Outgrowing the Interzone

If you've lived in Lawrence any time at all, you've probably figured out that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who wants to talk about William S. Burroughs-and why he'd think you were the shit for swinging a dead cat in the first place. Most of what's said about the Old Man is praise: "Burroughs made Lawrence safe for freaks," or "OMG, 'Naked Lunch' changed my life," or "Burroughs is the patron saint of Lawrence's culture," and so on. Consider this a counterpoint. I loathe Burroughs-the persona, the cult hero, the idea that a misogynistic, wife-killing junkie pederast is held up in such reverence. This innate revulsion toward junkie-worship has its roots in my life as a very young and stupid girl-I held up people like Burroughs and Ginsberg and H.S. Thompson as my personal heroes. These folks were the "artists" I wanted to emulate, and I used that as an excuse to do horrible things that left indelible scars on not just my psyche, but also on those of innocent bystanders. Like my heroes, I started to believe that you can only arrive at Truth when you're high. This notion seems to pervade "art" of all kinds for the past century or so. Barring the annoyingly strident Straight-Edgers, nobody seems to push the idea that the sober and peaceful soul can create anything with real meaning. It sucks, so hard, that many kids who are talented and driven in their own non-altered state will continue to grow up with the idea that the only way you can make a lasting contribution to Literature or Art is to completely destroy your own life and humanity in the process. That poisonous lie is the sum total of what Burroughs accomplished-that's the only lesson his life teaches to those who are too young or naive to read the despair and pointlessness between the lines of his supposedly deathless prose and legacy. As much as we'd like to laud him as someone who was there, man, who got persecuted and busted and lived in poverty and exile, the "authenticity" of his experiences is suspect. Burroughs-rich white boy who never had to work a day in his overly long, overly lauded life. He lived off his family's money, blew it on drugs and prostitutes, and then got worshipped for it. He was charged with everything from drug-smuggling to homicide and slid away from the consequences lubed up with his family's money. And there was always more money in the bank to fund another trip to Tangiers where he could shoot high-grade false logic into his arm and buy any depraved act that happened to catch his whimsy at the moment. Indulging your appetites for those who are too young, naÃive, or enslaved to give consent is just sick. To me, it's hard to believe the Cult of Burroughs persists. But that's all my opinion. I genuinely want to hear yours-the first person to intelligently debate my attack on the Old Man's life will get my copy of "Naked Lunch," signed by me!

Comments

Jill Ensley 12 years, 3 months ago

THANK you. If you're gonna shoot off your pie-hole, at least give the appearance of intelligence. And it's not just grammar and spelling, but the ability to form a coherent sentence.

And you missed "pederist".

p.s. Jason and DOTDOT + collective consciousness = hilarity

pace 12 years, 3 months ago

Well you got me fair and square on typing and spelling. I did like that one line about "poisonous lie". I guess repeating the word disabuse was pretty hilarious. It is a fussy type of word. I think you are right to hate him for leading you "to do horrible things that left indelible scars on not just my psyche, but also on those of innocent bystanders." I read him different, got a different message. I valued the honesty and wicked humor. I saw a voyage where someone emerged from a ship wreck and sailed on. One of my favorite interviews was where someone asked him if he had any regrets, He got a shocked look on his face and said. yeah.

So the book offer was a joke too?

OtherJoel 12 years, 3 months ago

On the topic of drugs and art, I think for many, mind-altering substances can be a catalyst for great art; but not a direct cause. Put another way, they may awaken something that was always there, or strip away the inhibitions that keep someone from openly expressing one's self. That said, I do not think that is the only route that one may take. But it is probably the easiest.

And there are plenty of talentless hacks who take drugs and think that "makes" them great artists.

On Burroughs -- not being a longtime resident of the area, I recall finding his writing interesting (it's been a long time), but that's about it. And many creators of good/great art were horrible people. I'm not excusing it; but it won't stop me from enjoying what they've produced.

Chris Tackett 12 years, 3 months ago

and to riff off OtherJoel's last point a bit, for me, part of what makes Burroughs and HST's writing interesting (or at least moreso) is that they /were/ eff'd up while writing it. It's the same reason I enjoy certain music, knowing it was written and recorded while the artist was out of their mind on this or that. It isn't that I worship drug users, it's that I'm impressed by what they've accomplished while using.

If someone runs a marathon, that's a feat worthy of respect. If they run and finish it with a head full of acid, well, that's a bit more impressive, no? :)

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

Yay, actual discussion!! On a blog, no less! Color me happy.

Carry on. I'd participate, but I've a head full of morphine sulfate right now.

April Fleming 12 years, 3 months ago

I don't know how much that Thompson, Burroughs or Kerouac had to make drugs appealing - they were guys with fresh voices that chose that path, and the attraction of modern teenagers to destruction would likely have come pretty easily on its own without them. Or it would have just come from someone else like Dennis Hopper (or any mid-century counterculture icon. Or many).

