scenes from secret libraries: louise welsh’s the cutting room

 

immoral filth by a filthy immoralist: just the sort
of reading a sex murdered would bone up on…
(atrocious pun purely accidental)

Welsh’s debut novel, The Cutting Room (2002), quickly found an enthusiastic readership who claimed it for the ranks of the literary crime genre. Some readers, however, remained uncomfortable with aspects of the book. Auctioneer Rilke comes across a set of disturbing photographs while clearing a house in his native Glasgow. The pictures appear to show a woman before and after she is murdered for the sexual gratification of, among others, the recently deceased owner of the house. Feeling compelled to seek out the truth about both parties, and what really happened, Rilke sets out on a journey which takes him via contacts in the second hand trade through to some decidedly dangerous customers operating in a much shadier criminal underworld.  (from Lousie Welsh’s British Council page) 

 

The ladder to the attic was folded against the ceiling, as Miss McKindless had described. I found a pole behind the door and hooked it down. I could see why the old lady would find access impossible. I hadn’t mentioned it, but despite my height, I’m not good at altitude. I put my foot on the first rung, the aluminium rattle sounding loud against the silence of the house, and climbed. The trap had a Yale and a mortise lock. I struggled for a minute or two, holding the ladder with one hand, fumbling around in my pockets for the keys with the other, changing hands, finding the keys, then searching for the right ones in the anonymous jumble. The ground started to slip away. I reeled against the ladder, realising I was about to lose balance, then a key turned smoothly in the mortise, the Yale beside it clicked home, I pushed open the trap door and hauled myself in.

  

I stood for a minute in the dark, half crouched, my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath, then, unsure of the height of the ceiling, cautiously straightened and felt for the light switch. 

  

I was standing in a long, thin room perhaps half the length of the house. Bare floorboards, clean for an attic. The ceiling began midway up the walls, angling to a peak. Three small windows that would let in a little light during the day. Along the right-hand wall were racks of metal shelving holding tidily stacked cardboard boxes. The left wall was covered in waist-high, dark oak bookcases, books neatly arranged. In the centre were a plain office desk and chair, to their left a high-backed armchair, comfortable but scruffy, inherited from some other room, beside it a bottle of malt, Lagavulin. Dead man’s drink. I unscrewed the cap and inhaled a quick scent of iodine and peat which caught the back of my throat. It was the good stuff, right enough. There was no cup so I took the end of my shirt and rubbed it along the mouth of the bottle before taking a good slug. I was curious about the contents of the cardboard boxes but turned first to the bookcase. 

 

It is revealing how people arrange their books. I was once in a house where the couple, man and wife, committed collectors of first editions, had placed every book in a sealed plastic bag, then on the shelves, spine in, pages out. `That way they won’t get sun-damaged,’ they explained. Others arrange books according to height, the tallest first, top shelf, left-hand corner, tapering down to the tiniest at the very bottom. Me, I have them willy-nilly, on suitcase, shelf and floor.

 

Mr McKindless had employed the age-old method of alphabetical by author, with the occasional grouping of publisher. Regimented over three shelves was a large collection of Olympia Press. Little green and white paperbacks pressed together – The Sex Life of Robinson Crusoe, Stradella, White Thighs, The Chariot of Flesh, With Open Mouth … I have always admired Maurice Girodias. He founded the Olympia Press some time in the 1950s in Paris. Pornography was in the family, but before he put his profits into a hotel and lost he was a master of the art. Girodias would invent (un)suitable titles, advertise them as available for sale, and then, depending on the response to his advertisements, commission a writer to produce the book. Many a penurious writer subsisted on his cheques and not a few successful ones lost their royalties. He claimed that some tourists came to the city simply to purchase his titles. I agreed. The Olympia Press concentrated on the avant-garde, particularly sex, and people will travel further than Paris for that. Like many collectors McKindless seemed to have been compelled to own every title. I scanned through the novels. Yes, here it was, the first edition of Burroughs’s The Naked Lunch in its slip case. I had never handled one before. All the Henry Miller was here, too.

 

The Olympia novels were just a start. Shelves and shelves of erotic fiction. It was a library that would fetch something. I took a rough note, glad it wasn’t me who would have to manoeuvre the boxes down the ladder. Here was the private man. The personality I had missed below stairs, confined to the attic like a mad Victorian relative.

 

I pulled open the drawer to the desk and had a look inside. Stationery, some nice pens, nothing much. Out of habit my fingers skimmed the underside of the drawer. There was something taped there. I took out my penknife and slit it free. A simple white card. GPM camera-Z Cryptic. I replaced the drawer and slipped the card into my pocket. I considered stopping. Almost left right there. It was the whisky that drew me back. One moredrink, leave the van in the driveway till morning, last orders at the Melrose, then a walk through the park and see what gave. It was the good stuff. A reward for working so hard, being clever enough to arrange a big deal, a pat on the back from me to me. I should know myself: that bottle was too full and I was too empty. I took it with me and started on box number one, the kind of thing all good citizens leave behind, paperwork, old documents, things that really could have been thrown away and kept for why? The next two boxes were pretty much the same, old magazines, records, more paper, my progress was slowing, the bottle halfway lower in its mark than when I began. One more box I decided – leave it on an even number, while I could still negotiate the ladder. At first it looked like more of the same. The general detritus of life, bumf, short for bum fodder, bills filed then kept to no purpose, bank statements – all showing an impressive balance – insurance policies never claimed on.

 

To anyone watching, my investigations would have appeared haphazard, but I have the skill of the searcher. Without looking I can sort silk from cotton velvet, cashmere from angora, I can tell with my finger tips an etching from a print. And I can turn base metal into gold. I think that if there is anything good in a box I will find it. Who knows what’s passed me by?

 

It was an envelope. Just a buff-coloured, thick-papered, document envelope. Straight away I knew it held photographs. I could feel them, the weight, the uniform size, photos not good enough for an album. Two thick rubber bands secured the folds, one pink, one blue. Pink for a girl. Blue for a boy. I pulled the bands off, slipping them tight round my wrist, they caught in the hairs of my arm, swift visions of mad nights. I kept them there, a taut reminder, and slid the photographs into my hand.

