July 10, 2007 4:47 PM   Subscribe

A 1983 documentary by Howard Brookner on William S. Burroughs. 89 mins, G-vid, a bit more inside...
posted by carsonb (13 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
NYT write-up
In 4 parts, for those with the smaller pipe-holes.
Inspired by the Bomb the Bass/Bugpowder Dust post earlier today.
posted by carsonb at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thank you!

"Smash the control images. Smash the control machine."
posted by ageispolis at 5:25 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

What do you mean, I can only favorite this ONCE?

Great post, thank you.
posted by nevercalm at 5:43 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by fleetmouse at 7:19 PM on July 10, 2007

Great. Thank you.
posted by bukharin at 7:45 PM on July 10, 2007

So rich. Just great!
posted by pwedza at 9:39 PM on July 10, 2007

After becoming a hard-core Burroughs fan in college, I ending up living about a block away from the house in which Burroughs lived the last 15 years of his life (in Lawrence, KS).

The local entertainment tab (disclosure: I work for its parent company) put together a wonderful section about Burroughs time in Lawrence (and the interesting wake he left behind him).

The real gem, though, is the home movie shot at Burroughs' house by his friend, Wayne Propst [MP4, 130 MB]. It's just Burroughs and some friends -- Patti Smith, Allen Ginsburg and Steve Buscemi -- hanging out, but there's something absolutely amazing about watching these icons of Beat-ism just... be.

Highly, highly recommended to any Burroughs fans.
posted by jacobian at 11:44 PM on July 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

I appreciate being brought back to Burroughs once in a while, then I'm reminded (as the documentary does) that he shot a woman in the head and deserved to spend the second half of his life in prison. What a despicable fuck.
posted by bardic at 4:38 AM on July 11, 2007

then I'm reminded (as the documentary does) that he shot a woman in the head and deserved to spend the second half of his life in prison. What a despicable fuck.

Yeh, it's not like it was a terrible accident that haunted and tortured him for his entire life or anything. Not like she was anyone he loved, or married, or had a child with, despite having nothing but gay relationships the rest of the time. No drugs or alcohol were involved with either party either: it was a cold brutal murder with no remorse exhibited from Burroughs! What a heartless, despicable fuck he was.
posted by saturnine at 5:17 AM on July 11, 2007

Further Burroughs weirdness, with readings and stop motion animation: Ah Pook is Here.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." -WB

As a life long Burroughs fan, I too came to a point where I began to doubt, and perhaps even feel revulsion at the endless self absorption and narcissism of the Beats. Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac included. In retrospect they were the precursors to the fuck all deconstructed hedonism and sex/drug OD of the 60's counter culture. Did it really lead to people living happier and more free lives? Or was it just an excuse to get high and be irresponsible?

I guess the one thing that is certain is that personal freedom and leading an unconventional life not bound to the control mechanisms of country and religion has its price. And it is a steep one. There was a lot of tragedy that followed those guys around, not only Burroughs accidental shaooting of his wife, but the drowning of a Columbia college student in the 40s, suicides, OD's and very tragic was Burroughs's helpless relationship with his son, who died of cirrhosis of the liver at 29 (which is an older man's disease. You have to drink mythic quantities to do that to yourself at 29).

One thing's for sure, the landmark censorship case (the U.S. Post office declared it obscene) over the publication and distribution of Naked Lunch, opened up the gates to all forms of literature and art. And Burroughs routines involving aliens and junked up government men and religious fanatics who fed off human flesh and the like are classic and hilarious. Especially when heard with Burroughs doing the parts ("Arty type. No principles...")

I didn't understand the horror and remorse that Burroughs felt for his wife until I saw Cronenburg's Naked Lunch, All those books from that era Junky, NL, The Soft BOys, The Ticket that Exploded finally made sense. It's difficult to read through the psyched out wash of the cut up technique and where as perhaps the cut up technique taps into a psychic understanding, I don't know if it does much for the human heart.

In the end, Burrough's life and work is crystalized for me in the final words he wrote in his journal before he passed away in '97: Love? What is It?
Most natural painkiller what there is.

And it begs the question. Why did he wait so long to write that? Did he see love as another element of control? As another corrosive "death ray" that needed to be deflected from the all important need to remain "free"?

I CONSIDER that immortality is the only goal worth striving for: immortality in Space. Man is an artefact (sic) created for the purpose of Space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present state anymore than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. But Man is in a state of arrested evolution.
Time is that which ends, and Man is in Time.
The transition from Time to Space is quite as drastic as the evolutionary transition from water to land. But who or what is keeping us from realising our biological and spiritual destiny in Space? Our little local war comes down to a conflict between those who must go into Space or die, and those who, owing to a parasitic dependence on humans, will die if we go.
Immortality is something you have to work and fight for, like everything else in this life or another. We are not fighting for a scrap of sharecropper immortality with the strings hanging off it like mafioso spaghetti. We want the whole tamale. The Old Man of the Mountain discovered that immortality is possible in Space, and this is the Western Lands of the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The Western Lands is a real place. It exists, and we built it, with our hands and our brains. We paid for it with our blood and our lives. It's ours, and we're going to take it.

William S. Burroughs
Statement on the Final Academy
July 1982 Boulder, Colorado
posted by Skygazer at 9:20 AM on July 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

Do not judge the man for his work, or the work for the man.
posted by Area Control at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2007

Like Vonnegut, Burroughs changed my life and helped me get through some tough times. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for him. Never cared much for those punkass Beats, though.

Thanks for the swell post and cool comments!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:52 PM on July 22, 2007

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