Burroughs’ Birthday

William Burroughs’ birthday today

Here’s a guest-posting from our good friend and Burroughs aficianado, Oliver Harris

“How does Burroughs manage to stay so young? After all, he’s 104 and has been dead for over 20 years, and yet he still seems to have more life in him than most so-called living writers. Is it because he was always more than a writer? I’m thinking of a remark he made to Paul Carroll in June 1959, the same week that Maurice Girodias asked him for a manuscript of Naked Lunch and so launched his “career”; that he was carrying out “research of which writing could only be a byproduct.” That’s why there will always be scare quotes around the word “career” to describe Burroughs’ trajectory through writing, photography, painting, photomontage, tapes, scrapbooks, and other experimental activities that didn’t always produce “products.” And no, I don’t want to hear about selling his soul to advertise Nike; you might as well say his cut-up methods or shooting up heroin were product placements for scissors and syringes: I’m not interested to hear about it at all… Now, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by one of my subsidiary personalities? Ah yes: Burroughs lives on, striving, seeking, finding and not yielding, boats against the current on firefly evenings with Ferris wheels and the smell of burning leaves and a Paris pissoir with bits and pieces of Tennyson and Fitzgerald flickering in and out of old sepia pictures and yeggmen and fishboys on Jean Genet roller skates and the Subliminal Kid on the Nova Lark listening to East St. Louis Toodle-Oo all wired up from an old Burroughs Arithmometer crossed with an E-Meter an Orgone Accumulator a Geiger counter and the explosive kit from a 1923 A.C. Gilbert Chemistry Set somehow ceaselessly borne into the future which leaks out everywhere and… are you listening B.J? Will Hollywood Never Learn? It’s all around us, backing up like radioactive waste with minutes to go and the towers opening fire, from the melting ice caps to the reality show where a purple-assed baboon shits on the floor of the Oval Office and wipes his ass with the stars and stinking stripes taken from a 1953 script for “Roosevelt After Inauguration,” to well, just look around, baby, “It’s all there in Nova Express, word for stupid ugly word…” That’s why Burroughs is always young for his age, because he’s a hair of the dog, a tonic for toxic times that makes you stronger if it doesn’t kill you, and you can keep on taking him apart and just rebuild him to your taste, good for young and old, man and bestial, and when I die, Mr Burroughs, why I want to be buried right in the same coffin with you…”


  1. This is brilliant. A first, for me – to hit that note just right. Burroughs left us enough off the page to have more like this. When?

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