sage advice from john giorno: “just say no to family values, and don’t quit your day job.”

John Giorno, friend of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, might be best remembered for something he did in San Francisco, way back in 1968. Giorno’s performer’s instincts led him to create DIAL-A-POEM, which was based on the premise that people would pick up their phones, dial a number and listen to pre-recorded poetry. And they did! DIAL-A-POEM proved to be the catalyst for the “dial-a-something” industry: Dial-A-Joke, Dial-A-Horoscope, Dial-A-Sports-Score, Dial-A-Recipe soon emerged, and the Suicide Hotline, Off-Track Betting, and Phone Sex enterprises followed in their wake.


Here’s Giorno’s best-known poem:

Just Say No To Family Values

On a day when
you’re walking
down the street
and you see
a hearse
with a coffin,
followed by
a flower car
and limos,
you know the day
is auspicious,
your plans are going to be
but on a day when
you see a bride and groom
and wedding party,
watch out,
be careful,
it might be a bad sign.

Just say no
to family values,
and don’t quit
your day job.

are sacred
and some drugs
are very sacred substances,
please praise them
for somewhat liberating
the mind.

is a sacred substance
to some,
and even though you’ve
stopped smoking,
show a little respect.

is totally great,
let us celebrate
the glorious qualities
of booze,
and I had
a good time
being with you.

do it,
just don’t
not do it,
just do it.

and fundamentalists
in general,
are viruses,
and they’re killing us,
and mutating,
and they destroying us,
now, you know,
you got to give
strong medicine
to combat
a virus.

Who’s buying?
good acid,
I’m flying,
and sliding,
and slamming,
I’m sinking,
and dripping,
and squirting
inside you;
fast forward
a come shot;
milk, milk,
round the corner
where the chocolate’s made;
I love to see
your face
when you’re suffering.

Do it
with anybody
you want,
you want,
for as long as you want,
any place,
any place,
when it’s possible,
and try to be
in a situation where
you must abandon
beyond all concepts.

Twat throat
and cigarette dew,
that floor
would ruin
a sponge mop,
she’s the queen
of great bliss;
in your heart,
flowing up
a crystal channel
into your eyes
and out
the world
with compassion.

to family

We don’t have to say No
to family values,
cause we never
think about them;
do it,
just make
and compassion.

chapter two of stewart meyer’s the lotus crew


A high school junkie’s reading list: a “Library of the Damned. Crowley, De Quincey, Baudelaire, Cocteau, Coleridge. Getting weary of the antique, they slid into Alexander Trocchi, Leroy Street, Piri Thomas, Malcolm X. They almost gagged on Burroughs but got it down. Burroughs was good to chill out on.” 



l—Child of Nova—l 



John Jacob Pennington, age sixteen, had basic universal knowledge down to two self-evident premises. First: high school is a stone drag. Small wonder so many educated people committed suicide. Second: one thing made it toler­able. The goodness. With a little powdered cool he could calmly sit right through the most tedious pedantic fits his teachers could invoke. He didn’t have to doodle or move his legs furiously back and forth or in any way tip his mitt to the fact that he was bored beyond reason by the asinine assumptions, the condescending smuggery, of his learned instructors. JJ’s mind absorbed basic paradox gracefully. He knew that nobody really knows anything. Was that a secret? Had somebody forgotten to tell them? The teachers re­minded JJ of ex-cons in that there was a dreary institutional predictability to them. Every ex-con he knew preconceived the same things in similar ways; stock questions and stock answers. Teachers were a notch below, actually. They were so busy cross-referencing and analyzing that they missed what was happening right under their noses.


JJ scratched his crotch and flipped pages of the book he was reading. It was study-hall period, and he’d just administered a healthy bang of Dr. Nova in a deserted balcony abovethe auditorium. Now he’d be able to sit it out. Study-hall was one of the few periods JJ liked. It allowed him to read what he wanted. First he’d burned down various histories of Hannibal. Baddest warrior the world has ever seen, and dark like JJ. But history couldn’t hold him. Who really knows what happened back then? People can’t agree on what happened five minutes ago right in front of their faces.


The next phase of his reading career began with that cantankerous and kinky Englishman, the Beast. Crowley! The book was called Diary of a Drug Fiend, a title hard to resist. So, sitting in MartinLutherKing Jr.Memorial Park on the corner of Dumont Avenue and Miller in East New York, JJ exposed himself to genteel blanco bohemianisms. “Prudence, I have some lovely heroin you might enjoy.” Sheeea-zit, Jim! It boggle the mind. JJ told Furman Whittle about Crowley, and a new regime kicked in. Drug literature. Together they braved dusty bloodless corridors of those bone-dry pavilions of illiteracy: libraries, most of them on college campuses, as what they were seeking had an air of contraband. This was their discovery after asking a maternal librarian for a copy of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by De Quincey and receiving instead a verbose lecture that she didn’t want mistaken for a verbal reprimand but, given her tact, had all the qualities of one. Evoking such passionate outpourings from so contained a creature further ignited their hungry young appetites.