 

Mr McKindless is wearing a white shirt and bow tie. His hair has lost some of its Brylcreemed bounce, it lies damp and plastered across his forehead. His attention is focused on the young girl in his arms. She is pretty, pale-faced and lipsticked. Her head thrown backwards in his embrace, her dark curls, ringlets almost, tumbling away from her face. She is naked except for suspenders and stockings, and seems almost asleep. McKindless looks as if he is talking, trying to rouse her. Still she gazes, sleepy and smiling, not at him but towards the man who is entering her…

 

—Louise Welsh, The Cutting Room

 

 

el hombre invisible as gnostic seer and ufo contactee . . .

“Even the so-called science fictional elements of his books were not intended as satire or metaphor. Burroughs could very well have been introduced to the Nova Express model of invading extraterrestrials (and/or intrusions from alternate dimensions) at a very young age. In various interviews, for example, Burroughs has recounted one of his earliest childhood memories.

When he was four, he woke up early in the morning and saw little gray men playing in a block house he had made. ‘I felt no fear,’ he said, ‘only stillness and wonder.’ . . . Burroughs was so convinced of the reality of invading extraterrestrials that in 1989 he wrote a letter to Strieber asking to visit him and his family in their cabin in upstate New York . . .”

“William S. Burroughs, 20th Century Gnostic Visionary”

By Robert Guffey

In 1984, in Boulder, Colorado, an interviewer asked William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), “What religious persuasion would you consider yourself?” Without hesitating, Burroughs replied, “Gnostic, or a Manichean.”1

Upon reading those words, suddenly everything made sense.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the above conversation occurred in 1984. In many ways, Burroughs was a far more lucid and accurate analyst of twentieth century politics than even George Orwell, whose speculative concept of “newspeak” in his 1948 novel 1984 was quickly overshadowed by the real-world machinations of post-WWII Madison Avenue advertising techniques and Washington D.C. public relations firms.

Superior to Aldous Huxley’s brilliant 1958 collection of essays, Brave New World Revisited, Burroughs’s 1974 book The Job is a must-not-live-without essential guide to charting the opaque labyrinth of obfuscation and lies regularly constructed by the Reality Studio to protect itself from the light of scrutiny. Unlike his more naïve contemporaries among the Beat literary movement, Burroughs never took his eye off the twitchy sharpshooter in the corner, the wild card in the deck known as Control.

With the analytical eye of a surgeon (Burroughs studied medicine at Harvard, specialised knowledge that would eventually serve him well in his novels), Burroughs performed an autopsy on the body politic in a multitude of bleak and humorous novels, foremost among them Junky (1953), Naked Lunch (1959), The Soft Machine (1961), Nova Express (1964), and The Place of Dead Roads (1983).

But Burroughs never limited his vision to merely charting out the intricate connections that make up the system of control. Like Huxley before him, who eventually followed his dystopian novel Brave New World with a Utopian counterpoint titled The Island, Burroughs himself attempted to construct his own vision of a Utopia in such novels as The Wild Boys (1971) and Cities of the Red Night (1981).

In both cases, Burroughs seemed to suggest that a Utopia was not possible except within an isolated oasis, what Hakim Bey would call “a temporary autonomous zone.”2 In the first case, the autonomous zone takes the form of an all-male enclave in the jungles of North Africa; these commandos, trained in combat for defensive purposes, can reproduce without the aid of women and travel through the trees on prehensile hemorrhoids. In Cities of the Red Night, Burroughs’s Utopia is based on historical fact and manifests as an island settlement established by Captain Mission, an actual pirate who lived in the eighteenth century.

Mission explored the Madagascar coast and found a bay ten leagues north of Diego-Suarez. It was resolved to establish here the shore quarters of the Republic – erect a town, build docks, and have a place they might call their own. The colony was called Libertatia and was placed under Articles drawn up by Captain Mission. The Articles state, among other things: all decisions with regard to the colony to be submitted to vote by the colonists; the abolition of slavery for any reason including debt; the abolition of the death penalty; and freedom to follow any religious beliefs or practices without sanction or molestation.3

In both Wild Boys and Cities of the Red Night, Burroughs celebrates the notion of an autonomous zone kept separate from the madding hordes through potentially violent defensive measures, where a human being is allowed to pursue life free from the constant surveillance of overly authoritarian social structures. In Burroughs’s hands, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies would no doubt have a very different outcome.

Burroughs’s libertarian brand of morality was based on Jack Black’s notions of the “Johnson family” as chronicled in Black’s 1926 autobiography You Can’t Win. The impact this book had on Burroughs when he was still a young man can’t be overestimated. In Burroughs’s own words, the Johnson creed can be described as follows:

“The Johnson family” was a turn-of-the-century expression to designate good bums and thieves. It was elaborated into a code of conduct. A Johnson honours his obligations. His word is good and he is a good man to do business with. A Johnson minds his own business. He is not a snoopy, self-righteous, troublemaking person. A Johnson will give help when help is needed. He will not stand by while someone is drowning or trapped under a burning car.4

Surely in Burroughs’s world this would be the only mandatory social stricture established for his personal temporary autonomous zone.

Burroughs’s vision of a Utopian autonomous zone could be seen as a metaphor for the Gnostic concept of “the pneuma,” an infinitesimally small fragment of the divine that exists in all human beings.

Gnosticism, an early form of Christianity, flourished in the Middle East until approximately the second century CE when the movement was violently suppressed by Roman Catholic authorities. Dr. Stephan Hoeller, the current bishop of the Gnostic Church in Los Angeles, distinguishes Gnosticism from traditional forms of Christianity in this way:

[Gnosticism is] much more orientated toward the personal, spiritual advancement and transformation of the individual, regarding figures such as Jesus as being helpers rather than sacrificial saviours. It is a form of religion that has […] a much more ecumenical and universal scope in terms of its relationship to spiritual, religious traditions other than the Christian.5

According to literary scholar Gregory Stephenson:

…the attitude that characterises all the Gnostic systems is that the world, the body, and matter are unreal and evil. They are illusions that are the products of malevolent powers called Archons, chief among whom is Sammael (the god of the blind or the blind god), also called Ialdabaoth or the Demiurge. These creator-gods are not the Deity of the Supreme Being, though they make claim to being so. The Deity is completely transcendent – absolutely distinct, apart, and remote from the created universe. However, a portion of the divine substance, called the pneuma, is enclosed in the human body – within the human passions and the human appetites […]. The aim of Gnosticism is to liberate the pneuma from its material, delusional prison and to reunite it with the Deity. The Archons seek to obstruct this liberation and to maintain their dominion.6

This basic theological structure applies to almost all of Burroughs’s work. Burroughs’s strong sense of morality, of the distinct difference between right and wrong, is often lost in the lurid morass of details concerning his personal life. His heroin addiction, his homosexuality, his arrest in Mexico for the accidental death of his wife, his early experimentation with yage in South America and his later fascination with Wilhelm Reich’s unorthodox theories regarding orgone energy – all of these unusual aspects of his life, though admittedly intriguing, are often reduced to gossipy anecdotes that threaten to diminish the importance of the workitself.

