Memories of Burroughs

A guestbook for readers' recollections of the Old Man

Burroughs lived in Lawrence longer than any other place-16 years. Our collection of stories can only scratch the surface of that time. The multimedia adds a bit more-video of Burroughs, photo galleries, slideshows, recordings by Burroughs, mp3s of many Lawrencians remembering their friend, and so on:

But the most comprehensive perspective of Burroughs' time in Lawrence will hopefully come from you, dear reader. We've set up this guest book to that end-we hope you'll take a moment to share how the Old Man's presence here affected you. Thanks in advance-and thanks for reading.


smerdyakov 15 years, 6 months ago

Not very long after I moved to Lawrence and started meeting people at KU ('94) I remember hearing the Burroughs accounts ... seemed at every other gathering of hipsters or hippies, "Burroughs" would come up. The conversation would inevitably become a game of one-upsmanship and debunking. ...Saw him at ghetto Dillons the first week I was here. How you'd know what he looked like? Who doesn't? I don't. ...Never did know for sure just what he looked like until he was gone. Saw several old characters over the next couple years that made me wonder if I was looking at "Burroughs." I never met him, but he surely had an effect on my perception of Lawrence--subconsciously made me consider each character around here more, and so made me appreciate the community more.

Izzy 15 years, 6 months ago

Interzone : ten years after (2)

I consulted I Ching about this idea, and the answer I got was that this could lead to a valuable human adventure, which would not happen if I did not do it. So on August 10th, I proposed them to send them for free plans of a dreamachine I had drawn in 1981. This dreamachine was working with 5 different rythhms inside the alpha band, which allowed to get different effects and results. I had shown those plans to Brion Gysin who had encouraged me to spread them.

So I was expecting to find about 10 people in the whole who might have been interested. I received more than 300 answers in a week, most of them quite enthousiastic. I sent the plans in mails in return, and people sent me back what they were doing from their side around Burroughs and Gysin .

Suddenly, I received writings, musics, paintings, etc. , coming from people from all over the world, who were doing their own experiments alone, thinking they were the only ones in the world to make it. As a result I spread the info and with the help of Foe who tought me step by step to make a site, I made one and put on line what I was receiving.

People were struck to see the common result, which was unexpected, and unforeseen, as all this was consecutive to Burroughs' death and our respective reactions to it. So we decided to get organized in a Burroughsian group, voted for a name, which ended to be "Interzone", and the adventure has been going on since. If most of the members are from US, some people come from many parts of the world. So this allowed us to share our points of view through the lightening of different cultures, and see them as complementary.

The fact is that a gathering of Burroughs' readers implied people who had common references and concepts, a common frame, which was a base of common agreement. The results of this mixed creativity at different levels happening spontaneously, without any imposed frame, are much beyond the expectations we might have had when we decided to create a group. It can be seen as a laboratory of experiment of Burroughs' and Gysin's domains of research in the physical world.

A part of it is on line in the catalogue of Interzone Creations, which I have updated at

(see Interzone : ten years after (3)

Izzy 15 years, 6 months ago

Interzone : ten years after (3)

You can read the accounts of activities which went on in Interzone during those 10 years in the monthly previous reports since September 97 in Information on Interzone

(Extract from Interzone report of July 2007

A big thanks to Bill Burroughs for his teachings, for his humanity and simplicity, and his beyond death collaboration !!!!!!!!!! Big love from the whole Zone to him and James Grauerholz !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Izzy, Interzone coordinator, France August 3rd 2007

Interzone Ring: The Western Lands: Interzone News and blogs: Interzone Academy: Interzone Library Reporters Redacteurs d'Interzone

pace 15 years, 6 months ago

One of the things I loved was William's friendship with George Kaul. William a thin intellectual writer, homosexual, genteel, guarded and kind, George a barrel chested artists, a man of steel, hetrosexual and kind, it was great to see the comradship between the two old men and the friendship inspired both men to create some great art. Both of course would have created art if they had never met. I was lucky enough to know them both. When one asked George what they talked about, he said "well I am deaf and he mutters so I have no idea" .