Down in the coal room under JJ’s building, where they hung out like the Mighty Mezz cloistered away from all those petty Earthlings up there, they started to build their own book collection. A slumbum Library of the Damned. Crowley, De Quincey, Baudelaire, Cocteau, Coleridge. Getting weary of the antique, they slid into Alexander Trocchi, Leroy Street, Piri Thomas, Malcolm X. They almost gagged on Burroughs but got it down. Burroughs was good to chill out on. Just like Billie Holiday was good to nod out on. A thick stolen Webster’s dictionary cleared up the mysteries of words. Without the slightest effort their reading vocabularies were becoming immense. They could pull up some erudite verbiage and baffle Mr. Fob to the bone.


JJ was snapped out of his study hall dream-reading session by a sharp, obtrusive voice. A subtle bark, if there is such a thing.  



“Reading Coleridge, are you, John Jacob?”


Lazy eyes looked up into the face of none other than Mr.


Fob, a stiff disciplinarian and renowned imposer of sophomore English, JJ had recently concluded it was not the material that was dead but the delivery boy.


“Yesssa,’ JJ let out, perched over a copy of Kubla Khan, propping the lids open.


“You look very tired, John Jacob. Are you getting enough sleep these days?”  




“Well, see that you’re alert for my class. You are among my brighter students, and I expect your performance to reflect that fact. Say, are you high on something?”




Mr. Fob did not look convinced. “John Jacob, if you al-low yourself to use narcotics, you will be betraying the natural gifts God gave you. No one on drugs ever amounted to anything. You’re not sheltered. You should know that.”


“Yessssa.” Shit, good thing Mr. Fob hadn’t laid his sound on Coleridge, or there’d be no Kubla Khan.


Mr. Fob sat down, making his bulky form ridiculous by squeezing it into the undersized seat. “Please roll up your sleeves for me, John Jacob,’ he barked softly, eyes knowing and smug. He wrinkled his face like a jewel appraiser. “I’ve seen needle marks. If you have none I’ll apologize, but—”


“Yesssssa,” JJ, eyes painfully wide open, rolled up both sleeves of his cotton pastel-blue shirt. The arms were spanking clean, and he turned them over slowly so Mr. Fob could verify this. JJ never hit his arms. Like wearing a sign for the heat. As juicy as those lines were, he let them be.


“Well, they look clean to me,” Mr. Fob said astutely, eyes straining through Coke-bottle wire rims. “But that doesn’t mean you haven’t taken pills or drunk something.”


“Noooosssa. Jus’ no sleep las’ ni’. I was playin’ basketball an’ the guys aks me t’ hang out’n sing late. We was hittin’ fows an’ bows all ni’, sa. Dass all.”


“Well, all right. Your eyes say something else, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Say, are you in the glee club?”


“Ohh, noooossa. I c’n on’y sing fows an’ bows wi’ m’frien’s. I don’ likes t’be singin’ nothin’ else.”


Mr. Fob’s exasperated sigh marked the end of the conversation. He rose to his feet, shook his head, and went on to educate someone else.


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



barthes & burroughs on writing and the demonic

How to repulse a demon (an old problem)? The demons, especially if they are demons of language (and what else could they be?) are fought by language. Hence I can hope to exorcise the demonic word which is breathed into my ears (by myself) if I substitute for it (if I have the gifts of language for doing so) another, calmer word (I yield to euphemism). Thus: I imagined I had escaped from the crisis at last, when behold — favored by a long car trip — a flood of language sweeps me away, I keep tormenting myself with the thought, desire, regret, and rage of the other; and I add to these wounds the discouragement of having to acknowledge that I am falling back, relapsing; but the French vocabulary is a veritable pharmacopoeia (poison on one side, antidote on the other): no, this is not a relapse, only a last soubresaut, a final convulsion of the previous demon. 

—from Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments


Dear Allen,

Here is my latest attempt to write something saleable. All day I had been finding pretexts to avoid work, reading magazines, making fudge, cleaning my shot-gun, washing the dishes, going to bed with Kiki, tying the garbage up in neat parcels and putting it out for the collector (if you put it out in a waste basket or any container, they will steal the container every time. I was going to chain a bucket to my doorstep but it’s like too much trouble. So I put it out in packages), buying food for dinner, picking up a junk script. So finally I say: “Now you must work,” and smoke some tea and sit down and out it comes all in one piece like a glob of spit [. . .]

This is my saleable product. Do you dig what happens? It’s almost like automatic writing produced by a hostile, independent entity who is saying in effect, “I will write what I please.” At the same time when I try to pressure myself into organizing production, to impose some form on material, or even to follow a line (like continuation of novel), the effort catapults me into a sort of madness, where only the most extreme material is available to me. What a disaster to lose my typewriter, and no possibility of buying one this month. My financial position slides inexorably.

—from The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959



representative quotations from el hombre invisible

Out of the closets and into the museums, libraries, architectural monuments, concert halls, bookstores, recording studios and film studios of the world. Everything belongs to the inspired and dedicated thief. … Words, colors, light, sounds, stone, wood, bronze belong to the living artist. They belong to anyone who can use them. Loot the Louvre! A bas l’originalité, the sterile and assertive ego that imprisons us as it creates. Vive le sol — pure, shameless, total. We are not responsible. Steal anything in sight.