Burroughs was never the star of his own novels, not even in his highly autobiographical debut, Junky. The central figure in all his novels is war – a continuous war between Freedom and Control, what Burroughs himself might very well refer to as “good and evil.”

The conflict between good and evil is considered to be a hollow theme by most literary scholars. After all, is this not the purview of Tolkienesque sword and sorcery epics and four-colour superhero comics? Surely no major literary figure of the twentieth century ever bothered to waste his time on such silliness.

But that’s not quite true. In the work of no other American writer do we find this theme explored in as complex and harrowing a manner as in the novels and essays of William Burroughs. At the beginning of this essay Burroughs described himself as a “Manichean.” Burroughs defined this term as follows:

The Manichean believe in an actual struggle between good and evil, which is not an eternal struggle since one of them will win in this particular area, sooner or later. Of course, with the Christians there was this tremendous inversion of values where the most awful people are thrown up as this paragon of virtue for everyone to emulate…7

The Manichean sect of Gnosticism spread across three continents over the course of eleven hundred years beginning, approximately, in CE 240. It was founded by the Persian prophet Mani, who was eventually imprisoned at the age of 61, tortured for 26 days, and assassinated. According to Dr. Hoeller, Mani is among “two of the great luminaries of the Gnostic tradition.”8

Dr. Hoeller sums up Mani’s basic doctrine as follows:

In the beginning, said Mani, the kingdoms of Light and Darkness coexisted in uneasy peace. While Light had no quarrel with the existence of Darkness and would have remained content existing side-by-side with it, Darkness would have it otherwise. Darkness was in a state of agitation and wrath and decided to attack and invade the realm of light.

As the legions of Darkness approached the realm of Light, the primal light needed to defend itself. It called upon the Mother of Life to bring forth the Primal Man (a cosmic figure, not related to Adam or other human beings except in an indirect way). The Primal Man in turn had five sons, and together the six expelled the Dark forces from the kingdom of Light and pursued them onto the battlefield of the lower aeons. Unfortunately, on the battlefield the chief demons of Darkness overpowered the Primal Man and his five sons and devoured them, incorporating their luminous essence into their dark forms. This is how the first terrible intermingling of Light and Darkness occurred […].

In the course of the rescue efforts the Primal Man is freed, and he gloriously ascends to the Godhead. The souls of the human beings, however, have been left behind, along with Light particles that derive from the captivity of the Primal Man and of his sons. It is only at this point that the material world as we know it comes into being. The Earth is created as an alchemical vessel of purification and transformation where the Light can be extracted from dark matter. The Sun and the Moon are both vessels of Light that serve as vehicles to transport Light upwards out of earthly darkness.9

In Burroughs’s world, evil disguises itself as good and good disguises itself as evil. The Archons are Christians and politicians and “jus’ good folk.” The Gnostics are roving bands of criminals and thieves known only to themselves as “the Johnsons.” The visionaries, the ones who have attained genuine gnosis (i.e., “knowledge”) can see through the illusions forged by control, identify the face of the enemy, and from that point begin the quest for true freedom.

These visionaries regularly employ unorthodox and seemingly “insane” methods to overthrow the hypnotic bonds of control: opiates, orgone energy, tape recorders that are used to cut up, analyse, and reconfigure the endless barrage of shallow mass media used to keep the masses docile, astral travel through time and space, hermetic magic, telepathy, etc. These are the tools of the twentieth century Gnostic in Burroughs’s revitalised Libertatia.

The goal of these latter day Gnostics is to establish an autonomous zone, a physical approximation of the pneuma, while having as much fun as possible trying to “wise up the marks,” a paraphrase of a key sentence in the third chapter of his 1964 novel Nova Express: “And you can see the marks are wising up, standing around in sullen groups and that mutter gets louder and louder.”10

The Archons are represented on Earth by parasite-infected control-freaks Burroughs aptly calls “the shits”: “…my contention is that evil is quite literally a virus parasite occupying a certain brain area which we may term the RIGHT centre. The mark of a basic shit is that he has to be right.”11 The shits will use all the power they have on this planet in order to prevent the Johnsons from waking up the marks.

This conflict between good and evil is played out in Burroughs’s fiction over and over again, perhaps most prominently in Nova Express. In this novel the Johnsons are called “The Nova Police” and the shits are called “The Nova Mob,” or simply “The Board”: “All right you board bastards, we’ll by God show you ‘Operation Total Exposure.’ For all to see. In Times Square. In Piccadilly.”12 Operation Total Exposure represents an attempt by the Nova Police to pull back the illusory curtain that protects the parasite-infected Reality Studio from being seen in its true form, to induce gnosis in the madding hordes, to transform the “marks” into “Johnsons.”

