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Burroughs, William S(eward) 1914–
Burroughs is an American novelist best known for Naked Lunch, which was based in large part on the author's years as a drug addict and which became the center of a storm of controversy upon publication. Burroughs's fiction is characterized by such experimental techniques as "folding-in" or "cutting-up" in which his own writing or the works of other authors are reorganized so that words and events occur in random sequence, achieving a hallucinatory, surreal effect. He influenced beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and has collaborated with Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Gregory Corso, and Sinclair Beiles. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 5, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2490
The world of William S. Burroughs is not a world of fantasy; it is real, it is "reality." But "reality" is defined by Western culture; it is insane, schizophrenic, and more fantastic than fantasy could ever be…. It is a reality in which the environment is objective and mechanical, and it is a reality whose machinery has come to life, like the kitchen gadgets that assault the housewife in Naked Lunch….
This is schizophrenia; objects are self-activating and living beings are inert. On a wider scale, this schizophrenia is manifest in the absolute polarization of the mechanical and the organic in Burroughs. Burroughs' vision is one in which the world has flown into two opposing principles, a labyrinthine, external, mechanical structure and a reified "organic" content. I use the word "content" in the same sense as it is used by McLuhan, who rightly sees Burroughs' origins in the Industrial Age, when "Nature" became a vessel of aesthetic and spiritual values, that is, a content. The underlying roots of this condition lie in the schizophrenic structures of thought in the West, which can only comprehend "Nature" by siphoning it off into a pure, separate space…. [For Burroughs] the "natural" and "organic" are always shaped by the repressive nature of the "mechanical," so that their manifestations are always stained by violence and evil. The most common image of the "mechanical" and "external" in Burroughs is the City, "a labyrinth of lockers, tier on tier of wire mesh and steel cubicles joined by catwalks and ladders and moving cable cars." Maps, bureaucracies, I.B.M. punch cards, and machines are also common images of this principle, as is the recurring notion of the real world as a movie film. The most common image of the other polarity, of organic content, is protoplasm, the blob, jelly…. At times this organic content is given the traditional name of "Garden," for example, the Garden of Delights (G.O.D.), or the Amusement Gardens, both pure areas into which "Nature" as a reified entity has been channeled by the structures of the "real" world…. (p. 107)
Structurally, the mechanical and the organic in Burroughs are exact opposites. A machine is comprised of discrete movable parts, each confined to its location, in no other location, and each related according to its border areas to other parts. All of these parts are brought together one by one to perform an action, the coordination of which is not a "synthesis," but rather a reified object itself, with its own space: a circuit, a map, or in an extended sense, a program, or punch card. The "organic," on the other hand, reverses the tendency of the machine to unfold and separate into isolated, discrete spaces. As in the Amusement Gardens, objects structured as organic content merge with each other, they become a diabolical parody of the romantic "All" and of the fluid life of the original garden. Of course, mergence in this sense approaches the same condition as the mechanical, that of isolation and confinement. This is seen most clearly in the plan of the Liquefactionists in Naked Lunch. They propose that everyone merge by protoplasmic absorption into one person—who would then, of course, be totally alone, as confined in his space as any discrete mechanical part in its space. Thus, although the mechanical and organic in Burroughs are exact opposites, there is an underlying sameness to them, a kind of inert, imprisoned objectivity; this is why the mechanical and organic are themselves often merged, for example in the recurring image of "metal excrement."
Again, all of this is schizophrenia. It is a making explicit of the schizophrenic nature of "reality" in our culture by a man diagnosed as schizophrenic …, in ways that are appropriately schizophrenic, that is, hallucinatory. Burroughs' world is structured upon either-or polarities—the organic and the mechanical, consciousness and the body, the self and the Other. This is most apparent in the image of the body in his novels. The body is variously seen as a machine …, and as a soft, amorphous mass, transparent, wet, penetrable, and finally as a combination of the two, a "soft machine." As a "soft machine," the body's shape, skin, or surface is the external, mechanical principle which contains its soft, amorphous content (a view which derives ultimately from the reification of shape and form as properties of objects in Aristotelian thought). Thus, bodies are "boneless mummies," and people wear uniforms of human skin, their own skin, which they can discard for the purpose of merging their soft skinless "content" with someone else's. This combination of a kind of dismemberment and merging is seen most explicitly in an incident that occurs repeatedly in the two later novels, Nova Express and The Ticket That Exploded: the merging of two homosexuals by means of the dismemberment and flaying of their "external" bodies in a film. (pp. 108-09)
The camera metaphor of human perception … becomes literal in Burroughs, and the object-world exists as an "image," that is, it is something we face, something we see or have, not something we are. Thus, the dismemberment that is virtual, for example, in Fielding's mechanical descriptions of the actions of the body in objective space, becomes actual in Burroughs, in a space that is itself an object, a movie screen.
