Revolutionary writing: Programmatic Fiction of William S. Burroughs
Dec 16th 2010
University of Oulu
Table of contents
1. Totality Express 7
2. Revolutionary Writing 13
3. Brothers in Arms 18
4. Pathology of a Definitive Tragedy 24
5. Fiction as a Mode of Knowing 29
Reference Sources 33
William S. Burroughs (1914–1997) was an American writer of enormous notoriety and controversy, a writer whose biography is as much the focus of literary scholars as his actual textual output and not just because of the autobiographical elements in his writing, but because of his actions, some which defy all possible acceptability. Shamelessly open as a homosexual and a self-confessed addict of opiates, not to mention empirical experimentation with countless other psychoactive substances, Burroughs was there with the first, a pioneer, but with a pathos almost equivalent to an antithesis of the original and mythified American pioneer spirit that arrived with the Mayflower. He also shot his wife Joan Vollmer-Burroughs, which apparently cannot be unmentioned when analyzing Burroughs’s output, but to which there are no disclosing accounts, none that I have found at least. There is an attempt made by J.W. Grauerholz (Grauerholz, 2003), but his agenda appears too apologetic because of Grauerholz’s personal interests as the holder of Burroughs’s estate to lever Burroughs permanently into the canon western literature (Laughead, 2007). To this I try to provide an account, in section titled Pathology of a Definitive Tragedy, which is of course based on second hand material and as such falls just short of imaginative and in fact, I choose to imagine the event as a parallel scene to Burroughs’s fiction, one that remains unwritten but one that exists on the margins of Burroughs works or better yet, in the interzone between fact and fiction.
Burroughs is a name with many epithets, to mention a few: on the back cover of the 1993 Flamingo Modern Classics edition of Burroughs’s breakthrough and probably still most famous work Naked Lunch (first published in 1959) J. G. Ballard calls him the “first mythographer of the mid-twentieth century”; or as Will Self deems him on the cover of the 1998 Penguin edition of Junky1 (first published in 1953) “a legend in his own lifetime”. A mythographer, who was a legend, a myth himself, and due to the lack of cohesion, narrative or plot eminent in most of his works, not to even mention the profusely obliterated syntax of the cut-ups and other experimental modes of writing, all add up to what makes a chaotically obscure textual mass that evades definitive cartography.
Kathryn Hume states in her essay titled William S. Burroughs’s Phantasmic Geography (Hume, 1999) that “Burroughs’s fictions abrade humanist sensibilities and frustrate the impulse to seek meaning.” Perhaps so, but she dug into the subject matter even if it did “undermine[s] mental comfort”, as she puts it. If we now suppose that Kathryn Hume was not on a strictly mercenary project, we may assume that despite her remarks, her pursuit affirms that there is meaning there to be discovered, embedded in the at times nauseating, discomforting, even nightmarish and wildly controversial body of Burroughs’s work.
As a writer Burroughs was determined or rather driven — as to why see section Pathology of a Definitive Trauma — and this shows not just as an, at times, feverishly hectic output that leaps from a scene and routine to the next sometimes mid-sentence but as a solid attempt to break through the post-modern impasse that deprives art forms, such as literature, of their value and applicability as commentaries of the human condition and, as an instrument of consumerism, continually tries to reduce them to either misinformed propaganda or mere entertainment as products to be sold and wringed for profit, since modes like aesthetic appreciation are not productive in a strictly materialistic sense.
This breakthrough, according to Timothy S. Murphy’s Wising up the Marks (1997), cannot be done by master-narratives calling for that single and unifying value judgment otherwise known as the truth or by seducing the reader with “abstract mediation or signs” (Murphy, 1997 p.17-18). This project is as such a challenge to scientific exactitude and in Burroughs’s case far more poignant than what, for example, Carlos Castaneda does with his supposed science because of Burroughs’s systematic dispensation of the scientific and narrative methods.
Burroughs is an artist, but a programmatic one, and this is the focus of this thesis. From this perspective, and to argue the perspective, I try to re-reveal what Burroughs has already unearthed; the mechanisms of control and conformity embedded in language and mythology; how the human train is fortified and how the rails have been laid, how human history, is according to Burroughs, “pre-recorded” since the discovery of language: “In the beginning was the word and the word was bullshit” (Burroughs, 1987:146). Furthermore and more importantly, I try to show that the medium of fiction can, in a programmatic sense, re-program the reality through its participants, the readers or, if we take Burroughs’s magical function of writing literally2, directly.
For the purposes of applicability of Burroughs’s work as a serious social commentary I have compared his ideas to those of Albert Camus, whose theory of rebellion and vision of the history of western civilization, as outlined in The Rebel (L'Homme révolté first published in 1951, in English in 1954), rely on a similar understanding of the human condition and on the same necessity to rebel as with Burroughs, though their methods were distinctively different, since where Burroughs uses controversy, Camus prefers subversion. For Burroughs the head-on collision with society’s norms was perhaps due to his almost total alienation from the values and ways of life he was born in to, and this is why I felt that, in order to support Burroughs’s observations, I needed a voice that gathers its momentum from the very foundations of the establishments of social order and their legitimacy3. And perhaps I am able to show similarities between these two writers that applied together provide prolific insights to reflexive postmodernism and beyond.
This thesis is structured so that first I try to provide a rough summary idea of Burroughs’s narrative strain in terms of the reader in section titled Totality Express. After this, in section titled Revolutionary Writing, I focus on what I found to be the most commonly shared elements in Camus’s and Burroughs’s work; their opposition to totalitarian authorities and nihilism. What I feel to be my main addition to the existing study of both Burroughs’s and Camus’s work is hopefully revealed in section titled Fiction as a Mode of Knowing, in which, if nothing else, I interpret, from the point of view of fiction writing as an instrument to re-invent reality, Burroughs’s final finished work Ghost of Chance, which was omitted by other scholars who had studied Burroughs and to whom I have referred to in context of this essay. Thus, because others have not focused on Ghost of Chance, I have the opportunity to say something freshly squeezed.
The primary materials for this thesis are of course William S. Burroughs’s works. From Albert Camus my primary focus is on The Rebel, which is an ambitious study of human history as seen from the perspective of rebellion. These two writers share an unrelenting rebel drive which unites them despite their apparent differences in methods, style and personal interests. In this thesis the agendas of these writers are understood to align in many of the key issues they address. This is of course a matter of interpretation but I personally found that, as works of art with a purpose, both their works benefit from each other, and as they both were artists who saw their causes to be more relevant than their personal fortunes, we can lay aside the discrepancies and antipathies that may have risen between them had they been made acquainted in this way when they were alive.
Due to the plethora of material available from Burroughs I have also turned to critical sources such as Timothy S. Murphy, Edward Halsey Foster and others whose works have made my study easier. Murphy’s Wising Up the Marks: the Amodern William S. Burroughs (1997) in particular was a study that influenced my work and helped me to evaluate the ideas that prevail in Burroughs’s work and how they are handled in different periods of his career.