In chapter one of Nova Express, Inspector J. Lee of the Nova Police addresses the human race:

What scared you all into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you: ‘the word.’ Alien Word ‘the.’ ‘The’ word of Alien Enemy imprisons ‘thee’ in Time. In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. The great skies are open.13

Chapter two, titled “Prisoners, Come Out,” is an open letter addressed to the “peoples of the earth” and is signed by Inspector Lee. In this letter the Inspector explains that the purpose of his novels are

…to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. Minutes to go. Souls rotten from their orgasm drugs, flesh shuddering from their nova ovens, prisoners of the earth to come out. With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly.14

In his 1978 collaboration with Brion Gysin, The Third Mind, Burroughs wrote in reference to Nova Express:

A new mythology is possible in the space age where we will again have heroes and villains with respect to intentions toward this planet.15

The central villain of Inspector Lee and his Nova Police is a Demiurge-like figure named Mr. Bradly-Mr. Martin who leads the extraterrestrial Nova Mob, and through this Mob he has kept the Earth enslaved for thousands of years. In The Third Mind, Burroughs describes Mr. Bradly-Mr. Martin in terms that are overtly Gnostic:

Mr Bradly-Mr Martin, in my mythology, is a God that failed, a God of Conflict in two parts so created to keep a tired old show on the road, The God of Arbitrary Power and Restraint, Of Prison and Pressure, who needs subordinates, who needs what he calls “his human dogs” while treating them with the contempt a con man feels for his victims – But remember the con man needs the Mark – The Mark does not need the con man – Mr Bradly-Mr Martin needs his “dogs” his “errand boys” his “human animals” – He needs them because he is literally blind. They do not need him. In my mythological system he is overthrown in a revolution of his “dogs.”16

Throughout the novel, Inspector Lee explicitly warns the people of Earth about some of the most insidious tools the Mob is using against them:

Their drugs are poison designed to beam in Orgasm Death and Nova Ovens – Stay out of the Garden of Delights – It is a man-eating trap that ends in green goo – Throw back their ersatz Immortality – It will fall apart before you can get out of The Big Store – Flush their drug kicks down the drain – They are poisoning and monopolising the hallucinogen drugs – learn to make it without any chemical corn – All that they offer is a screen to cover retreat from the colony they have so disgracefully mismanaged. To cover travel arrangements so they will never have to pay the constituents they have betrayed and sold out. Once these arrangements are complete they will blow the place up behind them.17

The succeeding chapters introduce us to members of Mr. Bradly-Mr. Martin’s Archon-like Nova Mob:

‘Sammy the Butcher,’ ‘Green Tony,’ ‘Iron Claws,’ ‘The Brown Artist,’ ‘Jacky Blue Note,’ ‘Limestone John,’ ‘Izzy the Push,’ ‘Hamburger Mary,’ ‘Paddy the Sting,’ ‘The Subliminal Kid,’ ‘The Blue Dinosaur’.18

In a section eerily redolent of current events, a chapter titled “Coordinate Points,” the Inspector does us the favour of outlining the Mob’s plan to bring about global destruction:

The basic nova mechanism is very simple: Always create as many insoluble conflicts as possible and always aggravate existing conflicts – This is done by dumping life forms with incompatible conditions of existence on the same planet – There is of course nothing “wrong” about any given life form since “wrong” only has reference to conflicts with other life forms – The point is these forms should not be on the same planet – Their conditions of life are basically incompatible in present time form and it is precisely the work of the Nova Mob to see that they remain in present time form, to create and aggravate the conflicts that lead to the explosion of a planet that is to nova – At any given time recording devices fix the nature of absolute need and dictate the use of total weapons – Like this: Take two opposed pressure groups – Record the most violent and threatening statements of group one with regard to group two and play back to group two – Record the answer and take it back to group one – Back and forth between opposed pressure groups – This process is known as “feed back” – You can see it operating in any bar room quarrel – In any quarrel for that matter – Manipulated on a global scale feeds back nuclear war and nova – These conflicts are deliberately created and aggravated by nova criminals – […] In all my experience as a police officer I have never seen such total fear and degradation on any planet – We intend to arrest these criminals and turn them over to the Biological Department for the indicated alterations.19

Jack Kerouac once wrote, “Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift,” but the truth is that Burroughs never wrote a word of satire in his life. He was writing about life as he saw it, exactly as he experienced it. The Nova Mob and the virus parasites from outer space were not metaphors for him. They were real.

Burroughs, perhaps more so than F. Scott Fitzgerald or even Ernest Hemingway, was the prime mimetic writer of the twentieth century. He never wrote anything other than realistic novels. Marshall McLuhan, author of Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Galaxy, might have been the first to catch onto this subtle but significant point when he wrote in 1964,

It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks or as failed science fiction. It is a little like trying to criticise the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home.20

Indeed, Burroughs wasn’t trying to satirise modern culture, nor was he trying to create a hypothetical, science fictional representation of it. He was simply explaining his society within the only context that seemed appropriate to him, and that context was undoubtedly a Gnostic one.

Even the so-called science fictional elements of his books were not intended as satire or metaphor. Burroughs could very well have been introduced to the Nova Express model of invading extraterrestrials (and/or intrusions from alternate dimensions) at a very young age. In various interviews, for example, Burroughs has recounted one of his earliest childhood memories.

When he was four, he woke up early in the morning and saw little gray men playing in a block house he had made. “I felt no fear,” he said, “only stillness and wonder.”21 When asked about this incident in 1987, interviewer Larry McCaffery offhandedly referred to such experiences as “hallucinatory.” Burroughs replied, “I wouldn’t call them hallucinatory at all. If you see something, it’s a shift of vision, not a hallucination. You shift your vision. What you see is there, but you have to be in a certain place to see it.”22

This image of “little gray men” evokes more recent, popular conceptions of extraterrestrials as seen on the mass market covers of any number of books by Whitley Strieber, the author of Communion (1987), Transformation (1988) and several others in which his ostensible contacts with alien beings are delineated. Burroughs was so convinced of the reality of invading extraterrestrials that in 1989 he wrote a letter to Strieber asking to visit him and his family in their cabin in upstate New York. The 1996 revised edition of Victor Bockris’s With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker contains an in-depth interview about this meeting:

I was very interested in his first books and I was convinced that he was authentic. I felt he was not a fraud or fake […]. I wrote a letter to Whitley Strieber saying that I would love to contact these visitors […]. His wife, Anne Strieber, wrote back saying, “We, after talking it over, would be glad to invite you to come up to the cabin.” So we spent the weekend there. I had a number of talks with Strieber about his experiences, and I was quite convinced that he was telling the truth […].