This dismemberment in space in Burroughs is pushed to the extreme condition of a total atomization of all things. Burroughs' world is the Newtonian world of discrete objects and entities existing in objective space, confined to their own locations, and it is this world carried to such an extreme that space explodes, and each object wraps its own space around itself. Or more accurately, space is polarized into the totally frozen map-space of administration on the one hand (maps, punch cards, bureaucracies), and the atomistic space of objects overflowing their administration on the other…. On the one hand there is immobility and catatonia, a condition made possible … by the diffusion of space into total objectivity, into a void, to the extent that one exists anywhere, and hence one cannot move…. And on the other hand there is frenzied activity, frantic action, a salad of actions that increase to maximum intensity as their space shrinks…. (p. 110)
[There] are two spaces in Burroughs; as well as being contained by external, objective space, objects and bodies are able to contain each other, to merge, to be their own space. This is the significance of the mergence of … two homosexuals …, and also the significance of such an image as "metal excrement."… The space of Burroughs' world, all told, is the space of objectivity and subjectivity laid over each other, the juxtaposed experience of an external map-space with its "intersection points," and of a mythic space by which bodies are not subject to the limitations of a map; and it is the mutually exclusive presence of both, of "external" and of "mythic" space, that Merleau-Ponty calls the basis of schizophrenia….
Burroughs frequently refers to conditioning processes that depend upon the theory of association of ideas, and he even asserts, not entirely ironically, that a movie and sound track of sexual activity is as good as the "real thing." In this respect, Burroughs' world is firmly anchored in the structures of classical Western thought, in such figures as Locke and Pavlov…. (p. 111)
His world is anchored, in other words, in structures of control. "The scanning pattern we accept as 'reality' has been imposed by the controlling power on this planet, a power oriented toward total control." "Image" is a discrete entity, and the only organization that discrete entities can have, since internal synthesis is impossible, is one of external control—that is, a map, a circuit, or a punch card. Because "image" is both a datum of consciousness and an object of the public world, all organization is by necessity control; indeed, the condition of the world is one of total map-like administration…. (pp. 111-12)
Control imposes violence. In Burroughs, the act of contact itself is a violent act, for it is always a seizing, a taking over, and the body, since it is a mere object, is easily seized…. Burroughs' apprehension of the world is one of frightening relevance: a society organized and administered by the map structures of control is necessarily a sadistic one, since everything exists by virtue of the fact that it is organized, that is, by virtue of being an object, something to be used. The use of human beings as objects accounts for the most obsessively recurring action in Burroughs' novels, what he calls the "orgasm death": homosexual rape coupled with murder by hanging or strangling of the passive partner at the moment of climax. For Burroughs, violence is an absolute space into which one enters—it is like madness or sex, it is the "Other Half" which our culture has repressed, that is, has siphoned off into a pure, separate area. The recurring association of sex and death is due to their mutual occupation of this separate area, and that area is specifically flesh, the body…. The phenomenon of violence in our culture is to a large degree due to this schizophrenia, to the repression of the "Other Half" of the body, its objectification, and its consequent association with evil. (pp. 112-13)
In Burroughs, movable objects control the body quite literally because they are junk. "Junk" means both waste objects and heroin, and the two are collapsed into one symbol in Burroughs' world. The civilized society is the consumer culture, it produces objects for instant consumption, and hence objects with their waste function built in, objects to be emptied of their use and thrown away. The object most repeatedly emptied of its use in Burroughs is the needle, and it is emptied into the body. The complements of sadism and its fantasy of control are masochism and passive homosexuality, and their fantasies of being controlled. The drug experience is the perfect image of these, for its act is totally receptive, an act that is not an act, but the object of one. Thus, the junkie is the perfect consumer, his body awaits the distribution of goods, it is totally controlled by the map of that distribution. (p. 114)
