William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in conversation 1991 – 3 (Dreams – 1)

The May 27 1991 Ginsberg-Burroughs conversation continues

WSB: But I’m finding it hard to get started on anything in the way of a novel. What I’ve done, I wrote a.. I was taking unusual dreams (and) made a whole dream book, but also with a lot of interpretations, a lot of comments, essays, little short stories that I’ve just intermixed with it – little short spurts like that. It’s about.. well, about two hundred pages [My Education – A Book of Dreams]

AG: Oh, it’s quite a big thing

WSB: Oh yes.. Some of the dreams.. I don’t have.. lots of dreams, commonplace dreams.    My dreams of The Land of the Dead are quite extraordinary. Always I’m looking for breakfast and can’t find it..

AG: Breakfast?

WSB:  That’s how I know I’m in The Land of the Dead. You can’t get a breakfast in The Land of the Dead!

AG: (laughs) That’s very funny!

WSB: Then I look around..

AG: Yeah.

WSB: …and I see, there’s Kiki  over there, and Brion (Gysin) over there, and Ian Sommerville over here. Where am I?

AG: Do you get to see Joan (Burroughs) at all?

WSB: ..and all the accommodations in The Land of the Dead, they’re precarious. You better hang on to your seat. There’s no such thing as a private room.

AG: Yeah  well, I’ve always had that problem of my apartment in The Land of the Dead.

WSB: Yes.

AG: You know, going there, (and) finding that it’s somebody else’s grave there – or, I’ve still got the key and it’s there, and the room is intact, and it hasn’t been touched, and it’s perfectly habitable, no problem at all – what a relief! – or, there’s somebody living there already that’s taken my place – or, the house is decayed and the room is a mess – or, other people are living there but, I’m welcome – or, completely other people are living there and they don’t know anything about me – or, my rent has been paid all along and everything is in order.

WSB: It’s old, old are the apartments in The Land of the Dead…

AG: Uh huh

WSB: .. but dirty..dirty, sloppy..

AG: You know mine are sometimes, sometimes in good shape.

WSB: Dirty and sloppy and precarious. I can never be sure of finding my room, finding my way back to my room. 

Allen Ginsberg, with his father, Louis Ginsberg (1895-1976)

AG: You know my father told me a dream which later I realized was The Land of the Dead was.. he was teaching in Newark.

WSB: Was what?

AG: He was teaching in Newark, New Jersey, at the… in the… he had evening courses as a teacher, (after he retired from high school, he taught in the college, at Rutgers, I think, Rutgers north extension), so he drove in. Then, in his dreams, he would come out of school and all the lights would be out, in the suburbs, or in Newark. The street-lights were no longer on. There was nobody in the street. It was completely dead silent and he couldn’t find his car to get home. And he didn’t quite know where the street suburb was.

But there was a phone-booth.

WSB: There was a what?

AG: A phone-booth.

WSB: Oh, telephone.

AG: He couldn’t find his car so he’s going to call home or get connected back. So he went in the phone booth. And it was all mouldy.

WSB: What?

AG: It was all mouldy. The phone had not been used, it was full of mould, and he just.. he had one last quarter, or dime, and he puts the dime in, and it clicks and goes dead! – doesn’t work. Then he wakes up. He had this as a recurred dream the last few years before he died.

WSB: Very interesting. A very common thing  (sometimes a nightmare), is, I start turning on lights, none of them will work.

AG Aha! yes, that’s a familiar one.

WSB:  Well, I do a certain number and then I realize I’m dreaming (I say, there might be a light out here but there couldn’t be all the lights out).

AG: When you realize you’re dreaming, what happens then in the dream? do you wake?

WSB:  Well, I often wake up.  But I have some really unbelievable dreams in this collection which were so.. so completely real, and such a completely different reality, that it was quite as convincing.

to be continued…

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twelve-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately eighteen-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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