting here and putting it over in another painting—the cut-up method. I want this part and that part. I name them afterwards. I’ll say. Or I might blow one up and make it the center of a painting and paint around it. does that lead to more and more abstraction as things get bigger and bigger? WB: Not necessarily.
yes. NZ: But in painting you have a more immediate juxtaposition of images? WB: Certainly. it renders visible. It certainly applies to painting. looking at the chewed butt of Churchill’s cigar? No one will ever know. “Curse of the Red Seal” . Not “should have. WB: Yes. NZ: Has there been any feedback from your painting into your writing? WB: Oh yes. they should have a certain uncertainty or ambiguity.There are shotgun blasts there.You’ve got the words there. because in writing you have to translate.” but they do have.t h e re ’s the obvious difference that painting can convey simultaneous images and events that you can’t do in writing. In painting you have a medium. But you see. is a mixture of all kinds of things. and the reader has to translate those into images. In fact. just by the thoughts and process of writing it. you quote Brion Gysin’s assertion that “writing is fifty years behind painting.“The way in which a picture is made may be more interesting than the picture itself. there are photographs here. a degree of ambiguity.”That is. the paintings seem to be very good subject matter for your writing. Painting renders it visible. but don’t know that they know? WB: Well. the artist sees something that other’s don’t see. which must be read in a certain way.“Art does not render nature.” Does your painting allow you to catch up with the present? WB: Well. It’s more interesting than anything else I’ve heard from any other painter. NZ: What new things do you feel that you’ve been able to explore in painting. I attempt to. 274 275 . and so on. In writing you’ve got a book. NZ: Which one seemed to come first? Did you find that you were writing something that you’d already painted. I may paint something that I will write later. by seeing it in painting. He says for one thing. as opposed to the verbal media? WB: We l l .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. I find that very often. and you can’t get away from that.Whereas in painting you have the images there.t h e n when I get through. you’ve got a page.“ Winston Churchill Comes into Focus. and here’s my painting here. you have a frame. Cigar and All. There’s another thing—you can’t help but know what you’re writing. NZ: Would that fit into your maxim that writing allows people to know things that they already know. or write something that I will paint later. But with painting you don’t know—you see with your hands. or that you were painting something that you were writing? WB: Both. I like his writing. And he said.” Now if I’ve got a piece of paper here.”The paintings seem to have that pleasant air of mystery which seems to suit your writing. and I’m using this piece of paper to test colors .” adding. NZ: In another of your famous statements.“so what is the mission of this dim grey agent. this may be more interesting than that.This one. I noticed that in your text “Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species” you were saying that in one wo r k .You don’t need to go through the process of translation. BURROUGHS WB: Well. NZ: I like your comments on the paintings. There’s no necessary sequence. exactly—or painting. there are differences in the medium. So there are these given limitations.
It can probably go four ways. reduced in size. WB: Well. and I take one look at it and I say. where you and Brion juxtaposed texts. WB: A good many of them are painted up and down and crosswards. reduced images and handwritten commentaries. and there is no up and no down in space. Sometimes it may work very well—just what it needs. “I’m not going to have any spray paint or anything else—just leave it as it is. NZ: Have you found yourself looking more at art and finding out what’s going on? 276 277 . I began by shooting at plywood. and then you try to rectify it. Then I started using tubes of paint. NZ: Has your painting changed much since you began? WB: It keeps changing all the time—I don’t like to keep on doing the same thing. exactly—you know. and you’ve had a big fall? WB: Absolutely.Well. it gets worse. and brushwork on afterwards. when you haven’t let go of the balloon.“No. Maybe that’s because I like some specific images. It depends upon the picture—entirely upon the picture. So there’s quite a number of different elements—brushwork.Where the blasts came out you get all these striations of wood—some of which were very interesting.”The most important thing for a painter—certainly. NZ: Do you have any preference for using photographs or not? WB: No. absolutely. and I began putting brushwork on first. sometimes I only do one with spray paint. So it soon progressed. WB: That’s right. no photographs. I find this one to be true—is to know when a painting is finished. So it’s not always easy to say. But there are no hard-andfast rules. don’t add anything. In some cases where I’ve made a mistake. I’ve been meaning to do other shapes like circles—it’s a question of getting plywood cut in different shapes. yes. I think of these as being Space-Art. That one.” Then I do something with brushwork and I say. I will just put a photograph over it.montages.There’s no collage there. NZ: I think I prefer the ones with the photographs. So then there’s the question of which way the painting goes. NZ: Are some of these works painted from different directions? I was thinking of Brion Gysin’s calligraphic overlays and permutations. NZ: Have you had problems on occasion. BURROUGHS There’s a photograph up here of one of the paintings. has got a lot of shotgun blasts in it. silhouettes. and nothing’s to be added. If you make too much of a mistake.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. “Heart of Darkness” [1987 ]. NZ: And is that a sort of gut reaction? WB: Yes. no brush work. It can go one way or another. and some of which were not. NZ: This seems to be in the tradition of some of your collages in The Third Mind. NZ: So: photographs to the rescue! WB: Photographs to the rescue.