Furthermore, Murphy’s term amodern, with which he pursues visibility, as opposed to Gilles Deleuze’s relative invisibility due to the “critical language” with which he “evades the endless squabbling over terminology that marks most discussions of (post)modernism” (Murphy, 1997 p.2), was particularly useful for the purposes of this thesis.
1. Totality Express
All nations sold out by liars and cowards. Liars who want time for future negatives to develop stall you with more lying offers while hot crab people mass war to extermination with the film in Rome. These reports reek of nova, sold out job, shit birth and death. Your planet has been invaded. You are dogs on all tape. The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender. (Burroughs, 1992: 13)
In an essay Women: a Biological Mistake? Burroughs states that “the Human organism is in a state of neoteny4” but this neoteny is not just a stasis wherein human beings do not fulfil their evolutionary potential, like the salamander Burroughs uses as an example in the essay:
Ordinarily a salamander starts its life cycle in the water with gills; later the gills atrophy, and the animal develops lungs. However, certain salamanders never lose their gills or leave the water. They are in a state of neoteny. The Xolotl salamander found in Mexico is an example. Scientists, moved by the plight of this beautiful creature, gave him an injection of hormones, whereupon he shed his gills and left the water after ages of neoteny. (Burroughs, 1985: 125)
Burroughs’s visions of the future involve apocalyptic scenarios, which he fears — or perhaps hopes, see sections Brothers in arms and Fiction as a Mode of Knowing — will fulfil themselves if this evolutionary stalemate is not surpassed. To Burroughs the present state of affairs, the human condition, and not just human but the global condition, or should it rather be the condition of the biosphere, of which the human is a part of, presents itself as, to make it short by a metaphor derived from Burroughs’s novel title Nova Express (first published 1964), like a heavily fortified train on a rigidly laid one-way rail heading for a catastrophic dead-end. If we assume that this train is, at least partly driven by human species, then the inability of this species to alter its ways of life is catastrophic.
Camus refers to some obscure writers who draw upon themselves interpreters rather than readers as if readers were of less value in a note collected with some of his essays and magazine articles (Camus, 1971: 241). This is a note that underlines the basic discrepancy between the methods of Burroughs and Camus of whom Camus is the subversive one, who insists on closed form and perfected stylization (Camus, 1969: 224-236) and to whom rebellion in the medium of art is a matter of style. Burroughs’s fragmented output and scattered clues as to what he is saying require detective work on the part of the reader, but this is of course due to the fact that he is indeed wising up the marks, like Murphy suggests as the overall argument of his study (Murphy: 1997), with blunt instruments like controversy and antagonism, freeing and de-conditioning the reader and the reader’s expectations of what existence is about. From this perspective Burroughs’ works are not as much in need of scholarly explanations as they are of readers.
For Burroughs fiction writing was a revolutionary act. Even with Junky (first published 1953) he was already breaking ground for modes of being that were not acceptable or even tolerable within the cultural and social milieu he had been born into. Being a drug addict was as alienating as being gay, if not more (Foster 1991: 152) and Burroughs, with his writing, chose to give both these scenes a medium wherein these modes of being would be seen as Burroughs saw them from within the scenes in question. Thus he was indeed breaking ground and providing a narrative for alienated groups that were demonized outside the range of social sympathies.
Yet Burroughs was not satisfied in just providing a documentary like the realist or naturalist strains of literature had done by using fiction like an enclosed terrarium in which the characters were like test mice subjected to conditions the reactions to which would then be in plain view for the readers. His terrarium would become a training facility within which the de-conditioned subjects would not just be the characters of his fiction, but this training and de-conditioning would be projected toward the readers. From Naked Lunch onward his narration would not be just a scenic elevator within the comfort of which the readers could make their observations regarding the different layers of the social structure as with for example Honore de Balzac, whom here represents an example of the kind of fiction that tries to provide master narratives that cut through the entire social stratification thus providing an accurate depiction of conditions and their effects on the subject characters.
Burroughs’s narration sucks the reader in like a vortex that in Naked Lunch starts to whirl with increasing speed. The reader is not provided with disclosing accounts of the lives of characters that draw attention and affection to their fates but sent to spin among all the atrocities the narration has picked up. The fractured images with no apparent explanations follow each other creating a montage that is as preparatory as it is pungent.
The methods of control and conformity embedded in western cultural and social structures, from language to binary gender roles; from the family unit to mass scale thought control, provide the subject matter that is dismantled upon recognition like syntax, which, treated with the innovations of the cut-up, fold-in and drop-in methods —these were given a major role for the first time in Soft Machine (first published in 1961) — is attacked with a programmatic fury that renders composition secondary to spontaneous organization by infiltration of random factors.
After this, the narrative vortex gains such momentum that the reader has to struggle even to catch a glimpse of what is presented in the textual mosaic. All the atrocities and erotic elements are repeated, incanted and cut-up to the point when they lose their ability to shock and even arouse. A sample of the exorcism of atrocities out of shock value is present already in the stream of consciousness escapade titled Word, later collected under the title Interzone and published in 1989, which precedes the textual mass of Naked Lunch. The same is done to erotic imagery in Soft machine, this time using the scramble and splice techniques mentioned earlier. So, the reader is left with words that start to lose their meaning. Or like Foster says it: “The erotic nature of the original material is suggested even in the cut-up, but its emotional power is dissolved, and the reader is confronted with the fact that it is only style and words he or she is dealing with.” (Foster, 1992: 170)
To sum up what others, like Murphy and Foster, have already accounted for: Burroughs describes the existing fabric of human totality as an artificial structure devised to maintain its repetitive course and enforce homogeny within its ranks. And while describing this he reveals gaps, like silence in stead of internal monologue — note that Burroughs thought of language as both a system that predetermines lines of thought and reproduces itself through replication like a virus5 — as presented for example in the two latter publications of the Nova trilogy (Burroughs, 1987 and 1992), through which the reader can escape the control beam of the “boards”.
If we think of this chronological and physical structure as a three dimensional point in time that is defined by its past, a point, which in turn defines its future course in helpless fatalism having surrendered under the weight of unmanageable causality that derives from the inability of first, the individual to govern its own various internal impulses and secondly, the masses to gain control over their own course, we have roughly pinned-down the post-modern impasse, at least for the context of this thesis.
What Burroughs reveals is indeed artificiality, but the structure is, by nature, also an attempt to navigate in the ensuing chaos that surrounds the established physical world, in the form of the unknown, like the unformed and un-rationalized that surrounds the world of ideas. This process of rationalization with which we manage the chaos of totality is one of the basic functions we process constantly without giving much thought to it, but to the study of which there is an entire branch of science called Sociology6.