lazz 15 years, 6 months ago

I never had a chance to meet Mr. Burroughs, so I'm grateful to hear stories from so many of our mutual friends. The old man (fondly) helped create his corner of the crowded, bustling 20th century; love him or loathe him, at least he was in the game, and when he largely removed himself from the action, by moving to Lawrence for his final chapter, he remained a vibrant writer, artist, neighbor, friend, Lawrencian. I grew up here, but left for Florida for nine years. When I returned, the presence of Mr. Burroughs was one of the elements that made Lawrence an interesting place to be. That's 'nuff for me to be grateful for his presence and sorry for passing.

henningmark 15 years, 6 months ago

I guess it was probably around 92' that I first met William. Through unrelated circumstances, we were on the same record label, Tim Kerr out of Portland, Oregon. I recorded with Zoom and he and James had various projects. I knew James through the Lawrence music scene because he was such an essential part of why it was/is so fantastic.

At some point I was at out at Wayne Propst's for one of the infamous "Bowling-Ball Cannon" productions. William and I ended up sitting next to each other in lawn chairs right above the cannon. Somehow or another we ended up having a lengthy banter about reptiles, which he and I had a lifelong fascination with. Every once in a while there'd be a gigantic earthshaking BOOM! When they'd launch the cannon, the whole mound of earth we were sitting on bulged out a few inches. I remember seeing William in his lawn chair, getting tossed up a bit from the vibrations, then cheering on the spectacle with his cane. It was priceless. Shortly after that I think James suggested I hang out with William because we got along well.

Simultaneously I was also helping George Kaul out in his sculpture studio. I was friends with his granddaughter Arianna and he needed some assistance, as it was getting harder for him do some of the things he used to accomplish by himself. Since George and William were such great friends I used to try and get them together as much as possible -they were quite a pair. We used to organize target shooting at various farms around Lawrence including Fred's place, Steve Tubbart's and the Lotuspool Estate. It seemed like everyone had a farm back then. We did a lot of straight-forward shooting, but we also tried to mix it up a bit to make it more interesting. One time Rich Rodriguez, Jeremy Sidener and myself bought about a thousand pounds of wet earthenware clay and brought it out to shoot. It was a complete success! The clay expanded to various proportions depending on the gun/bullet used. William loved that one. We fired all of the pieces we did at the KU ceramics facility and there were several pieces floating around Lawrence. For some reason I never got one?? It was a vigorous time to be alive, especially with all the wonderful folks in William's circle like Al Levine, Jim & Sue McCrary, Jose Ferez, Wayne, David etc etc:

-continued in next post

henningmark 15 years, 6 months ago

memories continued...

I remember taking William out to a Hobo Convention once. He bought a train whistle and chatted it up with the hobo enthusiasts. Then there was the time Al and I took him up in the single engine airplane with an ebullient William in the cockpit surveying the Stan Herd crop art below.

William used to really dig the Castle Tea Room and the old woman who ran the show, they were about the same age. That was an exquisite place to have dinners. The dinners at William's house were always a family-affair ritual. It definitely helped keep me fed as a young broke musician.

I could go on and on, because I've so many great memories, but I'll leave it to other folks to share theirs. I think my favorite times with William were when I'd go visit him around 3 pm after I got off work at CLO, which was down the block from his bungalow. He'd usually be reading or writing in his room with the window open and the fresh Kansas breezes moving through the room. He'd either have a joint ready, or I would roll one. We'd just sit there and talk about whatever was interesting. I liked to try and to get him to crack up. He was and still is an enormously positive influence on my life.

ropadope 15 years, 6 months ago

I met William in 1991, or thereabouts, through James. Sorta frightening for a kid from rural Kansas. Pointless; he was a consummate gentleman.

There were dinners, meetings with musicians, other artists, even a video shoot for the band Ministry (I played Junkie Kid #2) that involved William blowing up Words with his shotgun. Amazing. The Flaming Lips even showed up at the farm that day, just because.

Though i was acquainted with William over the course of almost a decade, he always kept me at a polite distance. Always cordial, always present, but always distant. I think he saw me as just another of James' hustlers, not someone to get too invested in. It didn't matter to me then, and it couldn't matter less now.

