Monday, August 16, 2010


"Grant Morrison is no William Burroughs. And a comic in the style of Burroughs would prove to be about as interesting an unintelligible as an action movie made by Carlos Castenada."

I read this over at the CBR forums earlier today (it was posted a few years ago), and it stopped me cold in a moment of hilarity and something like an abscess within the thoughtstream. I know it's saying that comics written by Burroughs, or in that style (Which one of his styles? Who knows, who cares?) would be uninteresting, but the implication, with the followup on action, is that Burroughs couldn't do excitement/action, isn't it? Or that his writing has any similarities to that of Carlos Castenada.

I haven't read a lot of Castenada, but what I have read was nowhere near as visceral, poignant, horrifying or funny, as any random moment of William Burroughs' backlog of literary achievements and gutbuster routines.

But, let's put aside my supposition that it implies a lack of action-oriented work in the Burroughs oeuvre (If not action, what does Naked Lunch start out with? Soft Machine?), and let us have a look at the idea that William Burroughs work is "unintelligible."

Those of you in the audience who have read (or heard) a standalone routine from Burroughs, or have read a complete work: Were you at a loss to explain, not what happened, but what it meant? When Burroughs explains the algebra of need or "the worst thing I ever stood still for" are you scratching you head? On the subject of heads, did the giggling, smoothtalking ghost whispering in your brain and through tape recorders until you believe him to be your voice and do as he says, is that something you cannot reiterate, yourself, in a telling?

I don't think I lot of Burroughs work is concerned with linearity or chronology, no. But, with communication? Intelligible communication? Communication of emotion, of consequence, of drive and sublimation? Yes, I'd say so.

So, has Burroughs been made a bogeyman for the same people who still can't take the existence of Tristram Shandy? Is he a literary archon, now, a facade erected by the desperately ignorant to keep Mr. Bradley Mr. Martin safe?

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