and that whole area. and it’s also illustrated by about 15 of my paintings.I ’ve done some of that. and Jasper Johns.I ’ve just finished one—Ghost of Chance. Does popular imagery of that sort occur very much in your painting? WB: Not much. so I suppose I’ll have to be there for a couple of weeks. It’s always very important to know what other people are doing.Then there’s a whole series called “The Land of the Dead”—a number of paintings illustrating the land of the dead in The Western Lands and The Place of Dead Roads. NZ: Did you also suggest various forms of scenery or staging? 278 279 . NZ: Have you ever deliberately quoted other painters’ work? WB: Oh well. BURROUGHS WB: Oh yes. I’ve used some sections of reproductions in the works. principally. which is always a fool’s bargain. NZ: Are there any particular painters that you feel sympathetic towards? WB: Well. It is certainly not Pop Art in any sense. Der Freischutz. oh yes. It’s supposed to have an element of magical invocation. should we say. but the forester must have a hunter as his son-in-law. Also. So he meets an old soldier. This is in Hamburg in September. and he can’t hit anything. about selling out to the devil—the devil’s bargain. NZ: Your work often seems primitive.” painting over that. I did one using Bosch’s “Garden of Delights. he shoots at a dovebu ti ti sh i sb e t ro t h e d whofa l l st ot h eground.That is. I’ll get a few ideas down and then see how he reacts to these. because I said. he’s in an asylum. I’ve got about 30 pages down. which belongs to the devil. I like Klee very much.When he’s got one left. who gives him these magic bullets—they always find the mark. I’ve been working on a libretto for an opera that Robert Wilson is doing called The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets. You said you’d discussed some of these novels when you were teaching. ye s . Now it’s not my story. So in the last scene. NZ: When we spoke last time. the devil. N Z : H ave you begun any more sustained fiction since T h e Western Lands? WB: We l l . but I’ve made a number of notes on it. ritualistic or magical perhaps. and you’ll find that little pieces of painting have found their way into your own painting—little pieces of van Gog h .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. yes. I haven’t discussed it yet. well. for example. looks rather like some kind of cave painting. It’s a short novel. “The Milky Way” . It’s an old German folk thing.You look at your paintings. definitely—what effects they are getting. WB: It’s supposed to be. from Warhol and David Hockney. which is about the lemurs in Madagascar and Captain Mission’s pirate settlement there. B ri o n . I suppose he will use them—I don’t know.Well. It’s just not my medium—you know—billboards. you were quite enthusiastic about popular fiction like The Godfather and Jaws. Picasso. Jasper Jo h n s . I’m pretty far. NZ: Have you discussed the project in any detail yet? WB: No. some years ago. and also about Jesus Christ.Thebullethas hit her in the forehead. But there are many others. all those things. I look at art magazines to see what people are doing. this man is in love with the forester’s daughter.