—William S. Burroughs, "Les Voleurs," in The Adding Machine (1985).




This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games.

—"The War Universe," Grand Street, no. 37 (1992); reprinted in Painting and Guns, in a slightly different form (1992). Taped conversation.



I think that Richard Nixon will go down in history as a true folk hero, who struck a vital blow to the whole diseased concept of the revered image and gave the American virtue of irreverence and skepticism back to the people.

—"A Word to the Wise Guy," in The Adding Machine.



My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognised as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the Other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute.

—"Ten Years and a Billion Dollars," in The Adding Machine. 

startling images, strange characters, unforgettable and unflinching: the prose of alfred chester

Alfred Chester (September 7, 1928 – August 1, 1971) was an American writer of experimental work, including the novels Jamie Is My Heart’s Desire and The Exquisite Corpse and the short story collection Behold Goliath. He also wrote a pornographic novel, Chariot of Flesh, for Olympia Press under the pseudonym Malcolm Nesbit. He was a friend of Paul and Jane Bowles, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag and Diana Athill.

"The Exquisite Corpse is a game of "let’s pretend" with God and sex, birth and death, parents and lovers as its stakes, a game that broadens and burgeons till it opens out in every direction, an imaginary toad with an infinity of real gardens in it."
The Village Voice

Lyric and tender one moment, cruel and dizzying the next, The Exquisite Corpse neither celebrates perversity nor laments it; rather it projects it as part of man’s never-ending search for a true self and for transcendent communion with others.

In forty-nine brief, highly cinematic chapters, we meet a series of twisted but sincere searchesTomtom Jim and his naked, hungry family; Mary Poorpoor and her utterly “otherly” baby; angry John Doe and his sex slave, James Madisoneach in flight from despair. As one surreal episode morphs into the next, these searcherschange shape and their journeys change direction; names and identities come and go, storylines collide, and desires intertwine, all with the lightning-quick illogic of a dream. The result is a tragicomic tour de force, an upside-down roadmap to everyone’s inner Sodom, a perversely moral (and morally perverse) masterpiece by a modern-day Marquis de Sade.

"Chester is out to shock, to dazzle, to shake up, to offend, but at the same time he is seriously striving to record the implications of obsession, to document the tyranny and anguish of compulsive fantasy . . . Like Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs, he is a born writer with a zestful imagination and a poet’s gift for provocative images."
The New York Times Book Review



The Exquisite Corpse
a novel by Alfred Chester


chapter 1


On his way across the attic, John Anthony passed the bassinet and in a bit of looking glass that showed among the rags he saw the stranger’s face. It was so unexpected that the hair on his head stood up and the breath went out of him. He threw a hopeless look over his shoulder, but of course no one was there. His eyes felt bruised.


Gathering his courage, John Anthony bent over the bassinet and cleared away the pretty rags until the whole of the hand-mirror with its heavy gilt frame lay exposed. He stared into the born eyes, studied the unhappy face, and began whimpering.


"You will make me crazy," he said, putting his fists to his temples.


Then, as the tears streamed down his cheeks he hugged himself and moaned, "Poor baby, poor. Poor poor baby. Baby poor poor."


And then, with a burst of ferocious anger, he grabbed the mirror out of the bassinet and flung his fierce chin against it. He bellowed through the empty house: "Why? Why must I suffer your destiny?"



chapter 14


Alone except for the sharp-toothed changeling, hungry and homeless, desperate, Mary Poorpoor wandered for many months through the cold indifferent city. One bright morning she found herself outside a small park and, not knowing it was forbidden to the general public, she pushed open the iron gate and walked in.


Could this at last be fairyland, she wondered, feeling faint from the beauty of the place. It was the prettiest garden she had ever seen all laid out with narrow secret paths that wound between high buses and beds of flowers and tall gracefully trimmed trees. And the people too were pretty, though they seemed perhaps fatter than other fairies she had known.


A woman went by wheeling a baby carriage the size of a small car. Strange, thought Mary. And then it happened again. And still again.


They must have enormous babies here, Mary told herself and decide that if she passed another such carriage she would peer inside. She walked on. A few minutes later, when she had stopped to smell some roses, a middle-aged woman dressed like a nurse came down the path pushing a carriage. Mary stood on her toes as the nurse went by, and to her astonishment she saw no baby.


"Cute, isn’t he?" said the woman noticing Mary’s interest.


"Adorable," said Mary.


Nurse and carriage disappeared round a bend in the path.


While Mary stood puzzling this over, a man in uniform touched her should and asked if she had a key. Of course, Mary had no key to anywhere.


"I’m afraid, madam," the man said, "that you will have to leave the park as it is forbidden to the general public. It is only for persons who have the key."


Mary hated the man. "This is a free country," she told him. "Don’t you know that? I can go anywhere I please."


"I beg your pardon?" the man asked vaguely. He was distracted because Baby’s blanket had fallen open and his genitals were hanging down below his shirt. They were remarkably large for his age.


"I said, this is a free country," Mary repeated.


"Yes, it is," the man agreed and without further ado took Mary Poorpoor by the arm and started pulling her out of the garden. Mary burst into tears.


