Tag Archives | William S. Burroughs

The Time William S. Burroughs Became a Scientologist (And His Subsequent Dismissal of the Religion)

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.16.25 AMWilliam Burroughs first became attracted to the Church of Scientology because of its claimed ability to extinguish the wounds of bad memories. For nearly a decade (also what most consider his least artistic years), Burroughs followed the churches teachings in much the same way he sought out other “mind-expanding” techniques such as hallucinogens.

It would be L. Ron Hubbard’s “fascist tendencies” which led Burroughs to finally denounce Scientology via the Los Angeles Free Press.

You can read his collection of criticisms of the church in a free PDF: Ali’s Smile/Naked Scientology.

Excerpt:

Scientology is a model control system, a state in fact with its own courts, police, rewards and penalties. It is based on a tight ingroup like the CIA, Islam, the Mormons, etc. Inside are the Rights with the Truth. Outside are the Commies, the Infidels, the Unfaithful, the Suppressives. Rarely has this formula been expressed with such consummate effrontery, like you go into a store to buy a suit the clerk puts you in a Condition of Doubt, you work all night in the stock room and go around with a gray rag around your arm and petition the entire store to let you back in so you can buy something.

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Patti Smith’s Advice to Creative Youth

The ‘kernel of wisdom’ type speeches are usually a dime a dozen, but this one really hits the nail on the head. Everyone’s a poet, a musician, a painter in college. Those that are still at it a decade later may not necessarily be more talented than the ones that gave it up, or made a hobby out of it. No. They’re the ones that are hooked. Also, was there any irony in Burroughs suggesting to keep your name “clean”?

From Laughing Squid:

“You don’t do your work and say ‘I only want the cool people to read it’…”

In August 2012, punk’s grand dame Patti Smith was interviewed at the Louisiana Literature festival and doled out some fantastic advice to young creative people (truly it’s an inspiring listen for all creative types).

Video.

Patti Smith: Advice to the young from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

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Words of Advice from William S. Burroughs

BigBurroughs Gun

WSB haunts the entirety of counter-cultural curation like the grey eminence he was often portrayed as, but, it’s important to note that Burroughs rarely portrayed himself this way.

I thought I’d seen every Burroughs documentary, but this one was news to me.

Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs On the Road is  a 1983 documentary that finds the Beat Generation icon touring Scandinavia, signing books and giving readings of works like The Place of Dead Roads in his inimical, laconic snarl. Along the way, he waxes philosophical about cats, Hiroshima, Brion Gysin and the illusion of duality. He’s polite and hilarious throughout.

Here Burroughs bemoans the high cost of death in ancient Egypt:

Watch the full movie at the Snag Films website.

Stay Awake!

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William S. Burroughs Interviews David Bowie: Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman

BurroughsIn 1972 counterculture legend William S. Burroughs interviewed David Bowie for Rolling Stone. Thanks to Teenage Wildlife, the resulting article by Craig Copetas is once again available. Here’s a small excerpt:

Burroughs: Only politicians lay down what they think and that is it. Take a man like Hitler, he never changed his mind.

Bowie: Nova Express really reminded me of Ziggy Stardust, which I am going to be putting into a theatrical performance. Forty scenes are in it and it would be nice if the characters and actors learned the scenes and we all shuffled them around in a hat the afternoon of the performance and just performed it as the scenes come out. I got this all from you Bill… so it would change every night.

Burroughs: That’s a very good idea, visual cut-up in a different sequence.

Bowie: I get bored very quickly and that would give it some new energy.

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William S. Burroughs: Paint it Blacker

As many readers of these here illuminated letters surely know, the great author/Beat ghost/junky/exterminator William S. Burroughs also added the title of “painter” to his resume before his death in 1997. He began painting in his later years while living in Lawrence Kansas, but his relationship with painting and painters began much earlier.

I like to trace Burroughs’ origins as a painter back to his 1959 meeting with Brion Gysin. Gysin was also a polymath and his written work is as underrated as his paintings were during his lifetime. Gysin died in 1986 and while his sometimes-stunning prose has yet to be reconsidered, the publication of a few great books and the organizing of gallery retrospectives have seen his visual art getting the respect it deserves all these years later. Of course, Burroughs was way ahead of the curve: “I don’t think I’d seen painting until I saw the painting of Brion Gysin,” he once snarled.… Read the rest

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Wallace Berman’s Kabbalah Cinema

Wallace Berman was born in Staten Island, New York in 1926. While he was still a child, he correctly predicted that he would die on his 50th birthday. He was hit by a car in 1976.

During those five decades, Berman became a pioneering assemblage artist as well as one of the cornerstones of the post WWII California art scene. Berman became associated with the Beats and his self-published magazine Semina combined his own collage imagery with writing by luminaries like Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, David Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Cocteau. In addition to his groundbreaking, multimedia assemblages, Berman made the short film Aleph. The artist’s only experiment with moving pictures,Aleph reveals both Berman’s love of collage as well as his interest in the Kabbalah.

Here is what www.jewishmuseum.org has to say about the film:

Aleph is an artist’s meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture.Read the rest

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W. S. Burroughs Restored

Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living…

- from “Virus Adaptibility and Host Resistance” by G. Belyavin, as qouted by William S. Burroughs in The Electronic Revolution: Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden

“What we are up against: liars with no honesty or integrity or decency, just plain bastards…”

- William S. Burroughs, from Last Words

William S. Burroughs’ post-mortem existence is predicated on the maintenance of his mediated body, and one of his current hosts is in need of restoration. Howard Brookner’s documentary, Burroughs: The Movie, originally released in 1985 by Giorno Poetry Systems, has been out of print for quite some time. Long available only at a collectors price, and in the original VHS, Brookner’s nephew, Aaron Brookner, has created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of a digitally re-mastered version taken from an original archival print of the documentary:

“Our aim is to remaster and re-release the first long feature documentary ever made about literary icon William S.

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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.

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Burroughs to Capote: You Have Placed Your Services at the Disposal of Interests Who Are Turning America Into a Police State

Letters of Note has reproduced a scathing letter from outlaw beat writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, Junkie, The Soft Machine, etc.) to Truman Capote upon the publication of his novel In Cold Blood:

I have read the recent exchange of genialities between Mr Kenneth Tynan and yourself. I feel that he was much too lenient. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting consul prior to making a statement also came to my attention. In effect you were speaking in approval of standard police procedure: obtaining statements through brutality and duress, whereas an intelligent police force would rely on evidence rather than enforced confessions. You further cheapened yourself by reiterating the banal argument that echoes through letters to the editor whenever the issue of capital punishment is raised: “Why all this sympathy for the murderer and none for his innocent victims?”

This is perhaps the kindest part of the letter.… Read the rest

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