that’s his job. I think it’s very interesting. I’m interested in the project. or are you enjoying it? WB: Oh. He seems to use fragments as well. NZ: And are you stoically tolerating it. Remember that it has to be translated into German. I went to considerable trouble to make it rhyme—in rhyming couplets. NZ: How did you get in contact with Robert Wilson? Did Wilson suggest this collaboration to you? W B : He contacted me on this. I’ve been to. of course.“Listen.“I can put the most beautiful pictures on stage.” NZ: So. enjoy it. All of those.There was the October Gallery in London. Well. These are very crucial—Rome is very important. after the first six or seven. NZ: I think so too. this is the spade work? WB: This is the spade work. BURROUGHS WB: No.That’s what he does. I don’t know how much of it will find its way into the actual libretto. But you have to do it at first.that’s going to be lost in the translation. you have to do it. he uses all sorts of things. and relies on the audience to complete his pictures.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. WB: Oh yes. NZ: Do you have any other projects on the boil? WB: Well. you don’t have to go. And then I’m just back from Montreal and Toronto. He says. Seattle and Santa Fe. t h e re was an art fair in Amsterdam where I had some paintings. and Rome where there’s a show. I went to all of them. yes.”These are only suggestions in any case. yes. I enjoy it. 280 281 . If you’re going to do something. NZ: Have you seen much of Wilson’s work? WB: Some of it. Keith Haring told me. and he came to see me in Lawrence. there was Vancouver. in two weeks I go to Basel where there’s a show.
For example. SE: Yes. Usually it is partially conscious. But I looked at that anticoagulants afterwards and there was the man drinking the orange juice. no one would ever be aware of it. everywhere. Horrible death. horrible. BURROUGHS WB: Well. SE: When did you recognize it? O B S E RV I N G T H E U N K N O W N WB: As soon as I painted it I looked at it and said. American Pewter with Burroughs.The whole idea is that I try to let my hands go and paint whatever my so-called unconscious mind is aware of. In other words. SE: So when you have your materials in front of you. in one of my paintings you see the guy drinking the orange juice. SE: Do you think symbols come out of your unconscious mind onto the paper through your hands? WB: I would never use the term “unconscious. Is painting the same sort of magical act for you? 282 283 . Then in the early ‘80s you worked with Robert Rauschenberg on his series of lithographs. so that blood was coming out of his nose. A face comes into focus. very serene. I read a book called Bad Medicine by C. through his skin. Was this the beginning of your working with images instead of words? WILLIAM BURROUGHS: Not exactly. what I am doing is automatic painting. not entirely. you must remember that writing arose from painting via pictographs. 1990 SIMONE ELLIS: You’ve been known as a writer since the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959.There are green monkeys. but there is no such thing as making the mind a blank. and in it someone had overdosed on anticoagulants. It actually goes back to the ‘60s scrapbooks. a green man. Of course. and collage. this is that scene.There’s no doubt in my mind that the pictographs were created as magic. which is odd because I wasn’t necessarily thinking about that at the time. recognizing events in my paintings after they have been completed. With painting your hands do all sorts of things. I have had several experiences like that. snarls. I have seen many things in my paintings. almost smiles. writing. One time I saw a bicycle accident that happened at the same time that I was painting the picture.They were a really weird mixture of painting.Yarbro.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.Well. and I know that you have always viewed writing as making magic. I try to get my pictures to move. what sort of state of mind do you get into? WB: I try my best to make my mind a blank.” because if it were completely unconscious. And the drug was disguised in orange juice because it had an acidic taste. speaks.We were trying to break down the barrier between painting and writing.Q.
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SE: Do your paintings serve as oracles? WB: It isn’t really a question of oracles, it is a matter of the future and the past being laid out, so that you can see both the future and the past from the present.There is a very interesting book by John Donne called An Experiment With Time, written in 1925. He started writing down his dreams and found that they very often referred to future events. I dream about earthquakes, and he had a very interesting point to make about that. He said that if you dream about an earthquake, you are not foreseeing the actual event.What you are seeing is the moment when you will become aware of it.That is, the moment you will see it in a newspaper or hear about it on the news. In other words, you are moving forward on your own time track to a moment of your own future awareness. SE: You have spoken before about the clairvoyance of writing and a rt .W hy do you think making art is a clairvoyant act any more than, say, laying brick or driving a cab? WB: Well, art is a creative act. Recognition art. A particle physicist at the University of Texas named John Wheeler114 has developed something that he calls “recognition physics.” Wheeler says that nothing exists until it is observed.Well, the artist as observer is like that. The observer creates by observing, and the observer creates by creating. In other words, observation is a creative act. By observing something and putting it onto canvas, the artist makes something visible to others that did not exist until he observed it. SE: And by observing it, he takes part in its coming into being? WB: Exactly.
