More Burroughs books – We featured Fever Spores – The Queer Reclamation of William S Burroughs last week – this week, a brief note on Oliver Harris‘ new edition of Alan Ansen on Burroughs – A Burroughs Triptych
“When William Burroughs mailed Alan Ansen a copy of Naked Lunch on its publication in 1959, he dedicated it to “one of the few who understood Naked Lunch before I did”, testifying to the unique role Ansen played from the start of Burroughs’s career as collaborator, promoter, critic, friend and author of three essays written across three decades. A Burroughs Triptych pieces together for the first time the backstory to Ansen’s three essays which were previously edited into a composite volume in 1986, in order to do justice to the special part Ansen played in making the Burroughs legend”
“The Beats’ images have been commodified into the marketplace of copyrights. This book subverts that system. It re-presents the slices of life taken from these writers and reinserts them into the impassioned and bloody circumstances of their origin.”
“Overpainted Beats”, he explains, “reprints a series of well-known photographs of Jack Kerouac along with several of William Burroughs, and a couple of Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Bob Dylan, and Herbert Huncke... Inderle has tinted most of the photographs blue, which gives them a cool and distant look, and, alarmingly, has brushed or splashed over the prints with red paint. The red paint contrasts violently with the cool blue distance. At first glance, the red paint seems an act of vandalism, a deliberate corruption of the integrity of the photograph…This is just one of the ways the book unsettles the viewer and dislocates the photographs. The result is a freshly disturbing experience in viewing photos we’ve grown familiar with.”
“The book has no page numbers. There’s no text on the pages to explain the photos. No captions give the location or event. Dissociated from their historical and biographical contexts, the photos don’t illustrate an identifiable moment in the life of the subject. They simply appear.
In Overpainted Beats, Enderle is not publishing the images to illustrate a text. His book has no text. Nor are the photos chronologically arranged to present a narrative of literary history.
The effect on the viewer who leafs through this book is one of moving through timeless space and latching onto unidentified instants, moments, flashes of a camera bulb that immobilize a subject in a sculpted pose.”
Arthur S Nusbaum‘s Jack Kerouac Meets William S Burroughs On The Road, a new chapbook from Kevin Ring’s Beat Scene, a limited edition, has just appeared. For more details on that and other titles – see here
An extraordinary essay appeared earlier this month in Beatdom, Kirby Olson‘s “Ginsberg – Seattle, Communism, Regret”, the thrust of it a tracing of Allen’s “remorse about his politics”, political disillusion – “No hope Communism, No Hope Capitalism” – Olson grounds it in the early poem, “Afternoon Seattle”
Eliot Katz (author of The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg) writes: ” For Kirby to assert that Allen Ginsberg had ever abandoned his leftist, or progressive, political views (if that’s what’s asserting) is unfair, silly, and just plain wrong, as is his assertion that Allen abandoned his belief in coalition-building for the arena of politics. One of the problems here is that (he, Olson) offers a false dichotomy between exploitative capitalism and authoritarian forms of communism – both of which Allen understandably criticized – and does not recognize the existence of other, more democratic leftist ideas, including democratic socialism… Furthermore (his) piece seems to be based on the mistaken assumption that one cannot see oneself on the political left if one is willing to criticize some excesses and mistakes of the left..”
“Just because Allen criticized Soviet-style anti-democratic and repressive communism in a poem like “Capitol Air”…and just because he was occasionally in poems self-reflective enough, (sometimes with a sense of humor that Olson ignores), to ask questions about whether he may have ever contributed to the violence from small parts of the U.S. student left..does not mean….that (he) was criticizing and abandoning the entire idea of a democratic left…”
Katz speaks of an “ideological flexibility” in Allen’s political philosophy
More on this debate anon.
Debbie Harry turns 77 today
Here’s a picture of Debbie Harry with (our “feature” this week) William Burroughs