"Just one minute, Johnson," a lady called. "What’s going on here." She wasn’t wheeling a baby carriage.


"Nothing to worry about, Miss Emily," said the man in uniform.


"That’s for me to decide, Johnson, isn’t it?" the lady said kindly but firmly, and then turned to Mary Poorpoor. "Hello, my lovely girl, are you having trouble?"


"I don’t have the key," Marytold her.


Miss Emily smiled. "That’s a very pretty baby. I’ll bet it’s a boy, isn’t it?" she said, tickling Baby’s balls. "What’s his name?"


Mary liked the kind lady very much indeed, although she was odd. For example, her hair had been cut so short that she was practically bald, and her mustache hairs were darkened with eyebrow pencil. And she wore a severely tailored tweed suit. But Mary liked the lady, so in order to make her happy, and since the baby had no name anyhow, she said, "His name is Emilio."


Miss Emily put her hands on her hips, threw back her head and roared with laughter. "Well, that’s a coincidence! Because my name is Emily."


"Pleased to meet you. My name is Mary," said the little mother with a respectful curtsy.


"Where do you live, pretty Mary?"


"Nowhere. Just nowhere!" The tears began rolling down her cheeks again, and as they dropped off her jaw, Emilio caught them in his mouth and grinned. "I’m all alone in the world and homeless."


"You poor darling. Dry your tears. Now, now child, you’re not alone or homeless any more."


james graham ballard,15 november 1930 – 19 april 2009, RIP

the audacity of j.g. ballard

he took cues and inspiration from william s. burroughs, 1950s sci-fi pulps, joseph conrad, sigmund freud (and his grandson lucien freud), the surrealist painters and poets, medical journals… and created a body of fiction that once seemed outlandish and now seems uncannily—and unfortunately—prophetic.

Bookseller Photo   


RONALD REAGAN AND THE CONCEPTUAL AUTO DISASTER. Numerous studies have been conducted upon patients in terminal paresis (GPI), placing Reagan in a series of simulated auto crashes, e.g. multiple pileups, head-on collisions, motorcade attacks (fantasies of Presidential assassinations remained a continuing preoccupation, subject showing a marked polymorphicfixation on windshields and rear trunk assemblies). Powerful erotic fantasies of an anal-sadistic surrounded the image of the Presidential contender.

Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head on the unretouched photographs of crash fatalities.

In 82% of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed fecal matter and rectal hemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturers’ studies of the optimum auto disaster). It is hoped to construct a rectal modulous of Reagan and the auto disaster of maximized audience arousal.

Motion picture studies of Ronald Reagan reveal characteristic patterns of facial tones and musculature associated with homoerotic behavior. The continuing tension of buccal sphincters and the recessive tongue role tally with earlier studies of facial rigidity (cf., Adolf Hitler, Nixon). Slow-motion cine films of campaign speeches exercised a marked erotic effect upon an audience of spastic children. Even with mature adults the verbal material was found to have a minimal effect, as demonstrated by substitution of an edited tape giving diametrically opposed opinions…

INCIDENCE OF ORGASMS IN FANTASIES OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH RONALD REAGAN. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was super imposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse with "Reagan" proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2% of subjects.

Axillary, buccal, navel, aural, and orbital modes produced proximal erections. The preferred mode of entry overwhelmingly proved to be the rectal. After a preliminary course in anatomy it was found that the caecum and transverse colon also provided excellent sites for excitation. In an extreme 12% of cases, the simulated anus of post-costolomy surgery generated spontaneous orgasm in 98% of penetrations. Multiple-track cine-films were constructed of "Reagan" in intercourse during (a) campaign speeches, (b) rear-end auto collisions with one and three year model changes, (c) with rear exhaust assemblies…

SEXUAL FANTASIES IN CONNECTION WITH RONALD REAGAN. The genitalia of the Presidential contender exercised a continuing fascination. A series of imaginary genitalia were constructed using (a) the mouth parts of Jacqueline Kennedy, (b) a Cadillac, (c) the assembly kid prepuce of President Johnson…In 89% of cases, the constructed genitalia generated a high incidence of self-induced orgasm. Tests indicate the masturbatory nature of the Presidential contender’s posture. Dolls consisting of plastic models of Reagan’s alternate genitalia were found to have a disturbing effect on deprived children.

REAGAN’S HAIRSTYLE. Studies were conducted on the marked fascination exercised by the Presidential contender’s hairstyle. 65% of male subjects made positive connections between the hairstyle and their own pubic hair. A series of optimum hairstyles were constructed.

THE CONCEPTUAL ROLE OF REAGAN. Fragments of Reagan’s cinetized postures were used in the construction of model psychodramas in which the Reagan-figure played the role of husband, doctor, insurance salesman, marriage counselor, etc.

