William S. Burroughs: "A Thanksgiving Prayer" (1986)


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/23/william-s-burroughs-a-than-4.html



Today in history a teenager from Howard Beach, NY was arrested.


“Take us to your leader!”


You know, I really don’t get the Burroughs love here. This guy was a well-known pedophile and predator. If Roy Moore had written spectacular fiction that was deeply informative to your personal growth would you look the other way? I’ve always been disgusted by this piece of shit and never understood the duality required to give him a pass.

ETA: And before anyone goes all “court of public opinion” in his defense, the cultural consensus is that we’re well beyond the point of tolerating this behavior just because it is nearly impossible to improve.


Just so we’re clear we’re cool with Burroughs drunkenly shooting his wife here at Boing Boing? And being a horrible sexist besides?


And pedophile. Don’t forget the pedophilia.


The difference is that 1) Burroughs wasn’t running for public office and 2) Moore has contributed nothing of worth to the planet even ignoring his sexual crimes. Conflating artists and their work gets you nowhere.


:smiley: A much less grim traditional Thanksgiving audio experience!


How does that even matter in the slightest?

And, yes it is important to distinguish artists from their personal foibles, but pedophilia is a bridge too far for me. Especially this creep who has somehow charmed otherwise clear-thinking individuals into believing it was some kind of alternative lifestyle choice. I guarantee you, if it ever came to light that any of my favorite artists, writers or musicians was raping young boys his work would be forever tainted for me.


I propose the following alternative prayer:

Remove all juices with baster
before removing from oven
Never lift by sides only
Always support the bottom



How does that matter? It’s the main thing that matters. In a functional democracy you can’t have criminals in charge of making laws for the obvious conflict of interest. Although granted, the current administration is probably the most corrupt and dysfunctional since Warren Harding’s.


In the old days, in a zine, a fawning review of a Burroughs record could coexist with a heated denunciation of, let’s say, Clarence Thomas, and the editors would have no obligation to note any contradiction or to print any complaints they might receive from confused readers.

The edgy misfit despair of our youth is not adapted to today’s ecosystem of populist outrage.



Burroughs was a lowlife. The operative word is was. Were he alive to benefit from my appreciation of his prose, I’d be a lot more circumspect. But I’m thankful Burroughs is dead and can’t profit from my clicks. And what’s Thanksgiving for if you can’t be thankful silver-tongued scum are dead?

If you feel differently, I wholeheartedly support your choice to do so.

But do not conflate love of the writing of a dead fucker with love of that same dead fucker.


I think, if we’re watching a video of the guy reciting his own poetry, that might be a little bit more than just his writing.


You’re completely missing my point. Appreciating A Thanksgiving Prayer is not “Burroughs love” as @cannibalpeas put it. But I think you know that.


Would it have been possible to have one without the other? In this case, it seems probably not.


An offering to those who would prefer an alternative, from “Happy Holidays!”, by American Indian author/poet Sherman Alexie:

I am asked this question at least a dozen times every year: “Do Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?”

That’s like asking: “Do Jewish people celebrate Oktoberfest?”

I just emailed a Jewish friend to ask about her feelings on Oktoberfest, and she wrote, “Never thought about it. No way I’d buy a BMW, though.”


Maybe not “love”, but I don’t think we would be having this discussion if Burroughs wasn’t beat-poet-cool-drunkard-misanthropist-William-Burroughs. I think cannibalpeas et al. are right to call expiry on that cachet.


Okay. I’m fine with liking this recitation of this poem only because Burroughs is dead and buried. But I’m also down with people who can’t enjoy it because of the author’s life. I personally love beat poetry, but some of the beat poets were genuinely awful people. All I’m saying is don’t assume that because some of us appreciate the art of dead assholes that we approve of the assholes themselves.

For those who either can’t even just don’t want to separate the art from the dead artist, I support that too. There’s a lot of art out there to love.