El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo
supergee

Burroughing

I heard about William Burroughs in my teenage years. I was at an age where I'd be interested in anything by a homosexual druggie who'd written a book full of dirty words. And there was even more to it than that: He was the kind of mysterious figure that fortunately no longer exists in my part of the world: the victim of censorship, telling capital-T Truths capital-T They wouldn't allow us to hear.

When They finally let me read Naked Lunch, I agreed that it was a masterpiece—a magnificent collage of widely varied but almost always brilliant imagery held together by striking wit and a morbidly fascinating sensibility. I think it also was his One Book. Later works didn't add to it, and made it more obvious that he did not like women. At his worst, he called the whole sex a "mistake" and wrote books like The Wild Boys fantasizing about slaughtering them all and all the men who'd been contaminated by them (not unlike a Halloween movie). At best, he tolerated them.

Call Me Burroughs, by Barry Miles, is an excellent and thorough bio. It reinforces my view of the three Beat Generation superstars: Ginsberg was a saint, Kerouac was a turd, and Burroughs was a sicko. We read much about his mental adventures in Scientology and worse.

And it leaves us with a familiar problem: What do we do about great work by horrible people? I can't even decide whether the craziness is mitigating or exacerbating. At least Ezra Pound never said that the Jews were specially created by evil insects from space.
Tags: reading
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