Burroughs follows this comment by exploring the idea of “invasion” on all levels. He genuinely believed the human race was, and is, being infected by hostile intelligences on a regular basis:

When I go into my psyche, at a certain point I meet a very hostile, very strong force. It’s as definite as somebody attacking me in a bar. We usually come to a standoff, but I don’t think that I’m necessarily winning or losing […]. Listen, baby, I’ve been coping with this for so many years. I know this invasion gets in. As soon as you get close to something important, that’s when you feel this invasion, and that’s the way you know there’s something there. I’ve felt myself just marched up like a puppy to go and do something that would get me insulted or humiliated. I was not in control […]. There are all degrees of possession. It happens all the time. What you have to do is confront the possession. You can do that only when you’ve wiped out the words. You don’t argue […]. You have to let it wash through. This is difficult, difficult; but I’ll tell you one thing: You detach yourself and allow this to wash through, to go through instead of trying to oppose, which you can’t do […]. The more you pull yourself together the further apart you get. You have to learn to let the thing pass through. I am a man of the world; I understand these things. They happen to all of us. All you have to do is understand them or see them for what they are, that’s all.23

John Lash, co-founder of Metahistory.org, a website that concerns itself with Gnosticism and related topics, has many Burroughs-like perceptions regarding the Gnostic model of spiritual “intrusion.” Lash states:

It might be said that Gnostics believed that only by confronting what is insane and inhumane in ourselves, can we truly define what is human. In essence, to define humanity is to defend it against distortion. Gnostics asserted that the capacity for distortion of humanitas, or dehumanisation, is inherent in our minds, but this capacity alone is not potentially deviant. Since we are endowed with nous, a dose of divine intelligence, we are able to detect and correct distorted thinking […]. In a practical sense, Gnostic teachers in the Mystery Schools instructed the neophytes in how to face the Archons both as alien intruders, comparable to the Greys and Reptilians of contemporary lore, and as tendencies in their minds. The detection of […] intrusion in both these modes of experience seems to be unique to the finely nuanced noetic science of the [Gnostic] Mysteries.24

And it is this “finely nuanced science” that Burroughs attempted to keep alive in the form of fiction. Burroughs’s many readers were all potential recruits, “marks” who had “wised up” just enough to see a hint of light behind the illusion. His sincerest hope was that at least some of them were paying attention, would pick up the tools he left behind within his books, and use them to storm through the mass of Nova Mobsters whose unenviable job is to surround and protect the ramparts of the fragile Reality Studio until its dying day.

Footnotes:


1 Gregory Corso Interview, “Attack Anything Moving.” Burroughs Live: The Collected Interviews of William S. Burroughs 1960-1997, Ed. Sylvere Lotringer, New York: Semiotext(e), 2000.

2 Bey, Hakim, T.A.Z., Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1991, p. 99.

3 Burroughs, William S., Cities of the Red Night, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981, p. xii.

4 Burroughs, William S., The Place of Dead Roads, New York: Henry Holt, 1983, p. ix.

5
Robert Guffey Interview, “The Suppressed Teachings of Gnosticism.” Paranoia Magazine,

6
Stephenson, Gregory, The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation, Carbondale: Southern Illinois U P, 1990, p. 60.

7
Gregory Corso Interview.

8
Hoeller, Stephan A, Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing, Wheaton: Quest, 2002, p. 135.

9
Ibid, pp. 140-41.

10
Burroughs, William S., Three Novels: The Soft Machine, Nova Express, The Wild Boys, New York: Grove P, 1988, p. 196.

11
Burroughs, William S., The Adding Machine, New York: Seaver, 1986, p. 16.

12
Three Novels, p. 197.

13
Three Novels, p. 186.

14
Three Novels, p. 189.

15
Burroughs, William S. and Brion Gysin, The Third Mind, New York: Viking, 1978, p. 97.

16
Ibid.

17
Three Novels, p. 188.

18
Three Novels, p. 236.

19
Three Novels, pp. 235-36.

20
Murphy, Timothy S, Wising Up the Marks: The Modern William Burroughs, Los Angeles: U of California P, 1997, p. 145.

21
Bockris, Victor, With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996, p. xx.

22
Hibbard, Allen, Conversations with William S. Burroughs, Jackson: U P of Mississippi, 1999, p. 182.

23
With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker, pp. 242-46.

24
Lash, John, “A Gnostic Catechism: Encounters with Aliens in a Mystery School Text.”

 

First appeared in New Dawn No. 99 (Nov – Dec 2006)

 

—from http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/William_S._Burroughs_20th_

Century_Gnostic.html

 

 

el hombre invisible knew the medium was the message

Marshall McLuhan, “Notes on Burroughs”

                            
  1. Today men’s nerves surround us; they have gone outside as electrical environment. The human nervous system itself can be reprogrammed biologically as readily as any radio network can alter its fare. Burroughs has dedicated Naked Lunch to the first proposition, and Nova Express (both Grove Press) to the second. Naked Lunch records private strategies of culture in the electric age. Nova Express indicates some of the "corporate" responses and adventures of the Subliminal Kid who is living in a universe which seems to be someone else’s insides. Both books are a kind of engineer’s report of the terrain hazards and mandatory processes, which exist in the new electric environment. 
  1. Burroughs uses what he calls "Brion Gysin’s cut-up method which I call the fold-in method." To read the daily newspaper in its entirety is to encounter the method in all its purity. Similarly, an evening watching television programs is an experience in a corporate form—an endless succession of impressions and snatches of narrative. Burroughs is unique only in that he is attempting to reproduce in prose what we accommodate every day as a commonplace aspect of life in the electric age. If the corporate life is to be rendered on paper, the method of discontinuous nonstory must be employed. 
  1. That man provides the sexual organs of the technological world seems obvious enough to Burroughs, and such is the stage (or "biological theatre" as he calls it in Nova Express) for the series of social orgasms brought about by the evolutionary mutations of man and society. The logic, physical and emotional, of aworld in which we have made our environment out of our own nervous systems, Burroughs follows everywhere to the peripheral orgasm of the cosmos. 
  1. Each technological extension involves an act of collective cannibalism. The previous environment with all its private and social values, is swallowed by the new environment and reprocessed for whatever values are digestible. Thus, Nature was succeeded by the mechanical environment and became what we call the "content" of the new industrial environment. That is, Nature became a vessel of aesthetic and spiritual values. Again and again the old environment is upgraded into an art form while the new conditions are regarded as corrupt and degrading. Artists, being experts in sensory awareness, tend to concentrate on the environmental as the challenging and dangerous situation. That is why they may seem to be "ahead of their time." Actually, they alone have the resources and temerity to live in immediate contact with the environment of their age. More timid people prefer to accept the content, the previous environment’s values, as the continuing reality of their time. Our natural bias is to accept the new gimmick (automation, say) as a thing that can be accommodated in the old ethical order. 
  1. During the process of digestion of the old environment, man finds it expedient to anesthetize himself as much as possible. He pays as little attention to the action of the environment as the patient heeds the surgeon’s scalpel. The gulping or swallowing of Nature by the machine was attended by a complete change of the ground rules of both the sensory ratios of the individual nervous system and the patterns of the social order as well. Today, when the environment has become the extension of the entire mesh of the nervous system, anesthesia numbs our bodies into hydraulic jacks. 
  1. Burroughs disdains the hallucinatory drugs as providing mere "content," the fantasies, dreams that money can buy. Junk (heroin) is needed to turn the human body itself into an environment that includes the universe. The central theme of Naked Lunch is the strategy of bypassing the new electric environment by becoming an environment oneself. The moment one achieves this environmental state all things and people are submitted to you to be processed. Whether a man takes the road of junk or the road of art, the entire world must submit to his processing. The world becomes his "content." He programs the sensory order. 
  1. For artists and philosophers, when a technology is new it yields Utopias. Such is Plato’s Republic in the fifth century B.C., when phonetic writing was being established. Similarly, More’s Utopia is written in the sixteenth century when the printed book had just become established. When electric technology was new and speculative, Alice in Wonderland came as a kind of non-Euclidean space-time Utopia, a grown-up version of which is the Illuminations of Rimbaud. Like Lewis Carroll, Rimbaud accepts each object as a world and the world as an object. He makes a complete break with the established procedure of putting things into time or space: 
That’s she, thelittle girl behind the rose bushes, and she’s dead. The young mother, also dead, is coming down the steps. The cousin’s carriage crunches the sand. The small brother (he’s in India!) over there in the field of pinks, in front of the sunset. The old men they’ve buried upright in the wall covered with gilly-flowers.
 