[The] bombardment of objects in Burroughs' novels is the visible manifestation of a world fragmenting itself … to the degree that it becomes total administration, and hence total clutter. Burroughs' world is one in which everything is on the verge of achieving complete separation and complete autonomy, it is a world in the state of explosion. "Explosion" is finally (and paradoxically) the most uniform quality of Burroughs' novels, the polarity toward which his world most consistently gravitates. Even administrative control and map-space cannot finally help objects to cohere, since administration and maps have their own separate space. This is why "context" and "landscape" in Burroughs always exist in pure states; they are the ground out of which objects fly and explode, but they are motionless and ideal, sealed-off from those objects. There is the landscape of the City, a mechanical labyrinth, and the landscape of "Nature," the Garden of Delights, a swamp, or a mud flat; and these are not so much environments in which actions occur, as pure spaces for themselves. Actions and incidents that have any continuity usually occur in ill-defined rooms or on an ill-defined plain. Between these, which become less frequent with each novel, the wanderings of consciousness describe objects in a constant state of permutation and explosion, objects deprived of their context, and hence each one in the context of itself, in its own exclusive space…. Burroughs' solution to the repressive control that the image of reality imposes is to fragment it and mix it together, to erase all lines between things. If reality is a film, then you loosen its grip by submitting it to a state of explosion, by cutting it up and splicing all spaces and times randomly in together…. (p. 115)
This is the feature of Burroughs' novels that has won him a great deal of attention, the cutup method of writing, by which a text is cut into short phrases of six or seven words, shuffled around and pasted together…. With each novel the lines between cohesive writing and cutups have been increasingly blurred…. (p. 116)
Burroughs' literary roots are deeply imbedded in dada and surrealism…. [The] typical dada work of art wrenches an object out of the context of its use and juxtaposes it with other such objects, a bicycle wheel upside down on top of a stool, for example, or a fur-lined tea cup. Burroughs accomplishes with words what the dadaists did with objects; he cuts them out of the context which defines their use and which consequently binds us to the "real" world. (pp. 116-17)
Surrealism makes the invisible structure of language visible, it carries the objectification of words in realism necessitated by that invisible structure to its inevitable conclusion. This is the sense in which Burroughs is the supreme realist: in the cutup passages of his novels, his world is there, it consists of the words on the page. (p. 118)
Burroughs' destruction of reality is accomplished with the very tools of reality, not only with junk, but with scissors. The result is an object-world whose pre-confusion, whose non-identity is its "identity," and whose schizophrenia is precisely the accelerated schizophrenia of the real world. There is no "plot" in Burroughs' world…. Burroughs' novels [are] diabolical maps, maps whose surfaces have been so intersected with conflicting directions, so cut up, that they are unreadable, they are maps of Hell. Even the "conflicting directions," that is, the sense of surrealistic contradiction in Burroughs, are finally neutralized by a cutup world, a world existing in pieces which can't relate to each other enough to contradict…. [This] is more true of the two later novels, Nova Express, and The Ticket That Exploded, than it is of Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine. In The Soft Machine Burroughs makes his best use of cutups by establishing with them a dynamic rhythm of cohesion and fragmentation which becomes the experience of the novel. In the later novels, however, cutups come to seize their own space, to have less to do with other sections of the novels, except as waste bins to catch those sections when they drop. They become stagnant pools of amputated language and space through which the reader has to wade. (p. 122)
[The] objectification of the body in realism becomes in Burroughs a total dismemberment of the body, an explosion of it into separate existence, into pieces whose parts are all equal to each other and equal to any other object in the vicinity. This is the final condition of realism: schizophrenic atomism, living in pieces, in a world of pieces. Burroughs' world is the "real" world broken down into the components…. (pp. 122-23)
John Vernon, "William S. Burroughs," in The Iowa Review (copyright © 1972, by The University of Iowa), Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring, 1972), pp. 107-23.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1457
In the main Burroughs is faithful to [the theme he expressed in both The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express]: a coalition of three life-forms infiltrated Earth three thousand years ago, after ruining another planet. Their strategy is to take advantage of human weaknesses and conflicts, exacerbate them and feed on the energy thus released. The soft spots manipulated by these alien agents disguised as human beings (the nova mob), are sex, drugs and power; in this we see Burroughs' obsessions take shape. The Venus Vegetable People crave sex energies, the Uranian Heavy Metal People drugs, and the Minraud Insect People control….
