I would suggest that academies be established where young people will learn to get really high . . . high as the Zen master is high when his arrow hits a target in the dark . . . high as the karate master is high when he smashes a brick with his fist . . . high . . . weightless . . . in space. This is the space age. Time to look beyond this rundown radioactive cop-ridden planet. Time to look beyond the animal body. Remember anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways. You don’t need drugs to get high but drugs do serve as a shortcut at certain stages of this training. The students would receive a basic course of training in the non-chemical discipline of yoga, karate, prolonged sense withdrawal, stroboscopic lights, the constant use of tape recorders to break down verbal association lines. Techniques now being used for control of thought could be used instead for liberation. — William S. Burroughs, from The Job


The Adding Machine: Collected Essays

William S. Burroughs

A collection of 43 short essays that range in topic from autobiography to social commentary to ruminations on science to literary criticism. Discursive and linear, these reflections offer a rare glimpse into the sensibility of a novelist whose style is largely defined by allegory and the now-famous cut-up method. While the expository presentation may be unique (though Burroughs, it seems, is either incapable or unwilling to disengage from allegory altogether), the disposition isn't; his singular brand of indigenously American Libertarianism—caustic, scatological, hilarious, wistful—is evident throughout: “Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, anymore than a smallpox virus has.” There's a commonsense approach that informs his assessments of fellow writers as well. Of Beckett, he states: “If the role of a novelist is to create characters and the sets in which his characters live and breathe, then Beckett is not a novelist at all. There is no Beckett; it is all taking place in some grey limbo, and there is also no set.” Highlights include “Bugger the Queen,” a scathing attack on British royalty; “My Experiences With Wilhelm Reich's Orgone Box”; and “The Limits of Control.” MDG

Publisher: Little, Brown
Paperback: 216 pages

The Burroughs File

William S. Burroughs

A collection of short works published by small presses both foreign and domestic, focusing on Burroughs' experiments in language cut-up and photomontage drawn largely from the 1960s. Also includes The Retreat Diaries (1976), a day-by-day assemblage of “bits of dreams and poetry and associations cut in together” recorded on a Buddhist retreat in Vermont; and Cobble Stone Gardens (1976), an alternately bizarre and tender reminiscence of the author's childhood dedicated to the memory of his mother and father. Enhanced by the inclusion of “Burroughs in Tangier” by Paul Bowles (1959) and Alan Ansen's affectionate appreciation “Whoever Can Pick Up a Frying Pan Owns Death” (1959), The Burroughs File is an excellent compilation that provides the reader with Burroughs' principal literary output prior to his return to full-length fiction with The Wild Boys (1970). Writing to Ansen, Burroughs states: “Unless writing has the danger and immediacy, the urgency of bullfighting, it is nowhere near my way of thinking… I am tired of sitting behind the lines with an imperfect recording device receiving inaccurate bulletins… I must reach the Front.” MDG

Publisher: City Lights
Paperback: 230 pages

The Job

William S. Burroughs with Daniel Odier

Important explanations of the experiments, techniques and theories which are usually encoded in Burroughs's fiction are provided in the form of interviews and essays intercut as “a film with fade-outs and flashback illustrating the answers.” The possibilities for drug-free liberation of consciousness are explored through sound cut-ups, porno film loops, subliminals, infrasonic frequencies, riot TV, speech scramblers and the Dreamachine. Burroughs also takes the opportunity to editorialize in plain English about the Family; the pernicious influence of the gentler sex; the CIA; Watergate; love, the word and other viruses; Wilhelm Reich; Korzybski; L. Ron Hubbard; mutation; and Death. SS