If we think of the structure as the rational or rationalized, then we may call the chaos the irrational and the formed the rational or we may use terms Burroughs borrows from Carlos Castaneda and explains in a text collected in the Burroughs File:
The tonal is the sum of any individual’s perceptions and knowledge, everything he can talk about and explain, including his own physical being. The nagual is everything outside the tonal: the inexplicable, unpredictable, the unknown. […] While the tonal, the totality of conscious existence, shapes the individual being, the tonal is in turn shaped by the nagual, which surrounds it like a mold. (Burroughs 1984: 190–191)
So, the `nagual´ may be loosely defined as the sum total of all that is untamed by reason, another reality, or rather the parent reality of which the rationalized reality and chronologic time continuum is just an offshoot of. Castaneda is a pioneer in describing unordinary reality, but unlike Castaneda, an anthropologist himself, Burroughs presented his findings as fiction7. To this point Foster points out that
All of Burroughs’s major fiction is hallucinatory — which is not to say that it is false but that it involves a surrealistic intensification of the ordinary world. He remained one of Korzybski’s disciples , but the reality described in his fiction beginning with Naked Lunch does not derive from what in The Yage Letters he calle “Normal Consciousness”. (Foster 1992: 157)
Whatever we want to call this chaotic parent reality, to Burroughs’s de-conditioned reader it may have become manageable in other terms than those dictated by prevailing authorities, and this is the core of his revolution, and also the reason why it may be called revolution, because, for the new subjects Burroughs was and is trying to create, there cannot be an end to rebellion until all oppressive authorities are abolished.
—There is no true or real “reality” —“Reality” is simply a more or less constant scanning pattern—The scanning pattern we accept as “reality” has been imposed by the controlling power on this planet, a power primarily oriented towards control— (Burroughs, 1992: 53)
Camus arrived at this conjuncture through a process of rationalization in course of which he also happened to explain the style of a writer as the writers check on reality (Camus, 1969: 233-236). Irrational, according to Camus, provides moderation to the rational and teaches us that all human knowledge derives from approximation. To Camus there are no absolutes; no absolute negation, no absolute affirmation or truth but this lack of absolutes also renders us all inexorably equal for if we were to negate someone-else’s equality and right to exist, we would also negate ourselves (Camus, 1969: 258-265). This conjuncture starts from the affirmation of basic human rights, which Burroughs joins in early on as quoted by Alan Ansen in an essay collected to introduce Burroughs File: “No-one owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying-pan owns death.” (Burroughs, 1984: 19)
- Revolutionary Writing
Tuesday August 27: The Yippies are stealing the show.
I’ve had enough of the convention farce without humor barbed wire and cops a lot of nothing.
Jean Genet says: “It is time for writers to support the rebellion of youth not only with their works but with their presence as well.” (Burroughs, 1993: 95)
Writing is an act of communication. A writer communicates via words, a painter through pictures; a musician’s language is music. Is art something other than communication? If we suppose that we communicate through images and association conveyed by our languages; words that convey the images, signs that refer to the signified, we have to accept that as we communicate we are proposing our conclusions, experiences, insights and opinions to the audience as identifiable and somewhat universal scenarios and are thus trying to achieve an agreement with the audience and perhaps also influence their future behaviour.
Burroughs quotes Wittgenstein in The Ticket that Exploded (first published in 1962): “No proposition can contain itself as an argument.” To Burroughs this is analogous to: “The only thing not prerecorded in a prerecorded universe is the prerecording itself, which is to say any recording that contains a random factor.” (Burroughs, 1985:124) So, is Burroughs trying to say that all communication/art is propaganda unless it has a random factor? That only the random factor establishes, or should we say masks, propaganda as art? In the introduction to Naked Lunch Burroughs quotes more Wittgenstein: “If a proposition is NOT NECESSARY it is MEANINGLESS and approaching MEANING ZERO.” (Burroughs, 1993: 13)
If we understand the postmodern paradigm as an impasse due to the inability of commentaries or criticisms to effectively challenge the hegemony of the capitalist system, which through postmodernism assumes a position beyond criticism, beyond politics, we arrive at what Wittgenstein proposes above. Thus art, as a proposition, has in the postmodern era become unnecessary and thus meaningless because of its futility or, should we say, inability. This, if we boldly digress for a moment, could account for the predicament of art in general; art has had to be commercialized in order to sustain its production, which has caused a radical decline of critical content, and as capitalist institutions refuse to revive its enemy through the increase of grants, art has fallen into a rut.
For art to maintain its purposefulness beyond abstract aesthetics and entertainment it has to maintain a critical drive. Reading Burroughs this is obvious: There is a message, simply because, for him there has to be. Burroughs has an agenda. Even in his most obscure works a commentary or a suggestion is suspect to be hidden just under the surface, on a subliminal level. Burroughs was, as an artist, a man driven by a goal. “Deadly purpose” he calls it in Western Lands (Burroughs, 1988: 29), this if we may assume like for example Grauerholtz does (Burroughs, 2000: introduction) that Joe the Dead is another of Burroughs’s alter egos.
In Murphy’s study it becomes clear from the first pages of the introduction on that Burroughs’s writing constantly addresses the literary canon thus taking on the failures of modern, postmodern and contemporary literature. What Murphy introduces us with is his concept of amodern literature, which as a theory he defines a “reflexive, formalist strain of postmodernism” (Murphy, 1997 p.3) and critics of this strain, like Murphy himself, find in Burroughs what they are trying to define:
“Amodern literature, if we accept for the moment the bald assertion that it exists, develops from Ellison’s promise to emerge from the liminal space of literature with a “plan of living” rather than an endlessly deferred “participation in language games” or an empty “love for the world through language” á la John Barth.” (Murphy, 1997 p. 3)
This “plan of living” Murphy refers to could easily be seen as the primary agenda in Burroughs’s writings, or the message we were getting at earlier, one that Burroughs progressively pursues throughout his works and develops into an unambiguously utopian quest to find an imperative, a way out, a detour that takes the “human mold” beyond the impending doom that Burroughs wrote of as a concrete and very real threat just around the corner, a threat that is not like the fantastic horror element we are used to reading about in, for example, the works of Stephen King9 but a reflection of real threats. From the premonition described in Junky as to the shortcomings of the capitalist system to sustain and maintain the “American Dream” of freedom and prosperity through which the dream of freedom turns into a dream of control (Burroughs, 1998: 105-106), this threat is present in many forms but with many possible conclusions like the Cold War Nova that concludes global scale binary antagonism with an array of mushroom clouds described for example in The Ticket That Exploded (Burroughs, 1987: 47) or the ecocatastrophe caused by a species, the human species namely, that multiplies on the expense of others beyond all reasonability as described in Ghost of Chance (Burroughs, 1995: 18-19), though the catastrophe in Ghost of Chance eventually turns upside down as it is the human species that ends up on the verge of extinction. This turn exemplifies a drive distinctly burroughsian for its motives and to which we will return in the section titled Fiction as mode of knowing.