More than anything I think people are stoked to share a town with someone of note, and having Burroughs around to some is sexy. However, most of the time I hear more about Paul Rudd or even the kid from Home Improvement spending time here.

feeble 12 years, 3 months ago

Barring the annoyingly strident Straight-Edgers, nobody seems to push the idea that the sober and peaceful soul can create anything with real meaning.

You should check out Fukushima Keido Roshi if/when he returns to KU.

http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/past.shtml#zen

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

No news is good news. Good news is no news. Corollary being my totally unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable claim that there are libraries full of great literature written by people known for great talent beyond debauchery. Galleries overflow with works of incredible depth crafted by artists with clear eyes. Most musicians are highly disciplined tradesman. The celebration of the fuck-up inherent in our culture is the place where William S. Burroughs meets Paris Hilton.

Nothing there for anyone to be proud of.

Joel 12 years, 3 months ago

"'I've a head full of morphine sulfate right now."

Well, I THOUGHT this blog was extra creative and interesting! That explains it!

(I'm kidding!)

Dominic_Sova 12 years, 3 months ago

I'd be interested to hear Grauerholz's opinion on your blog. Personally I don't have any strong feelings about Burroughs, though your allegations are fair.

April Fleming 12 years, 3 months ago

While I agree the accomplishments of sober artists are unsung, it seems just as dismissive to me to say that the tales of the debauched aren't worth ANYthing, right? People are just interested in conflict and destruction and their effects. I don't remember reading Fear and Loathing and finding what Thompson was doing appealing...

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

You're right, April, it is unjust to dismiss art because it was created while screwy in the head.

And I'm certainly not saying that I never would have done drugs if I hadn't been influenced by my Beat heroes.

I just get sick of hearing people go on and on about how fucking brilliant someone is when the person going on and on knows little to nothing about them besides a few chapters of morphinated stream-of-consciousness they read in a coffeehouse to look cool and a handful of fantastic rumors.

Thetom has an excellent point, in that media of all sorts will always celebritize the perenially fucked-up.

Maybe I should be grateful that I grew up with Burroughs and Kerouac as my role models instead of Paris and Lindsay. I mean, hey, I would have caught that case of the clap either way . . .

livingkate 12 years, 3 months ago

My favorite was hearing all the "hip" kids gloating about being at a Burroughs/Grauerholtz party, and how it was the most outrageous time of their lives, etc. It is definitely a status symbol for people in Lawrence to attach themselves to.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

Kate---and here my lame ass is, bragging about the time I actually talked to Tom King on his private line. Well, okay, that's just barely below the time I sold a bag to Leon Sphinx, and barely above the time Steve Negron signed my boobies at a 3 Dog Night show. It's all about priorites, I guess ;)

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

feeble----thanks much for the link and the heads-up. Looks like fantastic stuff.

lazz 12 years, 3 months ago

At the risk of having my Amateur Psychologist Home Kit revoked, I would suspect that WSB would more or less agree, to one degree or another, with your analysis and perspective, Misty. I'd guess that he surely carried on interior monologues along the same lines, and that might have driven him to try to create both literature and art, and to clean up his act in his life's final chapter (abandoning London and New York for the squire's life in Lawrence). I never met the man, but I know many who were very close to him in his Lawrence years, and they all use the same to describe him: Gentleman. Which counts for something. Seems not illogical, either, to guess that such shortcomings as you describe here might have driven him to run from those truths by living a hard life of drugs and wandering. Most addicts are running from something, using the drugs or booze or whatever else to escape from somethng they know to be true ... and, i'm not entirely sure WSB and his fellow junky/alcoholic writers can be entirely blamed for glamorizing it. WSB did what he did and he was honest about it - that's a writer's duty. It was our overly self-aware, angsty pop-literature culture that created the cult of WSB celebrity and glamorized the seedier aspects of his incredibly complex life.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, scenebooster, you must be new. I don't blame anyone but myself for the shit I pulled, and haven't for a while now. I'm being an overly-broad, hyperbolic blogger here. What, you think this shit is real journalism?? Hell, no! It's entertaining folk running off at the mouth---like a bar, only BYOB and no carding. Dammit, I loves me some Internets!!!

lazz---excellent point. I don't blame the people around whom fuckup cults evolve so much as the morons who worship them (myself included, at one time or another) and the society that produces the morons, and she swallowed the cat to catch the rat that. . .oh, sorry.

pace 12 years, 3 months ago

I wonder at you looking for someone to blame for your actions. It is ironic that you choose William. I don't know where you got the idea that William was impoverished. I had heard of Burroughs Adding machines before I heard of William. You said "As much as we'd like to laud him as someone who was there, man, who got persecuted and busted and lived in poverty and exile, the "authenticity" of his experiences is suspect"

While there was never the wealth rumored,and there was never a trust fund. The burroughs family sold their interest before the company became a national concern. A little like the colnel did with KFC, money but not wealth. Anyone who thought any of these guys, William, Allen, Jack were impoverished, hey they met at college and William graduated from Harvard. I am sure he was broke at times. I also know he had jobs and worked. To blame William for your treatment of others is the most telling part of your arguement. You might believe that William protrayed himself as impoverished, but he didn't. You might believe he never had to have a job, but he did. People sometimes believe because someones family has money their jobs don't count as real jobs, and their work isn't real work but that is incorrect. He had a lot of gifts and a lot of faults. There is the cult and myths abound and you are right to question the worship of the myth or a man. Celebrity is an odd creature with it's seperate life but even if you believed William was impoverished and never worked a little home work should of disabused you of those assumptions.