The failure of these roles to express any meaning reveals the nonfunctional character of Reagan. Reagan’s success therefore indicates society’s periodic need to re-conceptualize its political leaders. Reagan thus appears as a series of posture concepts, basic equations which reformulate the roles of aggression and anality. Reagan’s personality. The profound anality of the Presidential contender may be expected to dominate the United States in the coming years. By contrast the late JFK remained the prototype of the oral subject, usually conceived in pre-pubertal terms. In further studies sadistic psychopaths were given the task of devising sex fantasies involving Reagan. Results confirm the probability of Presidential figures being perceived primarily in genital terms; the face of LB Johnson is clearly genital in significant appearance–the nasal prepuce, scrotal jaw, etc. Faces were seen as either circumcised (JFK, Khrushchev) or uncircumcised (LBJ, Adenauer). In assembly-kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection. Patients were encouraged to devise the optimum sex-death of Ronald Reagan.

 WHY I WANT TO FUCK RONALD REAGAN” [1967] by JG Ballard [excerpt from The Atrocity Exhibition]

[At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of the Reagan text, minus its title and the running sideheads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed by some puckish pro-situationists to the RNC delegates. It was accepted for what it resembled: a psychological position paper on the candidate’s subliminal appeal, commissioned by some maverick think-tank.]


Annotation & Commentary by the author, J.G. Ballard, to "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan", published in The Atrocity Exhibition, 1990:

"Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan " prompted Doubleday in 1970 to pulp its first American edition of The Atrocity Exhibition. Ronald Reagan’s presidency remained a complete mystery to most Europeans, though I noticed that Americans took him far more easily in their stride. But the amiable old duffer who occupied the White House was a very different person from the often sinister figure I described in 1967, when the present piece was first published. The then-novelty of a Hollywood film star entering politics and becoming governor of California gave Reagan considerable air time on British TV. Watching his right-wing speeches, in which he castigated in sneering tones the profligate, welfare-spending, bureaucrat-infested state government, I saw a more crude and ambitious figure, far closer to the brutal crime boss he played in the 1964 movie, The Killers, his last Hollywood role. In his commercials Reagan used the smooth, teleprompter-perfect tones of the TV auto-salesman to project a political message that was absolutely the reverse of bland and reassuring. A complete discontinuity existed between Reagan’s manner and body language, on the one hand, and his scarily simplistic far-right message on the other. Above all, it struck me that Reagan was the first politician to exploit the fact that his TV audience would not be listening too closely, if at all, to what he was saying, and indeed might well assume from his manner and presentation that he was saying the exact opposite of the words actually emerging from his mouth. Though the man himself mellowed, his later presidency seems to have run the same formula."


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, 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.


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.

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

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

Gregory Corso Interview.

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

Ibid, pp. 140-41.

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

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

Three Novels, p. 197.

Three Novels, p. 186.

Three Novels, p. 189.

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


Three Novels, p. 188.

Three Novels, p. 236.

Three Novels, pp. 235-36.

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

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

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

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

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


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






pulp fiction from el hombre invisible

old doc benway: "You face death all the time, and for that time you are immortal."

"Where He Was Going"
by William S. Burroughs

Farm kitchen, blinds drawn, guns propped in corners. Plates and glasses have been shoved aside to make room for road maps.

Four men lean over the maps. There is a basic sameness in the faces. Kerosene lamps cast a flickering light of death on cheekbones and lips, on the tired, alert eyes.

"Sure to have roadblocks here, and here . . . ."

Ishmael pours a generous portion of whisky into a dirty glass.

"Couldn’t we just hole up here?"

"Uh uh. They don’t rumble us movin’ out, they will close in for a house-to-house search."

"Makes sense."

"Let’s try it here."

And suddenly it occurred to him that he was going to die. Not "sooner or later"–he knew that of course, they all did–but tonight. It came in a puff, like wind that makes a candle flicker, and sick, hollow fear hit him like a kick in the stomach. He doubled slightly forward, supporting himself on the back of a chair.

It’s always like this, he tells himself: the fear, and then a rush of courage and the clean sweet feeling of being born. He read that somewhere, in an old western . . . but the fear can go on and on until you can’t stand it, it’s going to break you, and that’s when the fear breaks . . . you hope.

"Let’s go," he croaks.

He wonders if they are all as scared as he is—his gun seems clumsy and heavy in his hands, alien, malignant—sure they are, but you don’t talk about it. Click of hammers and breeches.

They are in the car now, shutting the door. He is sitting by the car door on the right side. The road is full of holes and water in the holes and deep ruts. Please God we don’t get stuck . . . seeing themselves stumbling around in the woods with the bloodhounds closing in.

"STOP! Douse the light!"

Chug chug . . . another car coming this way. Closer, the light coming around a corner of the narrow road, between heavy timber.

Ishmael gets out slow, his feet like blocks of wood, and stands in the middle of the road, his hands up. The old car sputters to a stop. Old gray man behind the wheel. He walks over slow and shows the old man the wallet.


Ishmael’s lips are numb. This is no pawn-shop badge; it’s a perfect replica of the real thing, with cards to go with it. Made by a forger in Toronto. Cost $150. Flashed him out of some tight spots.

The old man sits there with his face blank.

"We’re looking for some bank robbers. Holed up around here. You live here long?"

"Forty years."

"Must know the area."

He brings out a road map. "Now we’ve got roadblocks up here, and here, and here. Is there any other way they could get out?"

"Yep. Old wagon road cuts in right here. Bit rough, but they could make it. Comes out here on County Road 52. Yep, they could get clean away."