In the Rebel Camus attempted to explain the predicament of humanity by cutting through the recorded history of rebellion while trying to shed light on the excesses of this rebellion that had ravaged first the individual and eventually entire humanity on a global scale until the point the book was written. Camus wrote encircled by the clashes of the realization of Cold War that in Burroughs’ work manifested most poignantly as the continuous threat of the aforementioned Nova. Burroughs and Camus were both aware of the, should we say, probability of an apocalyptic disaster as a result of a global ecocatastrophe. One of these possible threats is, of course as the word `Nova´ would suggest, nuclear holocaust, recission of which is why Camus may be considered outdated.
In the context of this set of expectations, the occupation of both Camus and Burroughs is that of professional rebellion, a rebellion through art or plain activism, but rebellion that is all the more justifiable as it gains in potency.
A rebellion needs an enemy, which to Camus is represented by suffering and oppression (Camus, 1969: 266–170). In Burroughs’s case it is not that simple. The burroughsian insistence on obscurity, getting off the point, is itself a mode of rebellion; a rebellion against rationality. As to the motives of rebelling against rationality we can look at, for example, this section in Murphy’s Wising Up the Marks:
Reason, which formerly claimed to pass judgment on means from the point of view of ends, prostitutes itself by giving up, not some illusory autonomy it never really possessed, but rather its multiplicity of other mediations in order to focus on exploitation and profit. Instrumental rationality is the philosophy of the assembly line, “mass” consciousness in the sense of identical mass production, rather than mass consciousness of the self-emancipating proletariat à la Georg Lukács. (Murphy, 1997: 81)
Rationality is, in this perspective, which is of course political, a virtue of materialist society, thus we should not be surprised if Burroughs wanted to “steep himself in vice” (Burroughs, 1984: 18) and get off the point; for him such manoeuvres are modes of opposition.
The malice of materialist rationality, or irrationality, is further amplified by the fact that the emancipatory qualities of consumer economy, or whatever cult of production, have to be in effect eradicated. This because, if consumption is the “medicine” or “drug of choice” production based economies offer to their subordinates as a reward for their efforts, the right to be administered this alleviation will have to be denied from the most of humanity, since the right to consume will have to be restricted and monopolized in order to prevent the rapid destruction of our habitat and the depletion of resources. From western perspective this would mean settling for less instead of setting up standards for consumerism10.
Technology is hardly the solution to this problem, since it faces the same problems as art; its production is slave to the demand of the market, which sustains its production, and the market, from this perspective, is driven by the ever increasing need to produce more surplus value with which it fuels itself. This surplus value equals to the power, and if this power was solely derived from technology, and not of capitalism or any other façade, then, as Camus notes “the machine finally conjures up the machine” (Camus, 1969: 186) and the revolution would turn to a revolution of the machine until it stands alone. This would, according to Camus mean that the oppressed of the earth would have to remain oppressed until the day when the machine faces no more competition (Camus, 1969: 156–192). In terms of free market economy, this cannot happen, unless the whole of the global market where monopolized by one company. Production will have to increase for profits to increase. Furthermore, as Camus writes: “Every form of collectivity, fighting for survival, is forced to accumulate instead of distributing revenues. It accumulates in order to increase and by doing so increases its power.” (Camus, 1969: 186)
Camus calls the elite appointed to carry out the above mentioned restrictions and monopolization machine tamers in accordance to the fact that for him the materialist abundance is produced by the industry of machines. Burroughs has a slightly different take, since for him the elite are a small group of people ultimately: “elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self.” And these “controllers” are controlled by their need to control (Burroughs, 1990: lyrics from the album Dead City Radio). Burroughs’s view on power is harsh and as such probably best summed up by how he concludes the text from which the above quotation is an excerpt of: “The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.” Alas, according to Burroughs, the controllers have not even tamed the machine.
These are matters that range beyond the scope of this thesis, which deals more exclusively with fiction than politics Per Se, although and as we have seen, Murphy also draws attention to this political aspect of Burroughs’s writing and if we are to accept that we are dealing with revolutionary writing, we cannot omit it. Furthermore, when reading Burroughs, the line between reality and fiction is no where to be seen and what we see is rather a continual twilight zone where the borderlines of, no only fact and fiction, but also the human and the machine, the human and animal, the individual and the mass organism until what we are ultimately dealing with are the internal policies of a living organism.
4. Brothers in arms
So come out of those ugly molds and remember good is better than evil because it’s nicer to have around you. It’s just as simple as that. And if anyone thinks different just assign that cocktail lounge fly boy to frontline duty so he can register just how unpleasant evil is to have around you cut off light-years behind enemy lines. (Burroughs 1987: The Ticket that Exploded)
Both Camus and Burroughs share a rebellious drive that challenges prevailing social structures. They are both dissenters in the sense that they do not accept their powerlessness before the asymmetry that drains the masses from even the possibility of uniting and thus forming as a subject with the capability to alter its own course. This goal in mind both Camus and Burroughs were well engaged in creating alternative modes of social awareness that would effectively challenge the conservative and, as according to Burroughs’s frequent theme of a pre-recorded future11, predetermining structures within society.
To Camus the call for unifying principles is essential to the rebellion he promotes and tries to propagate and even amalgamate into a tangible and functional set of principals. In The Rebel Camus shows in detail how rebellion has historically failed to stay true to its constituting ideals and turned into self-maintaining and reproducing formation, like soviet communism; how rebellion loses its emancipatory objective as it turns to demand conformity in order to justify its false course (Camus 1969: 156-211). Burroughs’s critique of the capitalist system is at times completely analogous to Camus’s commentary, since Burroughs criticizes with unrelenting fervour the same conformist drive that he sees reproducing itself on the expense of freedom, and even existence when he demonstrates the mass-extinctions caused by the spreading of human species, like in for example Madagascar as described in Ghost of Chance (Burroughs, 1991). Needless to say that Burroughs valued animals just as much or even more than he did humans; he gave animals the status of people (Burroughs, 1991).
Furthermore, Camus was, as we have earlier discussed, as critical toward capitalism as he was toward the totalitarian forms of communism. We could even argue that both Camus and Burroughs shared similar political inclinations, although they both were critical beyond compatibility towards dogmatized ideologies. Whether we were talking in terms of syndicalist unionism12, as with Camus(Camus, 1969: 261–261), or the spontaneously arising forms of cohesion that mark Burroughs’s works (Murphy, 1997: 222–224), we can agree that they both were drawing attention to both the emblematic symbols of oppression and the basic facts or laws that have indisputably unifying qualities.
These basic laws or commonly shared features here are, of course, the inbuilt requirements we, as a living organism, share, like the need for sustenance and sleep that have to be met in order to maintain even the anal13 level functions. Kathryn Hume’s appreciation of Wayne Pound’s argument she paraphrases in her essay is on point: “…Burroughs replaces eyes, genitals and mouth with the anus, and this restructuring of the body destroys patriarchal social structures based on male and female, active and passive, higher and lower functions.” (Hume, 1999: 128)
This “analization” is one of Burroughs’s agendas, one that should make it obvious that Burroughs was not a misogynist; he comments on gender issues, more precisely, gender roles and as both Foster and Murphy have noted (Foster 1993: 23-24; Murphy 1997:14-15, 147), this is something that should be “equally important to feminists” (Foster 1993: 24). After all, anal is common to both sexes.