[The three-fold plot is] nowhere to be found in straightforward linear form. The reader must piece [the story lines] together from flashes, obsessive phrases, and incomplete scenes, struggling through disjointed chronology and abrupt changes of narrators, or cryptic cut-ups. The difficulty and sophistication of the narrative technique stands thus in striking contrast to the naiveté of the popular science-fiction outline. Although Burroughs enjoys toying with the science-fiction panoply (space and time travel, immortality, telepathy and mindscreens) he spurns the suspense and adventure element … or he depends on the connotations of these magical words to conjure up the illusion of roaring action. He is more attracted to the oneiric poetry of imaginary worlds…. (p. 34)
The use of science-fiction becomes … passionate when it features Burroughs' perennial themes: addiction, the enslavement of man, resistance, liberation…. [The] distance between fiction and reality varies with passion. Burroughs, for instance, defeated his addiction to hard drugs thanks to an apomorphine cure, so in Nova Express apomorphine is a key weapon…. While the science-fiction rhetoric hides the earnestness of the declaration, the fictional mask is sometimes all-too transparent…. Even the science-fiction conventions cannot hide the deeply personal character of Burroughs' fiction, but is the science-fiction element, which dominates The Ticket That Exploded (1961), Nova Express (1964) and The Wild Boys (1971), simply a façade stuck on the original vision of Naked Lunch (1959) and The Soft Machine (1960)?
In The Soft Machine, allusions to the science-fiction theme that will only be complete in The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express keep floating up enigmatically…. These strange echoes, reverberating back from Burroughs' later work reveal his non-linear, illogical composition, in which time seems to play no part, as if the reader's glance could encompass the whole of his production spread out like a landscape. As a matter of fact, The Soft Machine can only be read after the later novels, which illuminate so many tantalizing clues.
The bulk of the book is devoted to successive variations on a lost Mayan civilization, a theme seemingly unrelated to science-fiction. The hero reaches the Mayan world through various techniques; some belong to fantastic literature (magic, drugs, body exchange), others lie in the province of science-fiction: surgery to build a composite body, time travel through fold-in techniques. The civilization described is not unfamiliar,… [for it has] all the features of the wider science-fiction world…. (pp. 35-7)
Burroughs' Mayan theme is … on the border between fantastic literature and modern science-fiction: Burroughs has moved towards science-fiction by following the historical evolution of the genre. Let us note that just as the science-fiction theme grows from The Soft Machine to Nova Express, the Mayan theme symmetrically dwindles to mere allusions and flashes without disappearing altogether.
Although Naked Lunch, Burroughs' first important novel, is not primarily science-fiction,… [we can find] seeds of what was to be developed.
First of all, the "ars poetica" at work in Naked Lunch is nonrealistic. It never aims at giving a photographic image of our world…. Reality is still recognizable but warped out of shape, caricatured and outrageous; or is it that reality is not what it is taken to be? One look behind the veil of appearances is enough to make your flesh crawl. (p. 37)
In [Burroughs'] works science-fiction is not an intellectual construction, it is rooted in obsessive metaphors. What is ironical is that science-fiction in order to repudiate its low-brow origins tends to pride itself on its conceptual, speculative character: it has taken an avant-garde artist to reactivate the affective charge of its motifs. We are tempted to identify the different stages of the metaphor with the successive books: Naked Lunch would start with grotesque distortion, The Soft Machine would move to the fantastic stage, and The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express would develop the final science-fiction version. In fact this chronological sequence is misleading…. [In] Naked Lunch already, the three stages of the metaphor were present simultaneously…. [The] three stages coexist, fit together and complement each other; Burroughs himself suggests that the modification is not one-way but reversible: "Naked Lunch is a blueprint, a How-To Book …," [and] the movement is from direct perception to the abstractions of science-fiction and back.