SE: You have called your artistic process “nagual art,” after Carlos Castañeda’s books, referring to the concepts of the tonal (predictable) and the nagual (unknown) unive rs e s .S o, by extension of recognition physics, is it the nagual that you are observing? WB: Yeah, the unknow n ,p re c i s e l y. I am observing the unknown. SE: And that is not the kind of art that paints the cow in the field? WB: We l l ,n o. Collage introduced the element of time. Someone walks around the block, comes back, and puts down on canvas what he is seeing, a medley of fragments, someone’s face in a shop window, a dog, a cyclist. It will be much more real than sitting down and painting that static moment of the cow in the grass. SE: There is no such thing as that frozen moment in time. WB: There is no such thing. SE: Furthermore, unlike the cow painters, you are not looking to the outer landscape. WB: No, I am looking into an inner landscape and, to the best of my ability, rendering it. SE: And somehow these figures continue to rise out of the ink. WB: Yes, through my hands. SE: Have you ever considered yourself an expressionist, or do you think in those terms at all?
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W B : I never think in those term s . I just follow my hands. Sometimes they do not do anything interesting at all, but sometimes they do. SE: How do the gunshot paintings fit into that aesthetic? WB: When I make the shotgun-blast paintings, I am usually not thinking about the painting but about hitting the can. I line it up and you get this explosion of color.Then the gun whams against your shoulder, but not hard at all. SE: And that is the split-second of creation? WB: Yes, it happens only once. If you miss it, it is gone. SE: Like the burning-out of a star. WB: Exactly. SE: Do you get a rush out of this moment of creation, out of creating these works of art and then having them look back at you? WB: Yes, absolutely. SE: How does painting affect your emotions, your state of mind? Do you take it seriously enough to get depressed by a painting that does not turn out? WB: I take it completely seriously, but it is something to be absorbed and realized into yourself, for god’s sake. SE: It allows you to exist on another level? In another dimension? WB: Exactly.
SE: You went through an obscenity trial over Naked Lunch in the ‘60s. Do you think that we are entering a new age of censorship? WB: Yes. It has not reached the written word in the United States yet, but it has definitely reared its head in the visual arts. I have very few overtly sexual pictures. I have one collage painting with pictures of Bosch’s Garden of Delight, but I do not think that anyone will be bothered by that. For one thing, it is protected by age. As Henry Miller pointed out, if it is old, then it is alright. Something that is perfectly acceptable in a museum may meet with opposition when it appears in new work. SE: Do you think that the rise of censorship could in fact further the evolution of freedom by inspiring the artist to stretch boundaries, to make more cutting-edge art? WB: Well, that is the whole idea of opposition giving impetus. I say that it does. But any new school of art always comes about as an opposition to something that has been petrified. SE: So along those lines, censorship in the United States may further the cause of creative art, however backhandedly? WB: Yes, but I do no see where it could go along those lines. There is nothing new about sexually explicit content. SE: So where do you go from here? WB: Well, I have been working with the gunshot paintings, and with India inks and watercolors on slick paper. I have also been making Rorschach monoprints that have produced some interesting results, but I think I will try oil on canvas next. I have not done that ye t .A n d , of course, I will continue to let the picture see me. If you try this method, you will always notice that some little
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detail in the picture is looking back at you, seeing you, coming alive in your presence. For instance, look at this one, which I did with my suction-cup method, dipping a rubber suction cup into ink and then sticking it to the paper and moving it across it. SE: These look like aliens. WB: They are. They are supposed to be aliens. Here’s one that I like very much; they are the Root People. I recognized them the moment that the painting was finished. SE: Do you feel that you have checked into the unknown—the nagual—and come back out again? WB: I do indeed, at least sometimes.You know the story about the Zen master who appeared before the emperor with his painti n g ,b owed three times and then disappeared into it? SE: Will that ever happen to you? WB: I hope so.