The emblematic symbols of oppression refer to the amodern imperative for the creation of socially active group formations with their mystified emblematic qualities. This mystification is a part of both maintaining and disputing social power structures as in both whatever is achieved depends on activity, on activating the subjects here instrumental, as also presented by Murphy. Murphy uses Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s concept of the subject-group, which is a revised version of Jean Paul Sartre’s concept of a fused group. According to Murphy the subject-group is a part of “the schizophrenic model of totalization” through which subjugated individuals would be freed from their stereotype-roleplay that subjugates them by breaking seemingly stable binary models like the male and female pair by diffusing the opposing roles into “thousand tiny sexes”, as the Deleuze and Guattari model according to Murphy proposes (Murphy, 1997: 38-40) and thus overflowing “the control machine”, to borrow Burroughs’s term. This, of course, means that symbolic structures of social tissue are stripped of their mystified aura and re-dressed into garments more suitable for the purposes of writers like the two in question.
The problem is that this model is acceptable only as a peripheral movement “incapable of instituting a permanent and restrictive Law” as summed by Murphy (Murphy, 1997: 38-40) and thus the model’s instability becomes an inbuilt weakness. And as Murphy’s “amodernism” is an attempt to “describe Burroughs contested relationship to the literary canon while acknowledging the writers explicit desire to escape from the post-modern impasse” (Murphy 1997: back cover), his “amodernism” could be understood as a specified form of opposition, as an antithetic imperative for post-modernism. Thus we also have to acknowledge that the post-modern impasse it opposes is only a theoretic framework for the as of yet unaltered course taken by western civilizations and a theory validity of which affirms the insistence of the de-politicization of the presently prevailing power structures; if this impasse is beyond politics, it is not due to political or economic systems but “natural” development.
Thus the “amodern” itself in direct opposition and a form of dialectics which, as above proposed, starts from the assumption that no justifiable unity is possible within its ranks. This, of course, within the confounds of the model means that there cannot be more potent opposition than that of the renegade bands, as described by Burroughs in Wild Boys (1983 first published in 1971) and Port of Saints (1980 first published in 1973), united by a common but ephemeral desire that may or may not be in contradiction with the Status Quo. This sense of weakness and failure that, after the failure of the student riots of the late sixties in Europe and the USA to amalgamate into a force capable of instituting major chances (Murphy, 1997: 146), is, as also noted by Murphy (Murphy, 1997: 169), already present in the later works Burroughs middle period such as the Port of Saints.
Camus refers to the Bastillé, an apparent symbol of oppression from the point of view of the subject group and the fused group, in Rebel first in connection with Marquis de Sade, to whom such fortresses are also “strongholds of debauchery” (Camus 1969: 38), and later on in connection with similar symbolic impetus as with the subject and fused groups when he starts to prepare us for what such spontaneous formations have to beware of in order to remain true to their rebel origins (Camus 1969: 87). In retrospect of the 1789 French revolution, which to him represents the beginning of the era of deified humanity, Camus states that:
Scaffolds seemed to be the very altars of religion and injustice. The new faith could not tolerate them. But a moment comes when faith, if it becomes dogmatic, erects its own altars and demands unconditional adoration. Then scaffolds reappear and despite the altars, the oaths, the feasts, and the freedom of reason, the masses of the new faith must now be celebrated with blood. (Camus, 1969: 87)
In this vein Burroughs corrects his fantasies of such groups with a peculiar sense of humour:
Kim stands resplendent in his Shit Slaughter uniform with a cobra S.S. on each lapel, they glow in the dark. Johnsons to the sky, all in S.S. uniform. They roar out the Johnson marching song. (Burroughs, 1983: 34)
The Shits in question are like the “Bible Belts, barbarians from Planet Earth” equivalents of whom are “bigoted ignorant basically frightened middle class” and as such but “dupes and lackeys for the very rich and politicians” serving as “convenient guard dogs to protect the status”. This according to a “Shit Slaughter” squad trainer in Burroughs’s Place of Dead Roads (first published in 1983) who continues that this kind of people are “vectors, carriers of the virus” and are to be dealt with like you would “control the fever” that is to say by “killing the mosquitoes first” (Burroughs, 1983: 30–34).
The Place of Dead Roads, is a novel, which according to its title is not, as you might be at first hand compelled to think, about roads no longer in use but roads that are dead because they are heartless14. Thus titled the novel could be interpreted to play out a fantasy while suggesting through its title that this is something ultimately undesirable; the road of shooting the way to freedom by imposing redemption at the point of a gun and thus turning the former oppressor into the oppressed is heartless. And such roads, as is alluded to in the above excerpt, have been trodden well enough that we may agree with Camus’s above words of warning.
Still Burroughs’s sympathies were on the side of his heroes and he did not write about something if he did not wish to see it happen or could not bear it happen. In fact the magical possibility of “writing things into reality” is one of the key ideas in understanding Burroughs’s motives. He explains the idea in one of his essays in The Adding Machine collection:
First of all, I recognized writing as a magical operation, and since such operations are designed to produce specific results, this leads to us to an inquiry as to the purposes of writing. Remember that the written word is an image; that the first writing was pictorial, and so painting and writing were at one time a single operation. Historically, they do not separate until we have highly stylized pictorial writing, as in Egyptian, which of course developed much later. The original invention from which writing developed was quite simply to create on cave wall images and scenes: hunting, and often so-called pornographic drawings. The purpose was originally ceremonial or magical, and when the work is separated from its magical function, it loses vitality. (Burroughs, 1985: s.49)
He also stated in his posthumously published Last Words that there were “So many stories I don't want ever to write. They might come true!” (Burroughs, 2000: 59). To Burroughs there were something infinitely tempting in the idea of all male gangs that march the streets self-assuredly and he was most definitely on the side of the artist. In fact, in Western Lands the “Shits-Squad” has transformed into another SS, the “Shakespeare-Squadron” (Burroughs 1988: 203). In this perspective he sees communism as a lost chance much like Camus did; as one form of historical rebellions that turned against itself. To these points a further excerpt from Last Words:
We're all dying breeds, way I see it. World is going down into a very nasty police state. But the top people is caught in a bind they have to [have] the criminals, vicious gangs, drug lords, drug war. A degree of chaos to justify an all-out war on dissent.
Before Communism died, that would have been the way for artists and intellectuals. Way closed. They subside into nothing. Don't need no street fighters. No brown shirts.
You want to destroy a species? Destroy its habitat, where it lives and breathes. What's left for the artist is a pile of "snirt." Identical houses to the sky.”(Burroughs, Last Words p.80)
This quotation is quite explicit in terms of his sympathies, which are at this point well developed but at the same time he has grown weary enough to give in. The exclamation “Let me off” echoes throughout the entire Last Words journal hand in hand with his ebbing energies.