But when the full consequences of each new technology have been manifested in new psychic and social forms, then the anti-Utopias appear. Naked Lunch can be viewed as the anti-Utopia of Illuminations:
 
During the withdrawal the addict is acutely aware of his surroundings. Sense impressions are sharpened to the point of hallucination. Familiar objects seem to stir with a writhing furtive life. The addict is subject to a barrage of sensations external and visceral.
 
Or to give a concrete example from the symbolist landscape of Naked Lunch:
 
A guard in a uniform of human skin, black buck jacket with carious yellow teeth buttons, an elastic pullover shirt in burnished Indian copper […] sandals from calloused foot soles of young Malayan farmer […].
 
The key to symbolist perception is in yielding the permission to objects to resonate with their own time and space. Conventional pictorial and literary perception seeks to put diverse objects into the same time and space. Time and space themselves are subjected to the uniform and continuous visual processing that provides us with the "connected and rational" world that is in fact only an isolated fragment of reality—the visual. There is no uniform and continuous character in the nonvisual modalities of space and time. The Symbolists freed themselves from visual conditions into the visionary world of the iconic and the auditory. Their art, to the visually oriented and literary man, seems haunted, magical and often incomprehensible. It is, in John Ruskin’s words:
 
the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connections; of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself; the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character. (Modern Painters)
            
The art of the interval, rather than the art of the connection, is not only medieval but Oriental; above all, it is the art mode of instant electric culture.
 
  1. There are considerable antecedents for the Burroughs attempt to read the language of the biological theatre and the motives of the Subliminal Kid. Fleurs du Mal is a vision of the city as the technological extension of man. Baudelaire had once intended to title the book Les Limbes. The vision of the city as a physiological and psychic extension of the body he experienced as a nightmare of illness and self-alienation. Wyndham Lewis, in his trilogy The Human Age, began with The Childermass. Its theme is the massacre of innocents and the rape of entire populations by the popular media of press and film. Later in The Human Age Lewis explores the psychic mutations of man living in "the magnetic city," the instant, electric, and angelic (or diabolic) culture. Lewis views the action in a much more inclusive way than Burroughs whose world is a paradigm of a future in which there can be no spectators but only participants. All men are totally involved in the insides of all men. There is no privacy and no private parts. In a world in which we are all ingesting and digesting one another there can be no obscenity or pornography or decency. Such is the law of electric media which stretch the nerves to form a global membrane of enclosure. 
  1. The Burroughs diagnosis is that we can avoid the inevitable "closure" that accompanies each new technology by regarding our entire gadgetry as junk. Man has hopped himself up by a long series of technological fixes: 
You are dogs on all tape. The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender.               
 
We can forego the entire legacy of Cain (the inventor of gadgets) by applying the same formula that works for junk—"apomorphine," extended to all technology:
 
Apomorphine is no word and no image—[…] It is simply a question of putting through an innoculation program in the very limited time that remains—Word begets image and image IS virus—         
 
Burroughs is arguing that the power of the image to beget image, and of technology to reproduce itself via human intervention, is utterly in excess of our power to control the psychic and social consequences:
 
Shut the whole thing right off—Silence—When you answer the machine you provide it with more recordings to be played back to your "enemies" keep the whole nova machine running—The Chinese character for "enemy" means to be similar to or to answer—Don’t answer the machine—Shut it off— 

Merely to be in the presence of any machine, or replica of our body or faculties, is to close with it. Our sensory ratios shift at once with each encounter with any fragmented extension of our being. This is a non-stop express of innovation that cannot be endured indefinitely:
 
We are just dust falls from demagnetized patterns—Show business          
 
It is the medium that is the message because the medium creates an environment that is an indelible as it is lethal. To end the proliferation of lethal new environmental expression, Burroughs urges a huge collective act of restraint as well as a nonclosure of sensory modes—"The biological theater of the body can bear a good deal of new program notes." 
 
  1. Finnegans Wake provides the closest literary precedent to Burroughs’ work. From the beginning to end it occupied with the theme of "the extensions" of man—weaponry, clothing, languages, number, money, and media in toto. Joyce works out in detail the sensory shifts involved in each extension of man, and concludes with the resounding boast:    
The keys to. Given!               
                  