My favorite William memory involved meeting my punk rock idol, Bob Mould (Husker Du), at William's house. I'd met a lot of people at that point (Bono, George Condo, Ringo Starr, Ice Cube, Flea, Wayne Coyne, Todd Rungren, Peter Christopherson, and on and on), but none of them really had me shaking in my Doc's like Mould.

At some point during the visit, William decided it was time to clean the fish pond behind his house. So, the old man grabbed up a long fishing net and began hurling wet, fallen leaves from the pond, as Mould, his new band mates, and i ran for cover. William was undeterred, hurling invectives as stiffly and as strongly as the leaves.

And, of course, William waving good-bye to his guests from his front porch. Always. Old-fashioned as could be. A consummate gentleman.

pace 15 years, 6 months ago

I use to go with William to Dillons on mass. a lot, once I was going to leave the cart just by the sidewalk, and he cried, "take the cart in, my god some car will hit it". After he died I was shopping and the girl behind the deli called out to me in a perfect Burroughs voice miming," hey where's your friend." I really loved to hear him recite some quotation or just tell a story, he was very good at both. He had a superb reading voice, what a drawl, what a growl. When we told jokes, he never left them alone, he would spin it in new and very funny ways over a couple of day. He exercised his mind and his imagination like an athelete would exercise his game. He also was a demanding friend, requiring real responses, real thought, challenging when one tried to "nice" yet he had absolutely elegant manners, an old fashioned gentleman. One of the things I think the street critics miss about him was he was involved with redemption, he had crosses, like many of us, made most of them himself, but worked through them with a blaring honesty and courage. When I talked about being afraid or not doing something because so and so didn't like me, he encouraged me to hold fast and go forward.

Patrick Quinn 15 years, 6 months ago

I met the Old Man when James was kind enough to set up an interview for a story about censorship I was writing for THE NOTE. I asked for 20 minutes, James consented and I showed up at the house armed w/ an array of questions of the sort that WSB had answered phaps 100 times before. As my allotted time expired and I packed up my notebook and recorder, I mentioned a recently released CD that featured on its cover a picture of Burroughs holding an unusual pistol. His eyes lit up. "You know guns?" he asked. From his bedroom he produced a box of handguns, including the gun in the photo--a Russian Markov, I think. We spent the next hour talking firearms, and I had a new pal. A couple of days later Jim McCrary passed along an invitation from WSB to drop by. I found Wm in the back yard, throwing knives at one of his "Man With A Hat" plywood silhouettes. He called me over, handed me the knives, offered a quick tutorial on the best throwing techniques and seemed delighted when I finally stuck one.

In those days I was struggling to establish myself as a writer, and the Old Man was a gracious mentor. In 1995 I sold a novel, and Wm was unfailingly generous in sharing his experiences of the vagaries of the lit-biz. The following year I landed a deal for a French edition. "What house?" Wm quickly asked. "Gallimard," I said. He beamed, leaned over and patted my knee. "They've always been vy good to me," he said. I will never forget that moment.

Phaps it was my overactive imagination, but I always felt that Joan was in the room w/ us. I believe that Wm was filled w/ remorse for killing his wife right up to the day he died. I never heard him say anything implying anything else, and when I read accounts suggesting otherwise, I wonder what tone he used, and how much he'd had to drink. In the years we were associated, he always spoke of Joan w/ great respect, and so did everyone around him. I heard no gibes, no flippant mockery--only sorrow.

Izzy 15 years, 6 months ago

Interzone : ten years after (1)

On August 2nd 2007 Interzone will be ten years old ! For people who joined later on, here are how things went on :

I heard about Burroughs' death on August 2nd 1997 on French TV in the evening news, at the end of the program. I had met him in the Bunker, in New York, in March 1981, and had kept in touch with him then, and with Victor Bockris, through the translation of his book "With William Burroughs - A Report on the Bunker" ("Avec Willim Burroughs - Notre Agent au Bunker", Collection l'Infini, Editions Denoûl, 1985) (see the article "The Time of the Naguals" about my meetings with Burroughs and Gysin, and related events).