Coda: “I Have Done Everthing That I Could Do” .
I don’t think of you as frightened at all.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S.The strange thing about him is that this part of his face (from the forehead to below his nose) has a sort of mask-like effect. would be glad to invite you to come up to the cabin. seeking to make contact with the aliens Streiber wrote about in Communion and Transformation. On the basis of that I wrote a letter to Whitley Strieber saying that I would love to try to contact these “visitors. I N VA S I O N VB: How did you get to know Whitley Strieber? WB: It was simple. and I was quite convinced that he was telling the truth. very skeptical—I gave him the books to read. Grauerholz. BURROUGHS WILLIAM BURROUGHS: [Sitting up straight and shooting a hard. is a hardened veteran of campaigns too numerous to account.Then Bill here—who is very. Maybe they think they’re not. I had a number of talks with Strieber about his experiences. 1991 We were sitting around the table in the living room of W i l l i a m Burroughs’ house— James Grauerholz. I was very interested in his first books and I was convinced that he was authentic. a very grim decade. almost petulant look across the table. VB: Does he have a tranquil presence? Lawrence. we have to be sure—we get a lot of crank letters—that you are really you.Whitley Strieber. William always works from the center of a small group. WB: Like most people. Cats sit in our laps or sprawl on the floor. I felt he was not a fraud or fake. he has issued a series of books and paintings.We’re threatened virtually every second. he’s quite tall. but they are. after talking it over. “We.who has been his amanuensis since 1974.s i n c e 1982. Contact with other artists led to collaborations with Robert Wilson and Keith Haring and visits to. and he said. medium build.The ‘90s are a very unfunny decade.B u rroughs and myself.This is William’s cocoon and GHQ from which . six feet two inches.” When she wrote back she said. William thrust a copy of Strieber’s Majestic into my hands. I live in a continual state of panic. among others. “After reading them I believe every word.”And I wrote a letter back saying.117 The night before the interview. no. In 1989 he visited the author. A successful new career in painting led to numerous international shows. grim and nasty.“I am indeed really me.” I said I was convinced they were about a phenomenon. VB: What does he look like? WB: Well.” So we spent the week-end there. Most people do if they have any sense. [VB] VICTOR BOCKRIS: Were you ever in your life a frightened person? 292 293 . Bill Rich . Rich is a local man.” Anne Strieber wrote back saying.“Well.] Are you mad?! VB: Well.
excuse me— JAMES GRAUERHOLZ: William was a seeker. BURROUGHS WB: No. the fucking press. suffering from several days on the road in the role of journalist. it is very definite. the press. JG: It’s like they’re. VB: No. he’s not tranquil at all. you were. I agree with you. VB: No. watching. WB: —and if they’d had any sense they would have manifested themselves. but William. and those people wouldn’t come down and even talk to you. a very active person.You were the journalist in the situation. VB: Well. He seems a very hospitable and sensible person. it’s not like a hallucination. quite definite.they’re… VB: Yeah. very physical. VB: [Sneering] Yes. 294 295 . VB: Of course he was! JG: Look too hard and you can’t find it. walks around the property. if we really accept Whitley Strieber’s account. They are there.They’re in the saucers. VB: [Dismissive] There’s no way you would have under those circumstances. WB: [Dignified] I have never been a journalist. Since I’ve seen him he wrote a whole book. I can’t say that I experienced anything. although it’s not disquieting.] You were part of the press! WB: [Calmly] I was not. Billy. He told me that when you experience it.it’s not vague. VB: What do you mean? [Sneering again] Man. come on. like. why the fuck would they rush out when some writer comes up for a couple of days? WB: For every re a s o n .BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. no. WB: No. VB: I agree with you. he obviously knew you as a writer. I didn’t see anything like that.E ve ry reason why. he was looking too hard. always busy. you’re always talking about the press. He’s always working. which apparently is going to be made into a movie. no. In the first place he’s a man with tremendous energy and always busy. which I am certainly open to accepting. what I am imagining is you came to him as a writer. I’m crazy! But there’s relevance to what I’m saying. Under those circumstances it seems to me unlikely that some great thing would happen. man! VB: Of course. starts screaming. quite clear. WB: You’re crazy. WB: What! What do you mean? VB: You were a visitor going into the neighborhood as a journalist. you really think they’d recognize who you are? WB: I think I am one of the most important people in this fucking world— VB: [Jumping in] Well. [The interviewer.