4. Pathology of a definitive tragedy
“You cunts constitute a disposal problem in the worst form there is and raise the nastiest whine ever heard anywhere: `Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me???´ Why don’t you go back to Venus and fertilize a forest?”
“And as for you White Man Boss, you dead prop in Martin’s stale movie, you terminal time junky, haul your heavy metal ass back to Uranus. Last shot at the door. You need one for the road.” (Burroughs, 1992: 11)
To answer why Burroughs was, as a writer, as driven as he was, we can only guess but there are certain aspects in Burroughs’s commitment to being as fixed to his “deadly purpose” as he was that may provide some enlightenment. At the point of writing Western Lands Burroughs was getting old and thoughts of death seem to have become more and more preoccupying. Here is Burroughs comparing death to spiritual bankruptcy (from Western Lands):
The old novelists like Scott were always writing their way out of debt . . . laudable ... a valuable attribute for a writer is tenacity. So William Seward Hall sets out to write his way out of death. Death, he reflects, is equivalent to a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy. One must be careful to avoid the crime of concealing assets ... a precise inventory will often show that the assets are considerable and that bankruptcy is not justified.
A writer must be very punctilious and scrupulous about his debts. (Burroughs, 1987: 3)
Burroughs does not narrate the shooting of Joan Vollmer-Burroughs directly but if Murphy deems this below excerpt from Naked Lunch as “the closest Burroughs comes to narrating Joan’s death” (Murphy, 1997: 13):
I take three drags, Jane looked at him and her flesh crystallized. I leaped up screaming “I got the fear!” and ran out of the house. Drank a beer in a little restaurant—mosaic bar and soccer scores and bullfight posters—and waited for the bus to town.
A year later in Tangier I heard she was dead. (Burroughs, 1993: 30),
we can certainly find a more “direct” narration of Joan’s death in Western Lands: Murphy might well be thinking in terms of chronology; the shooting occurred between the events described in the first two sentences and the excerpt itself starts from Joan being alive and ends up with traumatized Burroughs coming to terms with her being dead. However, for our purposes Burroughs’s own side-track meditation from Western Lands, with which he could well be balancing his accounts with the reaper, appears to be more on point:
“Something jogged my arm, Mother.”
“No-one is blaming you, dear. Mrs Randolph called to say she knew it was an accident and she knew you loved Greg. I told her you were under sedation.”
“Good, but it was as if, just as I pulled the trigger, making absolutely sure the pellets wouldn’t hit Greg… Something moved my arm…”
“Of course, darling. We are all controlled by the powers. Not one, but many, and often in conflict. It is a part of some Power Plan.” (Burroughs, 1993: 188)
The scene in its entirety depicts a suburban upper-class family entertaining guests in their rose garden who are interrupted by a lion thrown by a tornado, which is part of the, should we say, master narrative to which this scene is a sudden and whimsical side-track. The lion attacks the people and as the son of the host starts to shoot the lion, now attacking his lover, he ends up shooting his lover instead. Burroughs shot Joan to death trying to hit a champagne class she was balancing on her head (Tytell, 1976: 45).
Burroughs had, since the introduction he wrote to Queer in 1985, talked in terms of demonic possession in relation to the shooting but as he was getting older he was no longer satisfied with the explanation. Still, the incident was definitive in terms of his life after it. This we may also collect from the conversation following the above excerpt; first the son rambles on in a hysteric fit about all the things concerning the incident and during this monologue he refers to Greg — the lover now deceased — running “in a stupid panic”, after which the narration turns to portray the son as being insubstantial of presence, “too perfect to carnate” (Burroughs, 1987: 189).
The “stupid panic” is as an observation negative enough that it could hint toward possible hidden antipathies the son/Burroughs might have harboured toward his lover/wife. In this vein we may imagine that perhaps Joan had started to represent something that had started to accumulate antipathies in Burroughs, something that perhaps reminded him of what he was not. Bearing in mind that Burroughs was predominantly a homosexual and, for him Joan, whom according to Grauerholtz was at the point in a deteriorated physical and mental state15, might well have been a constant reminder of his failure or guilt of having married her in the first place. Furthermore, Joan had clung to Burroughs, even though he had turned her down in many ways, but whether it was her effeminate claim of love she made over Burroughs or Burroughs’s failure to be what was expected of him by his family or the conventional social context at the time, we can only guess what may have been the motivations — subliminal or conscious — which, according to Grauerholtz (Grauerholtz, 2002: 4–28), there were plenty of16.
The portrait of the son in the following narration could very well refer to the idea of the individual as a complete entity, completeness of which is impossibility in itself because of different often contrasting entities with which the individual is riddled17, and as “he seems always on the point of dissolving into a portrait” (Burroughs, 1987: 189), we may discern that the expectations the family, and other parties with interests, harboured were in conflict with the characters ability to fulfil them and the controversy was enough for the person himself become unreal. So, as Burroughs merges the sidetrack scene in with a more constant narrative strain in the novel, and the son presents to his mother Kim Neferti Carsons — one of Burroughs alias heroes, one that unites the dandy pistolero Kim Carsons from Place of Dead Roads and the Egyptian scribe’s apprentice Neferti from Western Lands into a conglomerate identity — Burroughs is actually portraying his own refusal to bear the social pressures projected upon him. In effect, the figure of the writer merges into his fiction through which the writer contests reality.
From the perspective of rebellion and Burroughs’s commitment to his writing as an act of rebellion, Burroughs’s standpoint appears reminiscent of the revolutionary as displayed by Sergey Nechayev in his Revolutionary Catechism (Nechayev, 1869). The nechayevian rebel is “a doomed man” with no personal interest, a man whose only bonds to social order are antithetic. Burroughs did not die in prison, but like Nechayev18, he used the false as in fictitious as a weapon and held his stand to the end. Here it would be easy to argue that Burroughs could not have been anymore committed than the average “street junkie” with an inclination toward boys, but in Burroughs’s case even addiction can be a mode of rebellion (Murphy, 1997: 67–102). As Alan Ansen said in his essay on Burroughs: “He is an indispensable indication that it is possible to be vicious without being slack.” (Burroughs, 1984: 19) And to this his writing attests.
From this rebellious perspective his self-sacrifice, if we may so call it, is analogous to what Camus writes about rebellion and murder:
From the moment that he strikes, the rebel cuts the world in two. He rebelled in the name of the identity of man with man and he sacrifices this identity by concecrating the difference in blood. […] The rebel has only on way of reconciling himself with his act of murder if he allows himself to be led into performing it: to accept his own death and sacrifice. (Camus, 1969: 245–246)
And although Joan’s death may not have constituted for a murder, Burroughs finally took full blame of her death. In his Last Words he wrote:
''Therein the patient must minister unto himself."