"If your information checks out, you’ll be eligible for a reward of $500." He hands the old man a card. "Just call the office in Tulsa."

"I’ll do that, I surely will." The old man drives on.

The driver studies the map under the dashboard lights: "Make it exactly five and three tenths to the turn-off."

Old man on the phone: "That’s right, posing as a G-man."

Ishmael remembers old Doc Benway saying, "You face death all the time,and for that time you are immortal."

A raccoon crosses the road, its eyes bright green in the headlights, not hurrying, slipping along . . . and it came with a rush, a sudden, evil-smelling emptiness and the raccoon was slipping lightly along the edge of it:  "Get away to Mexico . . . I’ve been there . . . only way to live . . . got five G’s in a money belt . . . go a long way down there. . . . " 

They pull around a corner and light jabs into his eyes and his brain explodes in a white flash and he is freeee, throwing the door open, jumping out in the air as the windshield explodes glinting yellow shards and Tom throws a hand in front of his face.

Very light on his feet, the tommy-gun light in his hands like a dream gun, when a sincere young agent . . . religious son of a bitch too . . . leaps to his feet, rifle levelled. He hasn’t made his dog meat yet, as they call it "Animals!" his fellow agents tell him that’s what they are, animals! and don’t you forget it…

"Get down for chrissakes!" bellows the D.S.

And Ish stitches three .45’s across the boy’s lean young chest, an inch apart. He has the touch.

"It’s an instrument," Machine Gun Kelly told him. "Play it!"

He must have dozed off in the car. Another shoot-out dream. He knows they have been driving all night, home safe now, coming down into a valley. Warm wind and a smell of water.

"Thomas and Charlie."


"Name of this town." Ish remembers Thomas and Charlie. From here you climb ten thousand feet to the pass. Remembers Mexico City and his first grifa cigarette. Went crazy on it, wonderful crazy, wandering down Nino Perdido and everywhere he sees sugar skulls and fireworks, kids biting into the skulls.

"Dia de los Muertos," a boy tells him and smiles, showing white teeth and red gums. Very white. Very red. Whiter and redder than life, and he thought, Why not? I done it in the reform school. 

The boy has a gardenia behind his ear. He wears a white spotless cotton shirt and pants to the ankle with sandals. He smells of vanilla . . . Ish used to drink it in reform school. The boy understands. He knows un lugar. They stop to watch two pinwheels spinning in opposite directions . . . he remembers the queasy, floating feeling he got watching it, like being in a fast elevator. 

The boy is smiling now and pointing to the black space between the pinwheels as they sputter out and the blackness spreads wide as all the world and then he knew that was where he was going . . . .

Ishmael died when they picked up the stretcher.


—from William S. Burroughs, Tornado Alley. Cherry Valley Editions, 1989


Cover of the first U.S. edition.

Tornado Alley is a collection of short stories and one poem by Beat Generation author, William S. Burroughs, written during the later years of his career and first published in 1989. The first edition of the book included illustrations by S. Clay Wilson.

Notable pieces in the collection include the poem "Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986" and the crime melodrama "Where He Was Going," which Burroughs said on his album Dead City Radio was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

The collection is dedicated to 1930s gangster John Dillinger, "in hope that he is still alive."

Both "Where He Was Going" and "Thanksgiving Day" were performed by Burroughs on his 1990 spoken word/musical album, Dead City Radio, with "Thanksgiving Day" also being performed by Burroughs in a music video directed by Gus Van Sant to promote the CD. In both the CD and video versions of "Thanksgiving Day", which was retitled "A Thanksgiving Prayer", Burroughs appends the dedication to Dillinger.


–from wikipedia:


“the vegetable serenity of junk settled in his tissues”—on the 1st day of x-mas my true love is H…

William S. Burroughs, "The Junky’s Christmas"


IT was Christmas Day and Danny the Car Wiper hit the street junksick and broke after seventy-two hours in the precinct jail. It was a clear bright day, but there was warmth in the sun. Danny shivered with an inner cold. He turned up the collar of his worn, greasy black overcoat.

This beat benny wouldn’t pawn for a deuce, he thought. He was in the West Nineties. A long block of brownstone rooming houses. Here and there a holy wreath in a clean black window. Danny’s senses registered everything sharp and clear, with the painful intensity of junk sickness. The light hurt his dilated eyes.

He walked past a car, darting his pale blue eyes sideways in quick appraisal. There was a package on the seat and one of the ventilator windows was unlocked. Danny walked on ten feet. No one in sight. He snapped his fingers and went through a pantomime of remembering something, and wheeled around. No one.

A bad setup, he decided. The street being empty like this, I stand out conspicuous. Gotta make it fast.

He reached for the ventilator window. A door opened behind him. Danny whipped out a rag and began polishing the car windows. He could feel the man standing behind him.

"What’re yuh doin’?"

Danny turned as if surprised. "Just thought your car windows needed polishing, mister."

The man had a frog face and a Deep South accent. He was wearing a camel’s-hair overcoat.

"My caah don’t need polishin’ or nothing stole out of it neither."

Danny slid sideways as the man grabbed for him. "I wasn’t lookin’ to steal nothing, mister. I’m from the South too. Florida—"

"God dammed sneakin’ thief!"

