William Burroughs Conversation continues – 8 (Jack Kerouac)

Peter Orlovsky and Jack Kerouac squinting, probably late afternoon sunlight, William Burroughs with eyeglasses prone in olive-green Army surplus jacket, shoes on, watching, Moroccan boys interested, Tangier Port docks and custom house in background, where Peter & I’d landed on Yugoslavian freighter from New York carrying Naked Lunch letters’ manuscript, Jack was typing Bill’s Interzone mss., his On the Road just published. This about a week before Kerouac left for Paris, April 5, 1957. (Photo and caption: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries/ Allen Ginsberg Estate)

Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and William Burroughs at Naropa in 1985 continues from here.   Burroughs is given another question from the audience 

Q:  What about Jack Kerouac coming to Tangiers and Naked Lunch, the typing of  Naked Lunch?

WSB: What?

Q: The typing of the Naked Lunch manuscript by Jack Kerouac.

WSB: Well he didn’t, he didn’t do… Well, he did some,  not very much.

AG;  I think he started.  He did the typescript.

WSB: He started and he was a marvelous typist and he typed.. about ..well, I don’t know, forty or fifty pages, quite a bit, something like that subsequently went into the Chicago Review. I mean, the material that he typed..

AG: So let’s see, Kerouac came.. we’re talking about 1957 again, in Tangier.

WSB: In Tangier, yeah.

AG: Kerouac preceded myself and Orlovsky to Tangier to meet Bill with the intention that we all had, of working on the manuscript and I was bringing along all of the correspondence that Bill had sent me which had pieces of Naked Lunch in it. Bill had his own Word Hoard there. Was that Word Hoard you were working on then?

WSB: Well, no, well I had a lot of work, a lot of..

AG:  No, a piece called Word Hoard

WSB: Yeah, well that was sort of a later nomenclature, a later name that was assigned to it.

AG: Yeah. So what material did Jack begin with?

WSB:  I don’t recall, I think he started with the straight narrative sections.

AG Yeah

WSB: The ones that were the most accessible and publishable like the beginning, and the Vigilante chapter (Chapter 2), and– those sort of pieces.

AG: Yeah  You can see I think,.. in the show of photographs there (sic)  you’ll see a photograph of Burroughs, Kerouac and Peter on the beach at Tangier ‘57, just.. sort of at that time, several photos, probably.

AG: What kind of relationship did you have with Jack then?

WSB: Oh well.

AG: Because you were alone there for a while.

WSB: Yeah. Well, he was sort of paranoid about Tangier and Europe. He didn’t like anything outside of America really. He didn’t like it and he didn’t like the Arabs, and he thought the place was dirty, and you know. It was an American reaction.

AG: Did he try to get any Arab girls?

WSB: Yeah, I think he did as a matter of fact.

AG: Successfully?

WSB: ’I thinks so, but it wasn’t.. it didn’t work out very well (as I understood it).  I’m not quite sure, I have a vague memory.

GC:  There you go the two old queens talking about fucking again!  Here they go!

WSB:  Well.  We were just talking about Jack Kerouac.

GC: And he’s so curious, that one. (to WSB) I mean, you got the intonation from him, right?

AG (to WSB):  Yeah, I seem to recall, I seem to recall Jack telling me a story about you getting very drunk and maudlin and wanting to make it with him then.

WSB: Well, I don’t remember that. I don’t remember anything of that sort. I often don’t remember things, if I’ve been drinking too much..

GC:  Me too, I say that. “I don’t remember”..

WSB: ..mercifully!

AG: It was the one and only time…

WSB: …mercifully, I don’t..

AG: Like, he was kind of flattered – the one and only time.  Because there was something between you that was non-sexual (that always interested me), in a sense that it was a friendship that did not seem eroticized at all.

WSB: Well I should hope there would be something between somebody that is not eroticized, my dear, for godssakes!

AG: Yes. Well my own sort of affections were always so erotic that I was astounded when there was one that was not, but, in this case you were very close, and very friendly, and..

WSB: He became very ill there too.

AG: Well, what was that?

WSB: Well it was that poisonous hash. I think it was fed us by that evil old black man. Jim Wylie (sic) went quite crazy from it and both Jack and Jim Wylie were rectally bleeding from this awful shit. It had It looked.. It felt like it had a kind of a..

AG; This was kind of made into majoun or something? Smoking?

WSB: No no no,  it was smoking stuff but it looked sort of grey and metallic and I refused to touch it. Everyone that did touch it became quite ill. Jack and..  Jim Wylie went quite mad and had to be sent home, repatriated by the American consulate, went quite off his head, (and he later became a curator at the Whitney Museum or something). He was very relieved when I told him that he’d been chemically poisoned, you see,  He thought he was going crazy and I said, “Man, that wasn’t it, you were poisoned by this stuff. It has a kind of metal in it. The old guy was trying to kill us”.

Q: Allen, there’s a section in that book Lonesome Traveler (that we were reading last week) where Jack asks him (this is the way, in Jack, that it was written), Jack asks Bill, “Where do I find a woman?”, and Bill tells him there’s someone from San Francisco, who…”
WSB:  That was Jim Wylie, yeah.
Q: You directed him to Jim to find the girl, and then he commented on how these women were so religious and holy, you know, with their gowns and veils and…
WSB: Yeah, he was thinking how they were nuns. That’s the deal. It was absolutely his Catholic upbringing. I shouldn’t..  Jim Wylie must’ve been a very incompetent procurer, because he went just completely nuts, getting messages on the Arab radio and everything, God, it was terrible.

to be continued    

[The audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-one- and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-seven minutes in]

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