very strong force. I’ve been coping with this for so many years.” and the Spaniards cut their hands off.“Here they come. They may find that my intervention is hostile to their objectives. baby. BURROUGHS WB: So that’s all I’m saying. like I do. wait a minute— VB: That’s bullshit. As soon as you get close to something important. because I know you’re troubled. And their objectives may not be friendly at all. It may mean all sorts of things. I don’t think that’s what it means. When I go into my psyche. It may mean that they would contact me at a later date. I think that you should just calm down and take it very. VB: No.“We are recycling souls.You are thinking that they think like we do. WB: Now. We usually come to a standoff. WB: —wait a minute. Now. VB: No. We have no way of knowing what their real motives are. the Spaniards. Now. man. but I don’t think that I’m necessarily winning or losing. that’s when you feel this invasion. listen. but firm voice of a doctor] Calm down. you are getting— VB: I’m upset about the whole invasion thing. patient. After all. VB: [Devotedly] I don’t see any way they could do that. I’ve been… Listen. VB:I wo u l dh ave thoughtthatWilliam’s intentionswerefairlyclear. that’s a bullshit answer. Hey! If up comes X character.saying. open. [Shrugs] I am the old doctor. way too strident. really. It may mean it was not propitious for them to come and pick me at that particular time. Don’t be so stupid and unattractive.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. WB: Who doesn’t? You are no more invaded than the rest of us. you don’t have to persuade me.”We’re proceeding with no information. let’s calm down and talk calmly. because I have a very strong sense of being invaded. WB: Well. at a certain point I meet a very hostile. and that’s the way you know there’s something there. I’ve felt my self just marched up like a puppy to 297 . That’s why I told you to calm down. VB: That’s the crux of my argument! I say. calm down. It’s as definite as somebody attacking me in a bar. why not? We don’t know who they are. came to the Indians in Central America. Bring it to me.” and he does not connect… Let us ask ourselves what this means! JG: I think it means the swami has a headache. they did manifest themselves to Strieber.I would have thought any aliens who visited the planet would have been open to William’s visit. We have no idea how they might think. or what they want! We haven’t a clue.You’re obviously concerned and upset about this whole subject. I’m a complete— WB: [Quietly] All right. One of the aliens in Strieber’s books said. The Indians said. hold on. JG: Well. just [whispers] calm down. You’re getting way too excited. listen. 296 WB: Not necessarily. or how they might evaluate. So you don’t know what their intentions are. Just like when the great white gods. or it may mean that they look upon me as an enemy.“I am here to connect. man. VB: [Raising voice] But— WB: [Speaking slowly and clearly in the calm. very easy. I know this invasion gets in.