Like Burroughs, Joyce was sure he had worked out the formula for total cultural understanding and control. The idea of art as total programming for the environment is tribal, mental, Egyptian. It is, also, an idea of art to which electric technology leads quite strongly. We live science fiction. The bomb is our environment. The bomb is of higher learning all compact, the extension division of the university. The university has become a global environment. The university now contains the commercial world, as well as the military and government establishments. To reprogram the cultures of the globe becomes as natural an undertaking as curriculum revision in a university. Since new media are new environments that reprocess psyche and society in successive ways, why not bypass instruction in fragmented subjects meant for fragmented sections of the society and reprogram the environment itself? Such is Burroughs’ vision. 
 
  1. It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks or as failed science fiction. It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home. Burroughs is not asking merit marks as a writer; he is trying to point to the shut-on button of an active and lethal environmental process.
Marshall McLuhan, "Notes on Burroughs," The Nation (28 Dec. 1964): 51719. Copyright © 1964 by The Nation magazine/The Nation Company, Inc.

milestones in american pulp: william s. burroughs’ naked lunch

A true genius and first mythographer of the mid-twentieth century, William Burroughs is the lineal successor to James Joyce. Naked Lunch is a banquet you will never forget.
 
— JG Ballard
 
Prophesied with unerring accuracy the hideous modes that human behaviour would assume in the post-apocalyptic second half of the twentieth century. Naked Lunch is essential reading for anyone who maintains any illusions about anything.
 
— Will Self

 
The opening pages of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch:

Naked Lunch Image

I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there

making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool
pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper   I throw
away at Washington Square Station, vault   a turnstile
and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown
A train… Young, good looking, crew cut, Ivy League,
advertising exec type fruit holds the door back for me.
I am evidently his idea of a character. You know the
type comes on with bartenders and cab drivers, talking
about right hooks and the Dodgers, call the counterman
in Nedick’s by his first name. A real asshole. And right
on time this narcotics dick in a white trench coat (imagine
tailing somebody in a white trench coat—trying
to pass as a fag I guess) hit the platform. I can hear the
way he would say it holding my outfit in his left hand,
right hand on his piece: "I think you dropped some-
thing, fella"
 But the subway is moving.
  "So long flatfoot!" I yell, giving the fruit his B production.
I look into the fruit’s eyes, take in the white teeth,
the Florida tan, the two hundred dollar sharkskin suit,
the button-down Brooks Brothers shirt and carrying
The News as a prop. "Only thing I read is Little Abner."
 A square wants to come on hip…. Talks about "pod,"
and smoke it now and then, and keeps some around to
offer the fast Hollywood types.
 "Thanks, kid," I say, "I can see you’re one of our own."
His face lights up like a pinball machine, with stupid,
pink effect.
 "Grassed on me he did," I said morosely. (Note:
Grass is English thief slang for inform.) I drew closer
and laid my dirty junky fingers on his sharkskin sleeve.
"And us blood brothers in the same dirty needle, I can
tell you in confidence he is due for a hot shot." (Note:
This is a cap of poison junk sold to addict for liquidation 
purposes. Often given to informers. Usually the hot
shot is strychnine since it tastes and looks like junk.)
 "Ever see a hot shot hit, kid? I saw the Gimp catch
one in Philly. We rigged his room with a one-way
whorehouse mirror and charged a sawski to watch it.
He never got the needle out of his arm. They don’t if
the shot is right. That’s the way they find them, dropper
full of clotted blood hanging out of a blue arm. The
look in his eyes when it hitKid, it was tasty….
 "Recollect when I am traveling with the Vigilante,
best Shake Man in the industry. Out in Chi… We is
working the fags in Lincoln Park. So one night the Vigilante turns up for work in cowboy boots and a black
vest with a hunka tin on it and a lariat slung over his
shoulder.
 "So I says: ‘What’s with you? You wig already?’
 "He just looks at me and says: ‘Fill your hand stranger’
and hauls out an old rusty six shooter and I take off
across Lincoln Park, bullets cutting all around me. And
he hangs three fags before the fuzz nail him. I mean
the Vigilante earned his moniker….
 "Ever notice how many expressions carry over from
queers to con men? Like ‘raise,’ letting someone know
you are in the same line?
 "’Get her!’
 "’Get the Paregoric Kid giving that mark the build
up!’
 "’Eager Beaver wooing him much too fast.’
 "The Shoe Store Kid (he got that moniker shaking
down fetishists in shoe stores) say: ‘Give it to a mark
with K.Y. and he will come back moaning for more.’
And when the Kid spots a mark he begin to breathe
heavy. His face swells and his lips turn purple like an
Eskimo in heat. Then slow, slow he comes on the mark,
feeling for him, palpating him with fingers of rotten
ectoplasm.
 