Although it is clear that the science-fiction element gradually eliminates the other versions until it reigns supreme over Nova Express, its function remains ambiguous. The first hypothesis is that, whereas the hallucinations explode like fireworks and threaten to destroy the unity of the book …, the nova conspiracy brings together the different elements; the Mayan theme had the same unifying value but was too remote in time and space from modern experience. In fact, contrary to most science-fiction, the nova theme is not set in the future, it is contemporary but we had not seen through it because we were blindfolded.
Secondly, from an ideological and psychological viewpoint, this all-powerful conspiracy answers Burroughs' needs perfectly: it accounts for addictions, degradations and sufferings; above all, it provides a rationale for successful revolt and liberation, by fictionalizing Burroughs' own apomorphine cure; isn't the nova police its science-fiction metaphor? The sheer size of the conspiracy, its super-human character is a boon for Burroughs' self-esteem: it alleviates his guilt feelings; from a perverted addict he graduates to the status of helpless victim first, then resister, prophet and revolutionary leader, issuing manifestoes and routing evil…. (pp. 39-40)
The growth of the conspiracy theme suggests that Burroughs was gradually seduced and carried away by his poetic vision. There are signs that he did not draw a clear line between reality and speculation. (p. 40)
Both in vision and technique The Wild Boys is less extreme than Nova Express. No more cut-ups and no more alien monsters …; there are enemies and even fierce commitment …, but the enemies are now simply human and refreshingly ridiculous. The ponderous, righteous, middle-aged American Crusade of 1976 is hilarious. Burroughs rediscovers humour, which had disappeared after Naked Lunch, not because science-fiction is not favourable to humour but because the paranoiac conspiracy theme was not. As a matter of fact The Wild Boys is science-fiction…. The nova conspiracy was vaguely contemporary, in fact almost a-temporal, whereas The Wild Boys introduces history by sketching the thirty years to come, not to predict the future but to dramatize Burroughs' hypothesis…. [Burroughs uses frightening metaphors to reveal] that the tide has turned: language that was the instrument of nova oppression has become a weapon of liberation in The Wild Boys. (p. 41)
However topical, Burroughs' Wild Boys remains unmistakably rooted in his previous work…. [But the nova conspiracy] has been totally excised; the fact that, after developing the nova theme over four books, Burroughs was able to suppress it entirely, when it was no longer needed, reveals the degree of his artistic control, masked by apparent confusion.
The nova conspiracy had to disappear because Burroughs seems to have reconciled himself to his past. The degrading slavery of addiction is no longer a central theme. The previous self-hate has disappeared: the wild boys are homosexual and use hallucinogenic drugs freely (but not hard drugs) and these features are now accepted as a liberation from narrow everyday vision, and from woman, that is from the family and organized society. So the disappearance of the science-fiction motif of the nova conspiracy is the result of this change of outlook. The Wild Boys is a less strident, less defensive book, which comes as near tenderness as Burroughs has ever come and it could not be built around the conspiracy motif. (p. 42)
The Wild Boys proposes an alternate vision of our world by projecting it into a near future and effecting some significant changes, which dramatize Burroughs' values and take us off guard…. No other literary device could have allowed him to suspend our preconceptions (rather than our disbelief, for Burroughs does not aim at verisimilitude).
Burroughs does not use science-fiction exclusively (except in Nova Express), he alternates science-fiction with other techniques of dramatizing, rather than reproducing, reality. He has recognized that science-fiction adds excellent tools to his literary panoply. (p. 43)
Gérard Cordesse, "The Science-Fiction of William Burroughs," in Caliban XII (reprinted by permission of Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail), n.s. Vol. XI, No. 1, 1975, pp. 33-43.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 645
[Burroughs] noted that there is an important difference between Naked Lunch and the books that follow …: his adaptation of the cut-up method of Brion Gysin. The Soft Machine develops out of the quest in the early novels, but the question that boldly opens the "Atrophied Preface" at the end of Naked Lunch is perhaps more important than the complex answers to it in the later works. "Wouldn't You?" triggers an elaborate program of anarchic individualism aimed at revitalizing the junk universe. As in the medieval romances, almost immediately after the hero asks the magical question the waters of life begin to flow.