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

Broadcasting collective consciousness vibration for the word disabused.

Jason 12 years, 3 months ago

Collective Consciousness

...Accessing.....

.....

...Vibration recieved...

Content-type="word"

Value="disabused"

...Broadcasting...

To access this function you must enter a valid Username and Password. If you do not have an account please refer to your user's manual for instructions on obtaining one

Username:_

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

Pace:

Fair enough. Rightly or wrongly, there is so much celebrity on the radar these days that its easier than ever to forget (malintent or no) that there are people behind the press. Shrug off the celebrity, shrug off the person. Hell, I do it all the time. I'll let my point stand regarding the place where William S. Burroughs meets Paris Hilton if it is understood to mean the celebrity (mythology) of each.

Pardon me now, while I go disabuse myself.

pace 12 years, 3 months ago

message recieved. I guess what I was saying was I thought one of Misty's complaints was that William didn't live up to the myths. My complaint is that the myths often didn't have that much to do with William. I found him to be one of the most creative and unusual people I have met or read. A gifted writer, incisive intellect, keen observationist and unique friend. I don't think that an artist, writer or most people should have their work reviewed based only on personality or state of inebreation. I have found straight edgers worthy of reading and rereading, I have found them exciting. Of course the popular view right now is to look at the celebrity, see if the person deserves the celebrity and then dis or laud the celebrity. It makes for cheap press coverage. Less hazardous than investigating gun cartels in South America. I think that William dealt with his celebrity pretty well. tolerated it a part of the job, didn't let it get in the way of a good conversation, and apoligized sweetly to friends when it knocked on their door.

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

"...If you do not have an account please refer to your user's manual for instructions on obtaining one**"

So long as I don't have to contact the goddamn network administrator.

Jason 12 years, 3 months ago

I imagine the network administrator to the collective consciousness would be a bit like the wwwyzzerdd.com of the Internet from Aqua Teen Hunger Force...

<p>www.yzzerdd.com in case you're curious, though be warned, there are more popup ads than you can shake a misogynistic, wife-killing junkie pederast at. Funny ones, as it's the point, but still...

pace 12 years, 3 months ago

"fhe first person to intelligently debate my attack on the Old Man's life will get my copy of "Naked Lunch," signed by me!"

Can i get it without your signiture? Do you need an address or will you drop it off? By the way, it is usually acknowledge he wasn't a perderist. he was gay though, knew pederists, hell knew a lot of straight people.

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

Not mentioning punctuation or capitalization, just the spelling errors may disabuse the debate of "intelligence". I usually hate the grammar/spelling police on here, but come on, man.

colnel arguement apoligized signiture

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 12 years, 3 months ago

Oh, hell. See, I wrote this like I write my usual blogs, for an audience that has read my work during the 3+ years I've been writing on this site. I blame one person for my actions---me. But at the same time, I have to acknowledge the influences that formed the fucked-up worldview I approached my life with when I was young and stupid, and express my concern that the majority of subculture types are also influenced by the same "type" of anti-hero. This wasn't an attack on Burroughs as a person, but more of an attack on a society that elevates the articulate fuck-up to idol status.

No, pace, the book offer was no joke. I'll concede your win of the contest, because you did bring up some excellent points. You can pick up the book at the Journal-World offices anytime next week. I'd offer to deliver it in person, but my personal schedule of toddler-chasing and trying to find a single g-damned doctor in this entire screwed-up state who will cut my ovary out is taking up too much of my time to allow for it.

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

So I did. Twice. Goes to show.

perderist pederists

DOTDOT 12 years, 3 months ago

Jilla,

Are you OK? Even your reproach has developed a ring that is, I don't know, kinder. Dare I say gentler?

pace 12 years, 3 months ago

I cede you a gentle jab, and wish you the best.

pivo 12 years, 1 month ago

Yeesh. That's some ugly shit.

I knew Burroughs, and what I remember was his kindness. I remember how respectful he was to any person he met, and how unobtrusively he lived. He was the opposite number of those assholes who are rude to service industry folk. I also remember his honesty, with himself and the world at large. His was an articulate voice of basic human decency. If you read any of even his smallest works of the last 20 years of his life, I think you would've moderated this essay quite a bit.

I mean, dead cats? Man, and I thought I was low.

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