I had a correspondance with Burroughs writing my book "Des systÃmes de ContrÃ'le", as I was studying their structure in vivo and analyzing it through the lightning of general semantics. Burroughs, who had folowed Korzybski's courses, was at the origin of the concept of control systems, on which Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze wrote about then. He had also written quite a lot about death, had studied the different maps of it through different cultures ("The Job", "Ah Pook is Here", "The Western Lands", ' My Education", etc.), and had drawn in his book a map of the territories.

When I heard about Burroughs death, I had the feeling that he was not dead at all, still alive, very alive, but free from the limitations of his physical body, and satisfied with his new conditions of life.

I sent a letter to the newspaper Liberation to propose them some original articles and interviews, but they answered they already had their 3 pages ready and were not interested.

I had got connected to the net two months before and was a newbie . I looked for web pages on Burroughs in search engines, and found a memorial, "the William Burroughs' files " in which readers were reacting to Burroughs' disappearance. The following night, I had a dream about me sending many mails, in company of a friendly adviser, and first did not see to which event this dream might refer to.

I wanted to get in touch with other Burroughs' readers who had experimented some of his inventions, as I had done from my side. I was making research since some years and was interested in confronting my results with the ones of other people. One evening, reading the comments of the day which had arrived in the Memorial, the idea came to me to get in touch with their authors.

(see Interzone : ten years after (2)

pace 15 years, 6 months ago

That was an exciting comment, going from his local impact, having some of the global impact drop by and say hi.

frankrynne 15 years, 6 months ago

Before Burroughs moved to Lawrence the only reason I knew of your town was an abiding interest in Jesse James who may have been a member of William Quantrill's force who burned the town on 23 Aug 1863.

Burroughs changed many lifes through his art and for myself that love of his writing also connected me with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, Moroccan Sufi trance masters that he loved. I have now worked for them for 16 years after organising a major Burroughs and Brion Gysin art show in Dublin, Ireland to which they came.

Cherish the last hero!!!!!!

frank rynne


oldexbeat 15 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, Patrick, that when we met at your bedroom in W Burroughs Communications' office in July, you didn't ask me about the tone, et al, from my article about shooting Joan. Had to be there, I guess.

You might enjoy new information about William in London during early 1970s: see: for new interview about that period.

Chuck 15 years, 3 months ago

Naked Tea, a chance meeting with WSB. Part 1.

I'd been nervous at that first meeting in Robert's flat. He had an aura about him, the Great Junky Queer Writer Of Naked Lunch. I'd been in awe. Let's be honest, I was scared stiff. I wanted to interview him I didn't want to turn into a Burrough's groupie. So who is this somber man in the suit and trilby who looks like a ghost of some uprooted mid-Western FBI agent lurking in the Men's at Piccadilly Station? I decide to find out.

My plan was simple. I'll waylay the bugger...catch him shopping in Fortnum and Mason's maybe and see if I can't talk him into a cup of tea. As long as I make it clear I'm not queer there should be no trouble. I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to write it...sort of gonzo perhaps, pre-dated Hunter Thompson stuff. I would take a few notes then I'll knock it into shape and see if Miles or somebody is interested. He's publishing a lot of Moorcock's stuff lately so it might work.

I'm lucky. After only a few minutes in the great British Grocery established in 1707 I spot the man himself in the Marmalade & Preserves section. He is examining a jar of Mexican jockstraps in jism.

'Hello Bill,' I say, 'remember me? We met at Robert's.' 'Oh,' he says, 'yes, So what do you want? Drugs?' 'Well I wouldn't mind a smoke. But nothing hard.' 'Let's go to the Tea Room then.' So we did. A place of tranquil pastel decor, starched tablecloths and overblown oil paintings (near-naked damsels being tastefully ravished), ivory ornaments and tired old rubber plants. It's late in the day so I suggest Earl Grey or perhaps a light Lapsang Louchong. Burroughs insists on Breakfast Blend. Neither of us dig scones and cream, clotted or otherwise thank you. I go for digestives but WSB orders a plate of Cornish Fairings. 'I normally prefer the Lancashire Flips,' he explains, 'but I was doing yage last night and they don't seem to mix well. So, what can I do for you? Want to suck my cock?'

