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!