Burroughs gives advice on writing

Wednesday, April 8, 1992

Carving out inverted V's on the floor with his cane, William S. Burroughs told a group of Hofstra University students touring the United States that the world supplies writers with enough to write about. They only need to look around.

Burroughs, an author and Lawrence resident, entertained questions from 18 students who are spending six weeks riding across the country in a bus to learn more about America's history and its culture.

During an informal appearance at Artists En Masse, 803 Mass., Burroughs fielded questions ranging from his experiences with drugs to his inspirations for writing.

Along with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Burroughs is credited with starting the beat literary movement of the '50s.

To one student who asked the author to give some advice "to someone who doesn't write as well as you," Burroughs said, "You're going to do a lot of bad writing before you do any good writing."

HE SAID writers should be able to master the relationship between "what you're thinking and seeing."

Those interested in writing, Burroughs said, only need to "walk around the block" to cull material.

"Most writers keep their eyes open," he noted.

Asked by one student what he sees when he looks into America's future, Burroughs, the author of "Naked Lunch," "Junky," "Queer" and other works, countered with "You're young, what do you see?"

The students are seeing an America they've largely only read about. Their professor, Douglas Brinkley, said he felt he needed to get the students away from New York.

IN "AN American Odyssey: Art and Culture Across America," the upperclassmen are hitting 29 cities and will earn six credits toward graduation. They spent only a few hours in Lawrence on Tuesday, preparing for their next stop in Boulder, Colo.

So far, the students have seen the likes of such towns as Asheville, N.C., Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala., and Biloxi, Miss.

They've yet to see Seattle, San Francisco and Big Sur, Calif. Along the way, the students hope to replace textbook knowledge of America with a firsthand glimpse of the country.

Jason Caputl, a senior at Hofstra, which is in the Long Island community of Hempstead, N.Y., said he's lived in New York his entire life and needed to get away.

"I hit Colorado once when I was younger," Caputl said.

CAPUTL said his interest in the unconventional class was sparked by a class Brinkley taught about Kerouac. A literature student, Caputl said this course captures the spirit of Kerouac's "On the Road."

He casually added that he's supposed to write his senior thesis during the trip, emphasizing "supposed to."