Danny walked away fast and turned a corner. Better get out of the neighborhood. That hick is likely to call the law.

He walked fifteen blocks. Sweat ran down his body. There was an ache in his lungs. His lips drew back off his yellow teeth in a snarl of desperation. I gotta score somehow. If I had some decent clothes…

Danny saw a suitcase standing in a doorway. Good leather. He stopped and pretended to look for a cigarette. Funny, he thought. No one around. Inside maybe, phoning for a cab.

The corner was only a few houses. Danny took a deep breath and picked up the suitcase. Hemade the corner. Another block, another corner. The case was heavy.

I got a score here all night, he thought. Maybe enough for a sixteenth and a room. Danny shivered and twitched, feeling a warm room and heroin emptying into his vein. Let’s have a quick look.

He opened the suitcase. Two long packages in brown wrapping paper. He took one out. It felt like meat. He tore the package open at one end, revealing a woman’s naked foot. The toenails were painted with purple-red polish. He dropped the leg with a sneer of disgust.

"Holy Jesus!" he exclaimed. "The routines people put down these days. Legs! Well I got a case anyway." He dumped the other leg out. No bloodstains. He snapped the case shut and walked away. "Legs!" he muttered.


HE FOUND the Buyer sitting at a table in Jarrow’s Cafeteria.

"Thought you might be taking the day off." Danny said, putting the case down.

The Buyer shook his head sadly. "I got nobody. So what’s Christmas to me?" His eyes traveled over the case, poking, testing, and looking for flaws. "What was in it?"


"What’s the matter? I don’t pay enough?"

"I tell you there wasn’t nothing in it."

"Okay. So somebody travels with an empty suitcase. Okay." He held up three fingers.

"For Christ’s sake, Gimpy, give me a nickel."

"You got somebody else. Why don’t he give you a nickel?"

"It’s like I say, the case was empty."

Gimpy kicked at the case despairingly. "It’s all nicked up and kinda dirty-looking. " He sniffed suspiciously. "How come it stink like that? Mexican leather?"

"So am I in the leather business?"

Gimpy shrugged— "Could be." He pulled out a roll of bills and peeled off three ones, dropping them on the table behind the napkin dispenser. "You want?"

"Okay." Danny picked up the money. "You see George the Greek?" he asked.

"Where you been? He got busted two days ago."

"Oh …That’s bad."

Danny walked out. Now where can I score? he thought. George the Greek had lasted so long, Danny thought of him as permanent. It was good H too, and no short counts.

Danny went up to 103rd and Broadway. Nobody in Jarrow’s. Nobody in the Automat.

"Yeah," he snarled. "All the pushers off on the nod someplace. What they care about anybody else? So long as they get in the vein. What they care about a sick junky?"

He wiped his nose with one finger, looking around furtively.

No use hitting those jigs in Harlem. Like as not get beat for my money or they slip me rat poison. Might find Pantapon Rose at Eighth and 23rd.

There was no one he knew in the 23rd Street Thompson’s. Jesus, he thought. Where is everybody?

He clutched his coat collar together with one hand, looking up and down the street. There’s Joey from Brooklyn. I’d know that hat anywhere.

Joey was walking away, with his back to Danny. He turned around. His face was sunken, skull-like. The gray eyes glittered under a greasy felt hat. Joey was sniffing at regular intervals and his eyes were watering.

No use asking him, Danny thought. They looked at each other with the hatred of disappointment.

"Guess you heard about George the Greek," Danny said.

"Yeah. I heard. You been up to 103rd?"

"Yeah. Just came from there. Nobody around."

"Nobody around anyplace," Joey said. "I can’t even score for goofballs."

"Well, Merry Christmas, Joey. See you."

"Yeah. See you."


DANNY WAS walking fast. He had remembered a croaker on 18th Street. Of course the croaker had told him not to come back. Still, it was worth trying.

A brownstone house with a card in the window: P. H. Zunniga, M.D. Danny rang the bell. He heard slow steps. The door opened, and the doctor looked at Danny with bloodshot brown eyes. He was weaving slightly and supported his plumb body against the doorjamb. His face was smooth, Latin, the little red mouth slack. He said nothing. He just leaned there, looking at Danny.

God dammed alcoholic, Danny thought. He smiled.

"Merry Christmas, Doctor."

The doctor did not reply.

"You remember me, Doctor." Danny tried to edge past the doctor, into the house. "I’m sorry to trouble you on Christmas Day, but I’ve suffered another attack."


"Yes. Facial neuralgia." Danny twisted one side of his face into a horrible grimace. The doctor recoiled slightly, and Danny pushed into the dark hallway.

"Better shut the door or you’ll be catching cold," he said jovially, shoving the door shut.

The doctor looked at him, his eyes focusing visibly. "I can’t give you a prescription," he said.

"But Doctor, this is a legitimate condition. An emergency, you understand."

"No prescription. Impossible. It’s against the law."

"You took an oath, Doctor. I’m in agony." Danny’s voice shot up to a hysterical grating whine.

The doctor winced and passed a hand over his forehead.

"Let me think. I can give you one quarter-grain tablet. That’s all I have in the house."

