Off the Shelf
By Marcus Pan
William S. Burroughs is considered by many.
Precisely what he is considered will however depend upon the person - addict or
artist? Deviant or brilliant? It depends on who you're speaking to. Burroughs'
literary style varies widely across his span of writing years, from
journal-like letters and diary entries and then short stories - usually
hyperbolic inflations of things he's come across in his life ("Spare Assed
Annie"). Sometimes lines can even be drawn to representations of himself
("Junky Christmas"). Then there is another period in his life - his later years
at Tangiere. In the mid-50's, William created a convoluted piece of meandering
streams of consciousness style rantings. "Word" is considered his greatest -
and filthiest - achievement. For the most hardcore WSB fan, Interzone
will be picked up for this latter piece.
Penguin has put out a fine representation of Burroughs'
work, giving the beginning WSBer a nice opening to his style - "Word" alone
makes even the surreal "Naked Lunch" masterpiece of his seem tamer than Disney
in comparison. James Grauerholz explains the nuances of Burroughs' writing in
the preface, finely opening the book and giving one a crash course in the
influences of the writer's life and travels around the world, to in depth
explanations of each of the works found herein.
Then the body of Williams' work opens with the line, "PLEASE
IMAGINE AN EXPLOSION ON A SHIP." William, you see, is a very blunt author. He
gets right to the point. The first part of Interzone, his short stories,
include a number of his interesting prose. The reader is thrust into each story
immediately. You many times find yourself entering the story in the middle of
it almost, having to pick out pieces and make sense of everything that occurred
previous to where you entered by bits and pieces from the text. Usually you can
find enough so that the sudden ending doesn't leave you completely clueless.
Sometimes it's more difficult and the story becomes more of a convoluted
thought than a story at all.
The second portion was my favorite. "Lee's Journals" are
complete segue-laden stream of conscious style and quite riveting. It flows
easily, you following along at the speed of the thoughts as William put them
down to paper. You can tell near-immediately that these were the thoughts of
the high - whatever junk William pumped into his body to open himself up to the
old typewriter is in effect and he's just letting go with it. Some imagery of
disturbing, some questioning and even moreso confusing. Rolling into one
subject after another as segues flair out like sunspots burning a path behind
themselves quickly so you can't go back.
Now we come to the third part. If "Lee's Journals" were
junk-laden, then "Word" is Burroughs at his most raw. The imagery is nothing
less than traumatizing. His writing is grammatically scarred and written in a
very twisted way, sentences left incomplete and hanging like you turned off a
switch and turned on a new one for a new thought. A look inside the mind of a
lunatic. On the back cover of this book, there is a quote that says "
statement of a man writing for his life, a venting, a bloodletting." A barrage
of filth to damage the senses and barrage the brain with enough frightening
imagery so that just once you can shrug off the programming of society. Or at
least so I'm told by Wilde - unfortunately I couldn't find this much merit in
it. The imagery was horrifying, indeed. But while I enjoy surreal, this was
more towards nonsensical.
I prefer his journals very much. But I can do without
"Word." However, this is an essential collection for harder core fans of
William S. Burroughs. I seem to be a more passive fan.
"Interzone" by William S. Burroughs
by the Penguin Group
Copyright © 1989 William S. Burroughs
Introduction by James Grauerholz
Click to Buy!