I realized last night how I’ve never gotten over William Burroughs; how maybe more than any syllable maker I’ve read in my life it’s been him I’ve been mimicking in mind to large degree; him one of the first of all those I still read now still coming out since seventeen in more sentences than I should like to admit; how is indexed me somehow; how I could argue with myself that if every word I write is trying to match against or kill some father, it is him, even if by now I can’t always actually remember a lot about what he wrote beyond textures, images, residues, ideas.
I read Naked Lunch the first time having got caught gut-deep in the Beats, like so many did, when a friend brought a tape of Ginsberg reading “America” in to play for our American Lit class in 10th grade. We had to get permission slips signed before we were allowed to listen because he dropped the F-bomb and dissed on everything seemingly elemental about the suburban neighborhoods surrounding Joseph Wheeler High School (named, I heard whispered more than a few times back then, for a founding member of the Klan). The high school I went to was a weird mix of hood and upper middle class; there were fights at least a couple times a week; I vividly remember walking one day to the senior lot and seeing a truckbed full of dudes in masks with weapons coasting through without an inch of other motion: they didn’t find who they were looking for; or maybe they were simply there to be an image burned into my head. But more than them, and more than many things, there were these freakshows of strange language suddenly appearing in the half-slept muddle of all those other high school era books.
A couple of my favorite podcasts have had some pretty amazing episodes lately. Go download them if you are so inclined.
So, I loved William Burroughs in high school and the first couple of years of college. I tired of him in my later college years and after for quite a while. And now, I find myself turning back to him again, rediscovering an appreciation for his work. Does Burroughs come in and go out like a tide for the rest of you as well?
(I had a friend who bartended at a place in Lawrence that was, people said, owned by Burroughs’s lawyer, and he used to give me free drinks all the time. This, in some sideways way also makes me think of Burroughs fondly, though he was in no way responsible for me getting free drinks.)
2. Marc Maron—who I, and other people named Matt(y), like quite a bit and have written about in the past—had a really fascinating discussion with a comedian named Moshe Kasher on a recent episode.
The whole question of subculture and identity became the core of the discussion. Kasher is the son of Hasidic Jews who were also both deaf. Both he and Marc are sober, as well. Jewish culture, and a Jewish kid who idolizes Oakland’s gangsta rap (Spice One, Too Short) culture. Deaf culture. The culture of sobriety and therapy. Stand up culture. Really interesting stuff.
Moshe talking about people who use the phrase “there’s really no translation for it in English,” an absurd claim that was always been a pet peeve of mine, as well:
Thank you, Moshe. Thank you, Marc. Thank you, Don.
I was sitting in another bar with the Mexican who spoke English.
The world is deluged with tranquilizers and energy drinks.
Birds, please assemble!
And I was unreal to the others.
To the drinker as well as the drunk.
I found myself spanking a tequila.
But you got it? Yes, I got it.
“That’s a problem,” she said.
Things could start crumbling fast now.
INTERVIEWER: Is it true that you did a great deal of acting out to create your characters when you were finishing Naked Lunch?
BURROUGHS: Excuse me, there is no accurate description of the creation of a book, or an event.
“Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.”
“I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it.”
“Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means.”
“”Nothing is true, everything is permitted””
Dang. SPD is having a 75% off sale. I am about to call the bank and ask for a loan. ‘For what?’ ‘For more books’ ‘I thought you had books.’ ‘I have books.’ ‘Let’s do it up!’