What a portrait of National Weakness is the whole concept of psychoanalysis. Again the shifting of responsibility. Introduced by Madison Ave, the movie as entertainment. Words, academics, writers-in fact, the whole sophisticated, informed liberal establishment. "No, I didn't do it – [it] was my neurotic done it." Don Clericurzio says:
"Everyone is responsible for everything they do."
Drunk or sober, mad or sane. I enunciate the Doctrine of total responsibility, drunk or sober, psychotic, possessed by the Devil, under any coercion. (Burroughs, 2000: 127)
There is also an eyewitness account on how Burroughs reacted to this revelation that clearly discloses his own guilt, possessed by the devil or not, he is left with what he did even if it was just a reckless accident, and given that he never dropped the subject he was not satisfied it was. Laughead quotes Burroughs saying: “Shoot the bitch and write a book! That’s what I did!” which Grauerholtz then, according to Laughead, deemed “So out of character” (Laughead, 2007). Apparently Laughead, Graueroltz and a student named Dan Diaz were there to hear Burroughs read out loud from Mario Puzo’s The Last Don and give his insights into what it meant to him. The Don Clericurzio in the above excerpt is a character in Puzo’s novel (Laughead, 2007).
Furthermore the above excerpt illuminates Burroughs’s severity toward himself and if we were to go deeper into the lion scene from Western Lands, we may come to terms, as he did, with what had ultimately happened between Burroughs and Joan Vollmer. If we think of the tornado — the green of which the shot lover is related to have admired — as a wheel of fortune of a kind due to its whimsical nature and interpret the lion in nietzschean terms: “it wants to capture freedom and be lord in its own desert” (Nietzsche, 1961: 54–56) we have a portrait wherein a monumental whim of nature that had once allured its victims turns to throw a roaring symbol of freedom to re-set the scene. Burroughs himself, as far as he embodied the Beat-movement in his own person as a wildly whimsical thrill seeker, may also be identified with the tornado since like the Romantics, the Beat writers were riding the waves of their nature often recklessly, as the death of Joan clearly indicates. At this point it is no wonder that Burroughs was so preoccupied with victims, victimization and dependency in works like Naked Lunch and Soft Machine. To sum up the relationship and marriage of two very distinct characters we can look at how Burroughs in his Last Words remembers Joan through what his mother had said: “She was just like a tigress.” And Burroughs so loved his cats (Burroughs, 2000: 250–252).
7. Fiction as a Mode of Knowing
Captain Mission did not fear Panic, the sudden intolerable knowing that everything is alive. He was himself an emissary of Panic, of the knowledge that man fears above all else: the truth of his origin. It's so close. Just wipe away the words and look. (Burroughs, 1995: 3)
Ghost of Chance, first published in 1991, is a logical conclusion to Burroughs’s career as a writer, though strangely omitted from supposedly comprehensive studies like that of Murphy’s or even Edward Halsey Foster’s Understanding the Beats, since it sums up several ideas Burroughs had developed and shows us his finalized sense of style that, to me, epitomizes his understanding of what literature should be if taken seriously, that is to say a mode of knowing. To this conclusion I will also conclude this thesis, since fiction writing as a medium for the creation of truths resonates perfectly with the concept of programmatic fiction; fiction can be designed to convey the very experiences that define our reality and through it our concerns regarding the reality of the future.
In Ghost of Chance Burroughs does not forfeit “at end of words, what can be done with words” as he does in Western Lands (Burroughs, 1987: 258) and does not take his leave at a “powerful admission of failure as Kerouac’s Big Sur” like Foster chooses to interpret both Big Sur and Western Lands (Foster, 1992: 186). Although, in Burroughs’s last complete novel his hero is indeed in a situation where defeat is imminent:
This grief can kill, but Captain Mission is a soldier. He will not surrender to the enemy. With an agonizing wrench his grief forms an imprecation.
He transmutes his grief into an incandescent blaze of hate and calls down a curse on the Boards and Martins of the earth, on all the servants, dupes and followers:
`I will loose on them the Blood of Christ!´ (Burroughs, 1995: 22)
And as we discussed earlier, Burroughs was openly hostile towards religious fundamentalism and the light in which he portrays Christ in Ghost of Chance aligns Christ with the enemies of life on earth. Christ in Ghost of Chance is a cheap trickster who favours mass conformity instead of individual ways of life and whose blood is caustic ichor (Burroughs, 1995: 22–28), so whatever the “Blood of Christ” mentioned above means, it is not pleasant. And as to mass conformity, to Burroughs “the odds” only diminish when standing in line with the masses; “Watch what everyone else is doing and don’t do it! (— General Orders of Emergency Conditions—)” (Burroughs, 1992: 94).
The call for unity that is according to Camus as integral to the act of rebellion as dissent (Camus, 1969: 203), must take in to consideration the individual, otherwise, as like Camus wrote: “if one single human being is missing in the world of the fraternity then the world is immediately depopulated” (Camus, 1969: 249) and it is sauve qui peut and every man for himself once again. And all the more so since, as like for Burroughs, the terms of survival are analogous to the nihilism of Nechayev’s revolutionary:
THE STREETS OF Lost Chance. Man knows he has one chance in a million to make the connection that will animate the creature he carries in his body. If he doesn’t make it, the little creature will die inside him. The pressure makes him utterly ruthless. Anything to protect the child. He can lie, pretend, kill, without second’s qualm. For he is the bearer, the guardian of the one child in a million. (Burroughs, 1995: 48)
Furthermore, Burroughs criticizes the immutability of “the human mold” throughout his works and suggests alterations by talking of genetic design and other hands-on possibilities (Burroughs, 1987: 29–34), and in line with how Murphy understands the amodern purpose of writing, that is to come up with a plan of living other than those dictated by prevailing structures, we can safely say that Burroughs was not just commenting, he was suggesting solutions. Of course his suggestions are often humorous, improvised and closer to slop-stick routines than actually literal but, if we accept that he was making a point, at least some of his scenes, whether they are satirical accounts, parodies or horrifically nauseating visions of sex and sadism co-mingled, serve the purposefulness of his commentary.
Camus summed up human thought as approximation and to him there where no absolutes. Burroughs revised the Nietzschean satire of “biologic courts” (Murphy, 1997: 110), which is based on the idea that there is ultimately “nothing `wrong´ about any given life form since “wrong” only has reference to conflicts with other life forms” (Burroughs, 1992: 53), and proposed as a solution further evolution out of the dead-ends of absolute need. The “biologic” counsellors in Burroughs’s court “must be writers that is only writers can qualify since the function of a counsellor is to create facts that will tend to open biologic potentials for his client” (Burroughs, 1992: 137).
The dialectic method is based on dialogue between opposing polarities where the opposing parties are often on irreconcilable terms. These parties could also be understood in Burroughs’s terms as identity groups that he compares with life forms in conflict because of their “incompatible conditions” or basic needs and if they cannot evolve out of these conflicts the life forms or identities are seen as terminal (Burroughs, 1992: 53). In the case of the irreversible Nova Express train, we are talking about “Nova” as in the end of the world.