"But, Doctor—a quarter G …."

The doctor stopped him. "If your conditionis legitimate, you will not need more. If it isn’t, I don’t want anything to do with you. Wait right here."

The doctor weaved down the hall, leaving a wake of alcoholic breath. He came back and dropped a tablet into Danny’s hand. Danny wrapped the tablet in a piece of paper and tucked it away.

"There is no charge." The doctor put his hand on the doorknob. "And now, my dear…"

"But, Doctor—can’t you object the medication?"

"No. You will obtain longer relief in using orally. Please not to return." The doctor opened the door.

Well, this will take the edge off, and I still have money to put down on a room, Danny thought.

He knew a drugstore that sold needles without question. He bought a 26-gauge insulin needle and eyedropper, which he selected carefully, rejecting models with a curved dropper or a thick end. Finally he bought a baby pacifier, to use instead of the bulb. He stopped in the Automat and stole a teaspoon.

Danny put down two dollars on a six-dollar-a-week room in the West Forties, where he knew the landlord. He bolted the door and put his spoon, needle and dropper on a table by the bed. He dropped the tablet in the spoon and covered it with a dropper of water. He held a match under the spoon until the tablet dissolved. He tore a strip of paper, wet it and wrapped it around the end of the dropper, fitting the needle over the wet paper to make an airtight connection. He dropped a piece of lint from his pocket into the spoon and sucked the liquid into the dropper through the needle, holding the needle in the lint to take up the last drop.

Danny’s hands trembled with excitement and his breath was quick. With a shot in front of him, his defenses gave way, and junk sickness flooded his body. His legs began to twitch and ache. A cramp stirred in his stomach. Tears ran down his face from his smarting, burning eyes. He wrapped a handkerchief around his right arm, holding the end in his teeth. He tucked the handkerchief in, and began rubbing his arm to bring out a vein.

Guess I can hit that one, he thought, running one finger along a vein. He picked up the dropper in his left hand.

Danny heard a groan from the next room. He frowned with annoyance. Another groan. He could not help listening. He walked across the room, the dropper in his hand, and inclined his ear to the wall. The groans were coming at regular intervals, a horrible inhuman sound pushed out from the stomach.

Danny listened for a full minute. He returned to the bed and sat down. "Why don’t someone call a doctor?" he thought indignantly. "It’s a bring down." He straightened his arm and poised the needle. He tilted his head, listening again.

Oh, for Christ’s sake! He tore off the handkerchief and placed the dropper in a water glass, which he hid behind the wastebasket. He stepped into the hall and knocked on the door of the next room. There was no answer. The groans continued. Danny tried the door. It was open. The shade was up and the room was full of light. He had expected an old person somehow, but the man on the bed was very young, eighteen or twenty, fully clothed and doubled up, with his hands clasped across his stomach.

"What’s wrong, kid?" Danny asked.

The boy looked at him, his eyes blank with pain. Finally he got one word: "Kidneys."

"Kidney stones?" Danny smiled. "I don’t mean it’s funny, kid. It’s just … I’ve faked it so many times. Never saw the real thing before. I’ll call an ambulance."

The boy bit his lip. "Won’t come. Doctor’s won’t come." The boy hid his face in the pillow.

Danny nodded. "They figure it’s just another junky throwing a wingding for a shot. But your case is legit. Maybe if I went to the hospital and explained things… No, I guess that wouldn’t be so good."

"Don’t live here," the boy said, his voice muffled. "They say I’m not entitled."

"Yeah, I know how they are, the bureaucrat bastards. I had a friend once, died of snakebite right in the waiting room. They wouldn’t even listen when he tried to explain a snake bit him. He never had enough moxie. That was fifteen years ago, down in Jacksonville…"

Danny trailed off. Suddenly he put out his thin, dirty hand and touched the boy’s shoulder.

"I—I’m sorry, kid. You wait. I’ll fix you up."

He went back to his room and got the dropper, and returned to the boy’s room.

"Roll up your sleeve, kid." The boy fumbled his coat sleeve with a weak hand.

"That’s okay. I’ll get it." Danny undid the shirt button at the wrist and pushed the shirt and coat up, baring a thin brown forearm. Danny hesitated, looking at the dropper. Sweat ran down his nose. The boy was looking up at him. Danny shoved the needle in the boy’s forearm and watched the liquid drain into the flesh. He straightened up.

The boy lay down, stretching. "I feel real sleepy. Didn’t sleep all last night." His eyes were closing.

Danny walked across the room and pulled the shade down. He went back to his room and closed the door without locking it. He sat on the bed, looking at the empty dropper. It was getting dark outside. Danny’s body ached for junk, but it was a dull ache now, dull and hopeless. Numbly, he took the needle of the dropper and wrapped it in a piece of paper. Then he wrapped the needle and dropper together. He sat there with the package in his hand. Gotta stash this someplace, he thought.

Suddenly a warm flood pulsed through his veins and broke in his head like a thousand golden speedballs.

For Christ’s sake, Danny thought. I must have scored for the immaculate fix!

The vegetable serenity of junk settled in his tissues. His face went slack and peaceful, and his head fell forward.


Danny the Car Wiper was on the nod.