Better be up front about it, 'Sorry Bill,' I say, 'I'm not one of those.' 'Hmm, no drugs. Not queer. Shit man, you're no fun.' But said in a kindly way, 'so what do you want? I can manufacture memories to order. Any kind you want.'

Well naturally I have a few questions I want to ask. About things like Kerouac, Tangiers, Ginsberg, and all the uh...manly togetherness, but I decide to cut straight to the scissor work.

'I suppose cut-ups freed you from the tyranny of things like grammar and syntax?' I ask.

'Now you're taking the piss. I hope this isn't going to be just another interview.' I hope so too.

I started to think about the way art causes things to happen how it jumps off the page, or spills out of its frames into subway grafitti, will it stop there or will it become a living thing? Will a basic disruption of reality occur? I want to avoid asking boring questions he must have heard a thousand times.

Chuck 15 years, 3 months ago

Naked Tea, Part 2.

The tea arrives. William is mother. So I ask a few questions and he seems happy to talk. So we talked about this and that, shooting his wife, heroine addiction, living in a male brothel in Tangiers, Gysin, Sommerville.There is something a little unreal about discussing ten foot centipedes, Mayan priests, Life Time Fortune Inc., cut-ups and Scientology while all around us ladies in twin-sets sip tea from fine china and talk in genteel tones about their grand children and their rose gardens. Interzone, the city of Tangiers, given magic and substance through the hypnotic use of language, and language itself. He had a lot to say about that. Bill went on about parasitic organisms attaching themselves to our nervous systems forcing us to make pointless conversation,...It's amazing really that anybody takes him seriously. But they do. He's a demi-god to some people. I'm still not committed but I won't be mentioning that in the actual review of course. Wouldn't be hip. Funny thing is I think I share his compulsion to communicate. I just don't see words as the major threat facing the planet. Nor apparently did the totally oblivious tea-sipping English ladies chatting delicately away to each other. Remarkably unconcerned I'd say with their rose wallpaper, sugar cubes, chocolate digestives, haemorrhoids:one lump or two?:. In the room the women continue to come and go, talking of Michelangelo.

'Women,' says Bill as if he knows what I'm thinking, 'a basic mistake God damn it. The whole dualistic universe evolved from the error. Look at them:excisors of telepathic sensitivity or so they think, osteopaths of the spirit, investigating infractions, charging unspeakable mutilations of the spirit:don't get me started:' The man is clearly mad but who am I to disagree? I'm getting an article out of it, '...yakking away about their operations...'

'Sounds like a job for Doctor Benway.' I suggest. 'Right.' 'I don't suppose any of these ladies have ever been out of junk in East Saint Louis?' 'No,' he smiles,' probably not.' A rapport of sorts has been established. 'What about Patti Smith then?' I venture.

Chuck 15 years, 3 months ago

Naked Tea. Part 3.

'Well Patti is an exception.' says Bill. 'Some women can be kind. Reminds me of when I was working the hole with J.G.Ballard. Good Old Jim. He's got it right you know but he's English. Can't do the George Raft stuff. He'd legalize marijuana most likely but I can't see him ever annulling the Oriental Exclusion Act.' What? Can we get some chronology here dammit.When is this thing being written?

Then he starts on about language. Words. How we are being used and abused by the Nova Mob and it's our own damn stupid fault. We let them get away with murder because we're so soft and compliant. He's right I suppose. But I detect a paradox. Using language to destroy language. Makes no sense. Has language died? Have all the books been written? I think not. As for wising up the marks well shocking the bourgeoisie was always the name of the game...still spite of the bourgeoisie having become unshockable. Just ask Johnny Rotten. Given the inclination I could even make a case for the shockers becoming bourgeois. Perhaps I will. But...

I'm just going to ask him about his preoccupation with boys in limestone caves spurting on Uranus...writing himself into a corner with the cut-ups...cats...immortality...but I don't get a chance because a strange thing is happening. The walls of the tea-room are dissolving to reveal a long shot of a village in Northern Thailand, thatched roofed houses on stilts, thin trails of wood-smoke in the morning mist...the crowing of roosters...

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