When William S. Burroughs met Bob Dylan

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/11/when-william-s-burroughs-met.html


His Thanksgiving prayer has never left me.



Ah Pook Is Here.

“Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake …”

Reading by Wm. Burroughs, music by John Cale, animation by Philip Hunt.

Update: Tip o’ hat to @cementimental for Philip Hunt.


I know there are regulars here on BB who dislike Burroughs, and I’ve met people in meatspace who feel the same, but I basically agree with Norman Mailer’s assessment: “perhaps the only American writer who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” I’ve been reading some of his short essays recently and he had a good conversational style, but it’s his willingness to experiment in his other work that made him important, the cut-ups, the exploration of the subconscious, even his paintings which have a depth comparable to any respected abstract impressionist. He was a flawed, complicated and interesting character, but at least he wasn’t dull.

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Burroughs was really far out there: a drug addict, open homosexual, and wildly experimental writer, turning out weird disturbing books that included sci fi, political satire, and sexual fantasies. And this was in the 1950s, when all of this was shocking and most of it was illegal. The hippies picked up a lot of their counterculture from the beats. They were into different drugs and different music, but they shared a contempt for conformity and an openness to all kinds of altered states and experiences.


Is his work still relevant today? Well … NO.

Was his work historically significant in the past? Was he one of the people who CREATED the world we have now, where there are harm-reducing “safe injection centers,” and sodomy and obscenity laws are irrelevant anachronisms? YES.

Did he murder his wife? Um, YES. Or at least negligently homicided his wife with, as they say, “depraved indifference to human life” anyway.

Did he hire underage sex workers in a foreign country? Uh, yeah, I think so, though I’m no expert on the details of all his crimes.

Liking him or disliking him is almost irrelevant.



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The Word Virus is still pandemic worldwide so… YES


There you have it.

While he did kill his wife in a drunken party trick gone wrong, he also agonized over it for decades, which was one of the driving forces of his writing.

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion I guess. None of the Beat writers matter now, by that measure.

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Laurie Anderson - Language Is A Virus (From Outer Space):


I send this to my staff and family every year on Thanksgiving. It is so important to be reminded of HARD truths…

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I’d argue that Burroughs had little influence on the hippies, but instead on punk and postpunk cultures. The rest of the Beats, sure, the hippies surely drew influence, but not Burroughs.


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