wbnl_spain_2004.jpg

"The Rube has a sincere little boy look, burns through
him like blue neon. That one stepped right off a Sator-
day Evening Post cover with a string of bullheads, and
preserved himself in junk. His marks never beef and the
Bunko people are really carrying a needle for the Rube.
One day Little Boy Blue starts to slip, and what crawls
out would make an ambulance attendant puke. The
Rube flips in the end, running through empty automats
and subway stations, screaming: ‘Come back, kid!!
Come back!l’ and follows his boy right into the East
River, down through condoms and orange peels, mosaic
of floating newspapers, down into the silent black ooze
with gangsters in concrete, and pistols pounded Hat to
avoid the probing finger of prurient ballistic experts."
 And the fruit is thinking: "What a character!! Wait
till I tell the boys in Clark’s about this one." He’s a
char
acter collector, would stand still for Joe Gould’s seagull
act. So I put it on him for a sawski and make a meet to
sell him some "pod" as he calls it, thinking, "I’ll catnip
the jerk." (Note: Catnip smells like marijuana when it
burns.   Frequently   passed on   the incautious   or unin-
structed.)
 "Well," I said, tapping my arm, "duty calls. As one
judge said to another: ‘Be just and if you can’t be just,
be arbitrary.’"
 I cut into the automat and there is Bill Gains huddled
in someone else’s overcoat looking like a 1910 banker
with paresis, and Old Bart, shabby and inconspicuous,
dunking pound cake with his dirty fingers, shiny over
the dirt.
 I had some uptown customers Bill took care of, and
Bart knew a few old relics from hop smoking times,
spectral janitors, grey as ashes, phantom porters sweeping out dusty halls with a slow old man’s hand,
cough
ing and spitting in the junk-sick dawn, retired
asthmatic
fences in theatrical hotels, Pantopon Rose 
the old
madam from Peoria, stoical Chinese waiters 
never show
sickness. Bart sought them out with his old 
junky walk,
patient and cautious and slow, dropped into 
their blood
less hands a few hours of warmth.
 I made the round with him once for kicks. You know
how old people lose all shame about eating, and it
makes you puke to watch them? Old junkies are the
same about junk. They gibber and squeal at sight of it.
The spit hangs off their chin, and their stomach rumbles
and all their guts grind in peristalsis while they cook
up, dissolving the body’s decent skin, you expect any
moment a great blob of protoplasm will Hop right out
and surround the junk. Really disgust you to see it.
 "Well, my boys will be like that one day," I thought
philosophically. "Isn’t life peculiar?"
 So back downtown by the Sheridan Square Station
in case the dick is lurking in a broom closet.
 Like I say it couldn’t last. I knew they were out there
powowing and making their evil fuzz magic, putting
dolls of me in Leavenworth. "No use sticking needles in
that one, Mike."
 I hear they got Chapin with a doll. This old eunuch
dick just sat in the precinct basement hanging a doll of
him day and night, year in year out. And when Chapin
hanged in Connecticut, they find this old creep with his
neck broken.
 "He fell downstairs," they say. You know the old cop
bullshit.
 Junk is surrounded by magic and taboos, curses and
amulets. I could find my Mexico City connection by
radar. "Not this street, the next, right… now left. Now
right again," and there he is, toothless old woman face
and cancelled eyes.
 I know this one pusher walks around humming a
tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey
and spectral and anonymous they don’t see him and
think it is their own mind humming the tune. So the
customers come in on Smiles, or I’m in the Mood for
Love, or They Say We’re Too Young to Go Steady, or
whatever the song is for that day. Sometime you can see
maybe fifty ratty-looking junkies squealing sick, running
along behind a boy with a harmonica, and there is The
Man on a cane seat throwing bread to the swans, a fat
queen drag walking his Afghan hound through the East
Fifties, an old wino pissing against an El post, a radical
Jewish student giving out leaflets in Washington Square,
a tree surgeon, an exterminator, an advertising fruit in
Nedick’s where he calls the counterman by his first
name. The world network of junkies, tuned on a cord
of rancid jissom, tying up in furnished rooms, shivering
in the junk-sick morning. (Old Pete men suck the black
smoke in the Chink laundry back room and Melanchol
Baby dies from an overdose of time or cold turkey withdrawal of breath.) In Yemen, Paris, New Orleans,
Mex
ico City and Istanbulshivering under the air hammers
and the steam shovels, shrieked junky curses at one
another neither of us heard, and The Man leaned out
of a passing steam roller and I coped in a bucket of tar.
(Note: Istanbul is being torn down and rebuilt, espe-
cially shabby junk quarters. Istanbul has more heroin
junkies than NYC.) The living and the dead, in sickness 
or on the nod, hooked or kicked or hooked again,
come in on the junk beam and the Connection is eating
Chop Suey on Dolores Street, Mexico D.F., dunking
pound cake in the automat, chased up Exchange Place
by a baying pack of People. (Note: People is New
Orleans slang for narcotic fuzz. )
 The old Chinaman dips river water into a rusty tin
can, washes down a yen pox hard and black as a cinder.
(Note: Yen pox is the ash of smoked opium. )
 Well, the fuzz has my spoon and dropper, and I know
they are coming in on my frequency led by this blind
pigeon known as Willy the Disk. Willy has a round,
disk mouth lined with sensitive, erectile black hairs. He
is blind from shooting in the eyeball, his nose and palate
eaten  away sniffing H, his body a mass of scar tissue
hard and dry as wood. He can only eat the shit now
with that mouth, sometimes sways out on a long tube
of ectoplasm, feeling for the silent frequency of junk.
He follows my trail all over the city into rooms I move
out already, and the fuzz   walks in   some newlyweds
from Sioux Falls.
 "All right, Lee! I Come out from behind that strap-on!
We know you" and pull the man’s prick off straightaway.
 Now Willy is getting hot and you can hear him always
out there in darkness (he only functions   at night)
whimpering, and feel the terrible urgency of that blind,
seeking mouth. When they move in for the bust, Willy
goes all out of control, and  his mouth eats a hole right
through the door. If the cops weren’t there to restrain
him with a stock probe, he would suck the juice right
out of every junky he ran down.
 I knew, and everybody else knew they had the Disk
on me. And if my kid customers ever hit the stand: "He
force me to commit all kinda awful sex acts in return for
junk" I could kiss the street good-bye.
 So we stock up on H, buy a second-hand Studebaker,
and start West.

The Vigilante copped out as a schizo possession case:
 "I was standing outside myself trying to stop those
hangings with ghost fingers…. I am a ghost wanting
what every ghost wants—a bodyafter the Long Time
moving through odorless alleys of space where no life
is only the colorless no smell of death…. Nobody can
breathe and smell it through pink convolutions of gristle
laced with crystal snot, time shit and black blood filters
of flesh."
 He stood there in elongated court room shadow,
his
face torn like a broken film by lusts and hungers
of
larval organs stirring in the tentative ectoplasmic
flesh
of junk kick ( ten days on ice at time of the 
First Hear
ing) flesh that fades at the first silent
touch of junk.
 I saw it happen. Ten pounds lost in ten minutes
stand
ing with the syringe in one hand holding his pants
up
with the other, his abdicated flesh burning in a cold
yellow halo, there in the New York hotel room…
night table litter of candy boxes, cigarette butts
cas
cading out of three ashtrays, mosaic of sleepless
nights
and sudden food needs of the kicking addict 
nursing his
baby flesh….
 The Vigilante is prosecuted in Federal Court under
a lynch bill and winds up in a Federal Nut House
spe
cially designed for the containment of ghosts:
precise,
prosaic impact of objects… washstand… 
door…
toilet… bars… there they are… this is it…
all
lines cut… nothing beyond… Dead End… And 
the
Dead End in every face….
 The physical changes were slow at first, then jumped
forward in black chunks, falling through his slack tissue,
washing away the human lines…. In his place of total
darkness mouth and eyes are one organ that leaps forward to snap with transparent teeth… but no organ
is constant as regards either function or position… sex
organs sprout anywhere… rectums open, defecate and
close… the entire organism changes color and con-
sistency in split-second adjustments…..

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch