William S. Burroughs, Cat Fancier

William S. Burroughs loved his cats. The outlaw author known for his unabashed avant-sexual space operas and hyper-spatial exploratory prose wasn’t one to apologize for his utter disgust over a society he saw crumbling under the iron claws of Control. However, behind the icy eyed visage of ‘El Hombre Invisible’ was a heart warmed with the gentle purrs of his coveted feline companions.

As Yony Leyser, director of the critically acclaimed bio-pic Williams S. Burroughs: A Man Within, discusses in an article for Vice, understanding Burroughs’ cats is central to understanding the man behind the myth:

“Author William S. Burroughs made his love for all things feline known in his book The Cat Inside, in which he refers to cats as “psychic companions” and innate “enemies of the state.” In his final journal entry, written just before he died, Burroughs discusses love as the ultimate cure-all. I feature the quote in my documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. What I fail to mention in the film is that the specific love he is referring to is what he felt for his cats. The more complete journal entry reads:

Only thing can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats present and past.
Love? What is it?
Most natural painkiller what there is.
LOVE.

Burroughs also subscribed to Cat Fancy for many years, saving hundreds of issues for his personal library. In May 2010, his manager, James Grauerholz, pitched a story to the pussy-friendly publication about the writer’s unwavering love for his kitties. The editors of the magazine must have been startled by the pitch, which began:

While William S. Burroughs is increasingly regarded as one of the most important writers of the 20th century, his artistic genius is often overshadowed by tales of his outlaw lifestyle: founder of the Beat movement; his drug addictions and homosexuality; the accidental shooting of his wife in a drunken William Tell routine; and, later in life, his unofficial status as the godfather of the punk rock movement. Of all the wild stories in Burroughs’s life, the best (and most secret), came last: That he did indeed find love and redemption before he died—through his cats.

The magazine’s editors (foolishly) said they would pass, and that was that. It seems Burroughs got the last laugh, though. A quick internet search for Cat Fancy’s HQ results in the address 3 Burroughs Drive in Irvine, California (the number 3 was thought to hold special powers by the author).

Head over to Vice.com to read the rest of the article, and an in-depth interview with Roger Holden, the man who WSB entrusted with the care of his cats.

 

18 Comments on "William S. Burroughs, Cat Fancier"

  1. Beboppoet777 | Oct 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

    Even since I picked up a copy of Naked Lunch in the late 60’s, I was totally hooked on Burroughs, I
    was a 60’s teenage acidhead, and I had read some science fiction, but mostly my mental imagery came from Donovan and Dylan lyrics, after stumbling on Naked Lunch that fateful day in late 68, my psychedelic journey took a radical shift.Burroughs opened my acid crazed eyes to the realities of drug induced psychic seduction, to the metaphor of addiction to language freed from the constrictions of
    conditioning.It is no coincidence that Burroughs was a cat person, cats like to hang out when you are writing, they seem to know what you are thinking when you let your imagination free reign, they are magic sphinx like presence, they were worshiped in Egypt, in the Western lands.They piss on your poetry in cardboard boxes to mark the territory of imagistic labyrinths.And most of all they give the slack of love.I use to be the jazzcat in a former internet incarnation.

  2. Beboppoet777 | Oct 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

    Even since I picked up a copy of Naked Lunch in the late 60’s, I was totally hooked on Burroughs, I
    was a 60’s teenage acidhead, and I had read some science fiction, but mostly my mental imagery came from Donovan and Dylan lyrics, after stumbling on Naked Lunch that fateful day in late 68, my psychedelic journey took a radical shift.Burroughs opened my acid crazed eyes to the realities of drug induced psychic seduction, to the metaphor of addiction to language freed from the constrictions of
    conditioning.It is no coincidence that Burroughs was a cat person, cats like to hang out when you are writing, they seem to know what you are thinking when you let your imagination free reign, they are magic sphinx like presence, they were worshiped in Egypt, in the Western lands.They piss on your poetry in cardboard boxes to mark the territory of imagistic labyrinths.And most of all they give the slack of love.I use to be the jazzcat in a former internet incarnation.

  3. Nunzio X | Oct 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    I love cats but am catless at the moment.

    Perhaps I’ll name my next cat “23 Enigma” in honor of Burroughs and RAW.

    • Matt Staggs | Oct 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

      I suggest that you consider the naming of a cat with great care. I own an orange tomcat named Grendel. He has lived up to the name in spades. (spayed-s?)

      • Jin The Ninja | Oct 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

        i think that is true. our black tom is “mochi” and true to name, he’s quite sweet and fun in that ninja way;)

      • Nunzio X | Oct 3, 2012 at 1:34 am |

        This is good advice, I think…

        Perhaps “Most Mellow Beer-Fetcher?”

        Bukowski had nine cats toward the end of his life; there’s a great R. Crumb drawing of Buk in the hot tub with one of his big tomcats standing nearby…

      • Mine is named Thomas O’Malley and he has yet to ever break out in song and dance. He must be malfunctioning. Will administer catnip and observe.

      • Mine is named Thomas O’Malley and he has yet to ever break out in song and dance. He must be malfunctioning. Will administer catnip and observe.

      • Mine is named Thomas O’Malley and he has yet to ever break out in song and dance. He must be malfunctioning. Will administer catnip and observe.

  4. craig poet | Oct 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    I stumbled across a copy of Naked Lunch in late 68′ and I never looked back.It’s no wonder that Burroughs was a cat person.Cats absorb the writers energy, keeping it honest, with sphinx like presence, in the Western Lands.

  5. craig poet | Oct 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    I stumbled across a copy of Naked Lunch in late 68′ and I never looked back.It’s no wonder that Burroughs was a cat person.Cats absorb the writers energy, keeping it honest, with sphinx like presence, in the Western Lands.

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