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 224 pages

My Education: A Book of Dreams

William S. Burroughs

A dream journal that reads more like a memoir than some random collection of subconscious misadventures, My Education is Burroughs at his most vivid, impacted and vulnerable. Characters include everyone from friends (living and dead) to historical figures to extraterrestrials to his beloved cats. There's an elegiac, wistful tone throughout; the reflections and recollections of a man who, in his long life, has tasted (and endured) the extremes of love and suffering. Inherent in the very activity of dream—being outside of one's own body—is the element of transcendence, and this, too, emerges as a signature theme. While Burroughs has always questioned the limitations of language as they apply to meaning, here he repeatedly focuses that question on how those limits apply to loss. Tragically consistent with its overall mood, the book is dedicated to one Michael Emerton, a 26-year-old suicide; Burroughs writes: “An experience most deeply felt is the most difficult to put into words. Remembering brings the emptiness, the acutely painful awareness of irreparable loss.” Gone is the raging diagnostician of Naked Lunch and Nova Express; it's a kinder, gentler Burroughs within these pages—a long time in coming but well worth the wait. A must-read for anyone interested in the development of Burroughs' ongoing vision; an excellent introduction for the uninitiated. MDG

Publisher: Viking
Hardback: 193 pages

Naked Scientology/Ali's Smile

William S. Burroughs

A bilingual (German/English) chronicle of Burroughs' experiences with and critique of Scientology culled from articles originally printed in the L.A. Free Press, East Village Other and Rolling Stone. “No body of knowledge needs an organizational policy”, writes Burroughs, “Organizational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organization and freedom of thought.” Also includes a letter to the editor of Rolling Stone from R. Sorrell, a representative of the Church of Scientology along with Burroughs' caustically arch response. The volume concludes with Ali's Smile, a satirical allegory on the nature of control with Scientology as its target. What the book makes unmistakably clear is Burroughs' rabid contempt for the lapdog follower, the submissive idiot ever ready and willing to obey the voice of authority. MDG

Publisher: Expanded Media
Paperback: 106 pages

Re/Search 4/5: William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Throbbing Gristle

Edited by V. Vale

The first Re/Search magazine to appear in book form. Most interesting for exposing the links between the cut-up writings of William Burroughs, the theories and art of Brion Gysin, and the sound experimentation of Throbbing Gristle. Burroughs writes about Brion Gysin's invention of the cut-up method, Genesis P. Orridge and Peter Christopherson interview Brion Gysin, Simon Dwyer (Rapid Eye) writes about Throbbing Gristle, and the Paris Beat Hotel conceptual sources of Industrial Culture are laid out for all to ponder. SS

Publisher: V/Search
Paperback: 108 pages

Towers Open Fire and Other Films

William S. Burroughs

“Four short films: Towers Open Fire, The Cut-Ups, Bill & Tony, and William Buys a Parrot. A cinematic equivalent to Burroughs' writing, a “cut-up” of all the key themes and situations in his books, accompanied by a Burroughs soundtrack narration. Society crumbles as the Stock Exchange crashes, members of the Board are raygun-zapped in their own boardroom, and a commando in the orgasm attack leaps through a window…”

Publisher: Mystic Fire

The Yage Letters

William S. Burroughs

A short collection of correspondence (commencing in 1953) between Burroughs and Ginsberg focusing on Burroughs' travels through the Peruvian jungles in search of yage, an hallucinogenic plant used by Amazon Indian doctors for the purpose of locating lost bodies and souls. Most exciting, perhaps, is encountering Burroughs in an epistolary mode; his arch observations and bitchy wit bereft of the allegorical/nonlinear trappings of his celebrated novels (though many of the images in Naked Lunch are in fact taken from notes on the hallucinations caused by yage). Seven years later Ginsberg is in Peru and writes Burroughs an account of his own terrors with the drug, appealing to his mentor for counsel; a request Burroughs responds to somewhat cryptically: “There is no thing to fear. Vaya adelante. Look. Listen. Hear. Your AYUASKA consciousness is more valid than 'Normal Consciousness'? Whose 'Normal Consciousness'? Why return to?” The volume concludes with an epilogue (1963) containing a brief reflective missive from Ginsberg as well as “I AM DYING, MEESTER?,” a disturbingly elegiac cut-up by Burroughs provoked, presumably, by memories of his search for the drug: “Flashes in front of my eyes naked and sullen—Rotten dawn wind in sleep—Death rot on Panama photo where the awning flaps.” For all students of Burroughs as well as those interested in the literature of drug-induced altered states. MDG

Publisher: City Lights
Paperback: 72 pages