Along with the myth, however, goes a cosmology, "a vision of the creation and destruction of the world that is vouchsafed to the successful hero." Here gods and demons will symbolize the forces at work inside and outside the hero's psyche which aid and distract him in his quest for the very source of the life force. This is the dimension of Burroughs' work that has most pleased and perplexed his critics and gained his work a reputation for "newness." Even here, however, novelty fades into familiarity when we see the basic outlines of a cosmogonic cycle involving good and evil, heaven and hell, emerging in the early books….
[For Burroughs, the basic element of life and matter] is junk—chaotic, self-consuming power—and the expansion of this principle informs his early work with a malign and enervating dreariness. In Junkie he presents the world of addiction in an impersonal style he has since called "journalistic," but the autobiographical facts recorded there become the cosmic metaphors of the tetralogy. The transformation of junk from fact to symbol is by far the most important result of this movement toward higher levels of abstraction in Naked Lunch. (p. 227)
The fundamental laws of Burroughs' universe are nearly codified [in his essay "Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness"]:
Junk yields a basic formula of "evil" virus: The Algebra of Need. The face of "evil" is always the face of total need. A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control….
A situation of total need, constant crisis, and addiction has rendered the world of the early novels stagnant…. (p. 228)
Burroughs is obsessed with control systems—from Mayan codices to Scientology—and control and sex begin to fuse more and more in his later novels…. The most pernicious form of addiction [in Burroughs' work] however, is the word: Reichian engrams, Aristotelian either/or logic, and the declarative sentence itself. This manifestation becomes the number one enemy in Burroughs' work after 1960, and he personifies it in the "Atrophied Preface":
Gentle Reader, the Word will leap on you with leopard man iron claws, it will cut off fingers and toes like an opportunist land crab, it will hang you and catch your jissom like a scrutable dog, it will coil round your thighs like a bushmaster and inject a shot glass of rancid ectoplasm….
That Burroughs has been able to follow the quest he began in Junkie through partial failure to a final vision of "the ultimate boon" that informs his work after Naked Lunch is perhaps his greatest achievement…. (p. 232)
The hero of Junkie, despite his cool, is not mature. The book is a Bildungsroman where Burroughs/Lee gets a thorough education in the laws of the junk universe and barely survives his testing. Despite what at first seem great differences, its closest contemporary analogue is Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye …, another record of initiation and partial success in a quest for freedom that ends with a balance of self-doubt and hope…. (p. 234)
William L. Stull, "The Quest and the Question: Cosmology and Myth in the Work of William S. Burroughs, 1953–1960," in Twentieth Century Literature (copyright 1978, Hofstra University Press), Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer, 1978, pp. 225-42.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 294
The aim [of The Third Mind, a collaborative effort of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin,] is to expand consciousness, to tap the coded messages beyond literary earshot, to retrace the secret of Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs, to reach the silence beyond words in soundless, universal images and patterns "at the extreme limit of readability". Everything, from Dunne's Experiment with Time to Derrida's Las dissemination, is grist to this neo-romantic mill…. Like earlier romantics, Burroughs and Gysin also claim linguistics for their programme. For this is to be a collaborative deconstruction of the verbal prison-house, not by a sunburst of Blakean vision, but by a kind of science of Dadaism. Though "scientology" seems a more appropriate term….
Ah Pook Is Here follows close on the heels of The Third Mind, as a kind of companion volume which puts the doctrines into action. Yet it seems much the same mix as before: less junk, more sex, with the masturbatory images as often visual as verbal. At first sight it looks as if The Plumed Serpent had been shredded with Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. On closer inspection it seems to owe more to Charles Olson's Mayan Letters. (One hopes Burroughs is better informed about Maya corn gods than he is about Moby-Dick.) This Mayan farrago, in fact, turns out to be the ultimate Western, a comical strip-tease of the capitalist and technological Far West.
Burroughs picks up where the Yippies, some ten years ago, left off: political sabotage, by scrambled electronic cutups, swamping the mass media with total illusion. Like a latter-day Whitman, he extends his democratic revolution from literature to politics.
Harold Beaver, "Dismantling the System," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1979; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 4005, December 21, 1979, p. 150.
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