Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Because of their experimental techniques, the works of William S. Burroughs (BUR-ohz) are especially difficult to classify within established literary forms. Exterminator! (1973), for example, although published as a “novel,” is actually a collection of previously published poems, short stories, and essays. Other unclassifiable works are book-length experiments, often written in collaboration and in the “cut-up, fold-in” technique pioneered by Burroughs, which might be considered novels by some. The “cut-up, fold-in” technique is similar to the picture art of collage in that text from other authors, news stories, or other works is randomly inserted and then reedited to go with the general text by the author. Examples among Burroughs’s works are Minutes to Go (1960), written in collaboration with Sinclair Beiles, Gregory Corso, and Brion Gysin; The Exterminator (1960), written with Gysin; Time (1965), which contains drawings by Gysin; and uvre Croisée (1976), written in collaboration with Gysin and reissued as The Third Mind in 1978. White Subway (1965), Apomorphine (1969), and The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs (1970), written in collaboration with Daniel Odier, are additional short-story and essay collections. The Dead Star (1969) is a journalistic essay that contains photocollage inserts, APO-33 Bulletin: A Metabolic Regulator (1966) is a pamphlet, and Electronic Revolution, 1970-71 (1971) is an essay that fantasizes bizarre political and business uses for the cut-up, fold-in technique.

Burroughs also published scores of essays, stories, and articles in numerous journals, periodicals, and short-lived magazines. One of Burroughs’s most revealing publications, The Yage Letters (1963), collects his correspondence with Allen Ginsberg concerning Burroughs’s 1952 expedition to South America in search of yage, a legendary hallucinogen. In these letters, Burroughs is Govinda, the master, to Ginsberg’s Siddhartha, the disciple.