the Lord might come in. here’s the whole liberal position: Well. that will— JG: You admit it. a guardian angel who tells you what to do or what not to do: “Don’t go in here.”You confront the invasion. you can’t. look. who has just scampered into the room: “Now. finally. self-righteous anger. no. and the town stopped them.That’s why it’s so heavily put down. they can oppose it intellectually. in comes the Devil! [Aside to one of his cats. which you can’t do. “Well.You don’t say. you little beast? That’s Spooner. blah. should we say. I am a man of the world. There are all degrees of possession. You have to admit it. O h . I was not in control. the rightists don’t march in the streets. As long as it has you flailing.They happen to all of us. psychological and.” WB: “No. comes up from the viscera to the back brain and then finally to the front brain.um. but they m a rc h . for example. it just doesn’t work. I… It’s unfair! Blah. don’t do that. WB: The last thing the invading instance wants to do is confront you directly. there is no fear like inva s i o n . VB: Do you think that you may have done some things that shocked your system and made you look at yourself in a way that caused you to be creative? WB: Well.” There’s nothing worse than a reverse guardian angel who is inside you telling you all the worst things to do and getting you into the worst situation. but I’ll tell you one thing: you detach yourself and allow this to wash through.They said. and very few can. the Devil comes in! If you relax your mind for a minute. BURROUGHS go and do something that would just get me insulted or humiliated. I just think liberals are. But invasion is the basis of fear.You can’t oppose something intellectually that is overwhelming you emotionally. What you have to do is confront the possession. “Oh. because you are not. But the front brain cannot reverse this and give orders to the back brain and the viscera.You have to learn to let the thing pass through. blah. no. of course.‘cause that is the end of it. if they can. So don’t think you’re alone.A n dt h ey ’ve s t o l e nt h em a rc ho nt h e. that’s all. Then the ultimate dream I had. The more you try to pull yourself together the further apart you get. All you have to do is understand them or see them for what they are. well. If you are firmly in control.liberals. keeping it away from you. But this does not deal with it at all on the whole. molecular level. people are possessed.You have to let it wash through. Johnsons—reasonable people who have some sort of sense of moderation and common sense and are not in some state of hysterical. no. I hate that term. difficult. but their intellect is not possessed. my God. “Pull yourself together!” [laughs] they say. Pot is very helpful to confront and to allow you to detach yourself. with no power at all.N ow. The chain of command. VB: The only way I know how to fight it off is to say. I think this is. if you relax your mind the Devil will come in!” It wouldn’t occur to them that. Creativity comes 298 299 .n o. This is difficult. or the chain of action. I saw my body walking out of the room—this is in Chicago—bent on some deadly errand.”] There’s been a tremendous process of a rightist takeover in this country. and I’m just up on the ceiling sort of fading out. no” [laughs] doesn’t work. Everyone has to sort this out themselves. you never confront it.That’s the ultimate horror of possession.“liberals.” It sounds so vague.There was a town in Georgia where some people were giving yoga session.You don’t argue. Well.orwhatever they’re called. how did you get in here. All right.All right. I would dare say. It happens all the time. I understand these things.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. to go through instead of trying to oppose. so they can oppose that which is right in there possessing them. you have. you allow it to challenge you so that you can repulse its challenge.You can do that only when you’ve wiped out the words. pretty much a universal phenomenon with anyone creative.“No. of course.
But that results from a series of these shocks. probably two days ago. Everyone does. my God.They may just be your thoughts. Some of this is in The Cat Inside [a limited edition book written by William and illustrated by Brion Gysin] .] WB: Oh. ye s .Then they ask me if I ever cry? I say. my God. writing.Then there is constantly the feeling that there could be some relationship between me and the cats and that I might have missed it. but you are making these aspects of yourself available in painting. WB: You do.“Kill your dogs and cats.” I’m very subject to violent fits of weeping. picked him up. I’ve learned compassion. or whatever. See it in its full psychic potential.Oh.