The creation of facts does not seem very empirical but is not the state of knowing but a feeling? Is it not the feeling of conviction you derive from exhaustive research when you’ve managed to convince yourself that what is in front of you finally makes sense? Camus’s approximation has to be based on statistics by the very definition of the word. If Camus would have enjoyed evoking controversy like Burroughs and stated that he was in fact creating facts, he would have certainly undermined his own work; After all, he was striving for universal truth based on his approximation. Camus was indeed subversive enough to mask himself as one of the legislators thus talking part in the dialogue of nations but he was a rebel all the same. And the true revolution, a revolution also in the astrophysical sense of the word, would be the abolition of the absolute need of oppression. At this point we can conclude that for both of these writers the imaginary experience was just as valid as the empirically produced conviction as the basis of “truth”.
- Bauman, Zygmunt & May, Tim. 2001: Thinking Sociologically. Padstow, Cornwall: Wiley-Blackwell
- Burroughs, William S. 1990: Interzone. London: Penguin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1998: Junky. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1986: Queer. London: Pan Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1993: Naked Lunch. London : Harper Collins
- Burroughs, William S. 1986: The Soft Machine. London: Paladin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1987: The Ticket That Exploded. London: Paladin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1990: Dead City Radio. United Kingdom: Island Records
- Burroughs, William S. 1992: Nova Express. New York: Grove Press
- Burroughs, William S. 1983: Hurjat Pojat: Kuolleiden Kirja; suom. Kari Lempinen. Helsinki: Odessa
- Burroughs, William S. 1993: exterminator!. London: Penguin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1980: Port of Saints. London: John Calder
- Burroughs, William S. 1984: Burroughs File. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
- Burroughs, William S. 1985: The Adding Machine: Collected essays. London: Calder
- Burroughs, William S. 1982: Cities of Red Night. London: Picador/Pan Books
- Burroughs, William S. 1984: Place of Dead Roads. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston
- Burroughs, William S. 1988: The Western lands. New York: Penguin Books
- Burroughs, William S. 2005: Kissa Sisälläni; suom. Elina Koskelin. Turku: Sammakko
- Burroughs, William S. 1995: Ghost of Chance. London: Serpent’s Tail; High Risk Books
- Burroughs, William S. 2000: Last words: the final journals of William Burroughs. London: Flamingo
- Burroughs, William S. & Daniel Odier 1989: The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs. 1969. New York, Penguin Books
- Castaneda, Carlos. 1970: The teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui way of knowledge. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
- Camus, Albert 1969: The Rebel (L’Homme révolté). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
- Camus, Albert 1971: Kapinoiva ihminen: esseitä ja katkelmia: Helsinki: Otava.
- Foster, Edward Halsey 1992: Understanding the Beats. Columbia, South Carolina: South Carolina University Press
- Murphy, Timothy S. 1997: Wising Up the Marks: the Amodern William S. Burroughs. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press
- Nietzsche, Friedrich William 1961: Thus spoke Zarathustra: a book for everyone and no one. London: Penguin Books.
- Todd, Olivier 2000: Albert Camus — a Life. New York: Carroll & Graf publishers Inc.
- Hume, Kathryn 1999:William S. Burroughs’s Phantasmic Geography, Contemporary Literature Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 111-135: University of Wisconsin Press: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1208821
- Laughead, George 2007: Beats In Kansas: Shooting Joan Burroughs. Hosted at WWW-virtual Library: http://www.vlib.us/beats/shootingjoan.html
- Grauerholtz, James W. 2002: The Death of Joan Vollmer Burroughs: What Really Happened? University of Kansas: http://old.lawrence.com/burroughs/deathofjoan-full.pdf
- Nechayev, Sergey, 1869: The Revolutionary Catechism. http://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/nechayev/catechism.htm
- Jager, Eric 1990: Speech and the Chest in Old English Poetry: Orality or Pectorality? Speculum Vol. 65, No. 4 (Oct., 1990), pp. 845-859. Medieval Academy of America: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2863564
All internet sources accessed between October 2010 and December 9th 2010
1. Neoteny – noun Biology .
1. Also called paedogenesis. the production of offspring by an organism in its larval or juvenile form; the elimination of the adult phase of the life cycle.
2. a slowing of the rate of development with the consequent retention in adulthood of a feature or features that appeared in an earlier phase in the life cycle of ancestral individuals: Neoteny in the ostrich has resulted in adult birds sporting the down feathers of nestlings.” [neoteny. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/neoteny (accessed: October 21, 2010).]
2. anal –adjective
1. of, pertaining to, involving, or near the anus.
a. of or pertaining to the second stage of psychosexual development, during which gratification is derived from the retention or expulsion of feces.
b. of or pertaining to an anal character.
c. of or pertaining to gratification derived from stimulation of the anus.”
[anal. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anal (accessed: October 23, 2010).]
3. Junk, as explained by Burroughs: “When I say addict I mean addict to junk (generic term for opium and/or derivatives including all synthetics from demerol to Palfium). I have used junk in many forms: morphine, heroin, dilaudid, eukodal, pantopon, diocodid, diosane, opium, demerol, dolophine, palfium. (...) Whether you sniff it, eat it, or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.” (Burroughs, 1993: 7)
1 For an inside on what this `junky´ is and what in consequence is `junk´,see appendix 3.
2 See page 23
3 Camus worked for the Unesco promoting human rights, a service he terminated due to the acceptance of Franco’s Spain into the UN. Camus was also strictly against capital punishment (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Albert_Camus).
4 See appendix 1. for a dictionary explanation of the term
5 (Burroughs, 1985: 48)
6 For reference on this particular subject within sociology see section Time, Space and (Dis)order in Thinking Sociologically by Zygmunt Bauman (Bauman, 2001: 109-124)
7 See for example Teachings of Don Juan: the Yaqui way of knowledge (Castaneda, 1970)
8 meaning that he aimed at accuracy of description and clarity of expression
9 This should note be taken to mean that none of the threats Stephen King depicts have any analogy to reality.
10 These are opinionated conclusions, which can be verified ultimately only by future events, but as approximations they motivated the perspective this thesis is designed argue.
11 Examples of this can be found in for example Soft Machine (Burroughs 1986: 12-13)
12 Burroughs writes in favour of similar ideas in Naked Lunch, (Burroughs 1993: 112)
13 For further understanding on `anal´ see appendix 2.
14 The concept of a road with a heart refers to Castaneda, “For me there is only the travelling on paths that have a heart…” (Castaneda, 1970: Introduction)
15 Joan had ravaged her physique with excessive use of amphetamines and other substances (Grauerholtz, 2002: 4–28).
16 It is peculiar that although Grauerholtz insists that the shooting of Joan Vollmer was ultimately an accident and that Burroughs loved her, he makes sure that we understand what a ”warzone” their marriage was.
17 This is of course one of the constituting ideas of the post-modern understanding of human entity, similar to the seven souls postulate in the beginning of Western Lands.