Monday, December 3, 2012

Nurse the Hate: William Burroughs

I read a book about William Burroughs this weekend.  Burroughs, though maybe most famous now for being a stylish homosexual junkie gun enthusiast with a big brain, was one interesting cat.  One of the craziest stand alone stories is when he got drunk in Mexico City and tried to play William Tell with his wife at some beatnik party.  It was all fun and games as she stood up, balanced a drinking glass on her head, and he fired the pistol straight into her forehead.  The drinking glass fell to the floor unharmed, and his wife was killed immediately.  This being Mexico in the late 1940s, he went to jail for 13 days before a lawyer talked/bought him out of the clink.  Ah, the good old days… 

What I found most interesting about his lifestyle was how he just sort of hung out making creative experiments with the idea “Nothing is true.  Everything is permitted.”  Guys like Kerouac, Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy, and that crew decided there were no longer rules.  You want to experiment with opiates openly?  Go for it.  You want to write books and ignore such basic ideas as linear storytelling and sticking with first or third person?  No problem.  You want to spend forty cents to have sex with boys in Tangier?  It’s all good.  Afterwards we’ll all smoke something crazy, listen to jazz records, and debate the existence of time.  While on the surface “Nothing is true.  Everything is permitted.” sounds like an intellectual paradigm shift, isn’t it just an excuse to do whatever the hell you want to without remorse? 

What a scam these guys had going.  They went all over the planet looking for a good time with the basic goal of “expanding their consciousness”.  Can I translate that for you?  They cruised around and got really fucked up to see if anything interesting would happen.  I know plenty of people that live like that.  The problem the people I know have is that they have not written out some sort of manifesto that justifies their behavior as being intellectual pioneers.  They are guys that install dry wall and use words like “Dude” a lot.  It’s all in the wrapping paper.  They just need to jazz up telling their Friday night stories with phrases like “rollicking danger totem” and “carnal death feasts”.  (I just made that shit up.  That’s not bad…)  Next thing they know, they’ll be lecturing at Midwestern Universities and nuzzling up with graduate poetry majors. 

If you start to dwell on some of Burroughs subversive concepts on the moral, political, and economic systems, it can really mess with your head.  I suppose that is the point after all, to give intense scrutiny to ideas you accept as the very foundations of society.  The guy is a monster writer.  It’s definitely not light reading.  The biggest lesson of all from his bio is still how he worked it so he could hang out, make impenetrable stories, cut up poems, and publish never ending novels despite so few people actually reading his work.  His lifestyle would totally work for me if I could cut out the amoral homosexuality and heroin addiction and replace it with things more in my wheelhouse.  Unfortunately, that’s the part that makes him stylish I suppose.  

Damn.  Better write more cowboy songs of despair.       




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