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS from a series of shocks in which you are forced to look at yourself. They don’t criticize their own behavior because they are completely possessed by the feelings they have. and carried him back.When you find yourself acting like these people. People think of me as being cold—some woman wrote that I could not admit any feeling at all.heavens.They just opened up a whole area of compassion in me. the Egyptians say. then you are forced to examine yourself in every particular. filming.You don’t have to massacre millions or drop nerve gas. They reflect you in a very deep way. VB: Is fear part of that process? WB: Of course. I remember lying in my bed and weeping and weeping to think that a nuclear catastrophe would destroy them. to do what you’re going to do? WB: Yes. VB: Do you have any memories of or reflections on Jean Genet? [Genet was one of the few writers whom Burroughs felt some connection 300 301 .” I spent hours just crying. Everything outside is inside and vice versa.I ’ve learned from my cats. when you find yourself doing something that’s absolutely awful. That’s what it all is. VB: The courage to be yourself. heavens! I’ve learned immeasurably. the courage to reject them. At any given time during the last few years he has had up to five cats living with him. his human had betrayed him.S o m e of it is so extreme that I couldn’t write it. When you feel yourself possessed to do something that you regard with the most profound horror or repulsion or disgust. that’s the basic fear. for very good reasons.And I knew where he was. “Holy shit. you do them all the time. Ruski sort of attacked one of the kittens.We have 14 souls. This was his human. Such examination and recognition is an integral part of the whole creative process. But how many people in Saddam’s place would do that and worse if they had the chance? Wherever people like that are. I went out into the barn and found him sulking there. VB: Do you think you’ve learned a lot from living with your cats? [One of the most significant changes in William’s life since moving to Kansas has been his relationships with a number of cats.You have to marshal whatever forces you’ve got not just here [points to head] but throughout the whole organism. Just the slightest slap like that. VB: Is that a conscious-mind fight against the possession? WB: Heavens. My God. VB: But you don’t do really awful things that many times in your life. I remember when I was out at the Stone House. I could see people driving by saying. It comes down to a question of courage. I gave him a slight slap and then he disappeared. I am so emotional that sometimes I can’t stand the intensity. Oh. they’re doing their little worst. He was so hurt. these hatreds. It is an integral part of the process because possession is the most extreme form of fear. no! The conscious mind is one of your puniest weapons. Oh.
” [Reverts to himself] He died in a hotel. This is my earliest conscious memory: I came down the stairs and there was a mirror and I was three years old and I said to the mirror. for example. [Silence] 302 303 . Genet. He hums. WB: Do I admire that man being able to keep up an almost adolescent intere s t . WB: No. I knew nothing of this. It was just… It wouldn’t be the same Whistle. And when I had done that I had done everything that I could do. I have an almost photographic memory. but I just had such a tremendous feeling of his spiritual presence. Whistle. Some instances I’ll remember very clearly. My memory for years back is much better than my recent memory.Yes. right in me. But I know nothing about his love for Syrian soldiers. like Proust. I put one into the other and…” WB: [As Genet] “C’est fini. Oh! JG: I am born.Tell me. Genet. Whistle. But Brion saw him after that. Genet. He always lived in sort of this anonymous… VB: Do you have a good memory? WB: Yes. have a real flashback. Genet. I don’t know if it was earlier or later. with a tranquil expression. Prisoner of Love? He was hanging out with the young soldiers in Syria and Jordan. Go ahead. he is glowing.] Did you know.“Genet” means “I am born” in French.Whistle. [William gets up and leaves the room. Coming back minutes later. WB: That’s true.William looks as if he is seeing something very far away and dimly lit. three. he was in Tangier and they had quite an encounter.Wow! JG: William. this is fascinating. I remember the taste of Whistle. BURROUGHS with. if Genet has come into you tonight. It is the only language I could put myself in. I can see the Whistle bottle. VB: Well. JG: So if I got you a bottle of Whistle today you might.BURROUGHS LIVE WILLIAM S. Oh. [Eyes hooded. I’ll make sure to send you the book. VB: Even going back 50 years you have vivid images of particular events? WB: Wait a minute.The last time I saw him was in Chicago in 1968. WB: I doubt it. He’s not just wandering around—he was in me. gliding across the room.”There was another one.I t ’s really great. what is the meaning of this sentence: “There was me and there was the French language. I could take myself and I could put myself into the French language. that during the last six years of his life Genet was writing a great book. and others I will not remember at all. Genet.] Whistle. It’s a beautiful meditation on the plight of the young soldier.] I just had such a tremendous feeling of Genet coming in as I walked into the toilet to take a piss. just as I could only have been a French thief. tell me. J G : Monsieur Genet. “Three. can we interview him for just a few questions? WB: [Formally] Well. That was all I could do. this isn’t quite true. Genet. my God. drinking Whistle in the backyard and it was very hot. of course. it was overwhelming! VB: He was right there in the room? WB: No.
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