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Antinomian Chic

Danny Karlin, 2 June 1988

Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists 
edited by Brian Wallis.
New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York/MIT Press, 431 pp., £13.50, January 1988, 9780262231282
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Empire of the Senseless 
by Kathy Acker.
Picador, 227 pp., £10.95, May 1988, 0 330 30192 6
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The Western Lands 
by William Burroughs.
Picador, 258 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 330 29805 4
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... Kathy Acker, wild and woolly avatar of William Burroughs, is also one of the Blasted Allegorists, contemporary American artists whose self-important and talent-free doodles about Life, the Universe and Everything are hyped by Brian Wallis in his Introduction, a piece of writing conceivably worse than the pieces it introduces: For the writers in this book, these critical forms, such as interviews, monologues, jokes, dream narratives and parables, oppose the imposed narrative structure, the unquestioned hierarchy of characters, and the easy closure of much conventional – or even modernist – literature ...

He K-norcked Her One

August Kleinzahler: Burroughs and Kerouac’s Novel, 28 May 2009

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks 
by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
Penguin, 214 pp., £20, November 2008, 978 1 84614 164 5
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... evil and intelligent buncha bastards and shits in America’. The group included Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr and David Kammerer. In August 1944, Carr stabbed and killed Kammerer. Near the end of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a lightly fictionalised and surprisingly engaging account of the murder and of the months leading ...

Junk Mail

Jeremy Harding, 23 September 1993

The Letters of William Burroughs, 1949-1959 
edited by Oliver Harris.
Picador, 472 pp., £17.50, August 1993, 0 330 33074 8
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... If a certain stoicism was required to get through William Burroughs’s disgusting novel, Naked Lunch, there are fewer problems with his mail. Indeed, the only danger is over-indulgence, for this stuff slides easily off the end of the fork. The letters here were written between 1945 and 1959. They begin with Burroughs at his family home in St Louis, from which he moves smartly through a series of addresses in the US ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... not right either. I can’t call to mind anything less ‘in favour of’ drugs or homosexuals. Burroughs was being honest about his own opium addiction, which he saw as dependence and subjection, and thus as one of the representative horrors of civilisation. But neither was it an effective ‘protest’ novel. The mayhem he depicted, whether caused by cops ...

Knights of the Road

Tom Clark: The Beat generation, 6 July 2000

This is the Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris 
by James Campbell.
Vintage, 320 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 09 928269 0
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... had originated nearly two decades earlier, Ginsberg confided, in an auditory hallucination of William Blake intoning ‘Ah, Sunflower’ to him ‘like God had a human voice’. James Campbell, who introduces a note of irony into his reworking of twice-told Beat tales, refers to Ginsberg’s historic undergraduate illumination as ...

Johnsons

John Sutherland, 7 June 1984

The Place of Dead Roads 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 306 pp., £9.95, April 1984, 0 7145 4030 7
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Angels 
by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 209 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2777 5
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Moll Cutpurse: Her True History 
by Ellen Galford.
Stramullion, 221 pp., £4.50, May 1984, 0 907343 03 1
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... Burroughs’s latest book arrives with the simultaneous news of Alexander Trocchi’s death. For one who used heroin for its literary stimulus, Trocchi did well to last to 59. Burroughs, whose substance abuse has been even more notorious, is now 70. A Grand Old Junky. An aroma of Establishment dignity now attaches to him ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... per cent, the bulk of The Iron Whim concerns itself with the likes of Paul Auster, Bram Stoker, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard and Hunter S. Thompson: in other words, men. He says more than once that he’s less interested in typewriters as machines (once upon a time the word ...

Consider the Lemur

Katherine Rundell, 5 July 2018

... like a baby monkey, but on her back, like a miniature Lester Piggott. She had wide yellow eyes. William Burroughs, in his lemur-centric eco-surrealist novella Ghost of Chance, described the eyes of a lemur as ‘changing colour with shifts of the light: obsidian, emerald, ruby, opal, amethyst, diamond’. The stare of this indri resembled that of a ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation, 7 September 2016

... Allen Ginsberg’s star now shines more brightly than the rest. True, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs glowed on in the aftermath of On the Road (1957) and Naked Lunch (1959); Brion Gysin, inventor of the cut-up technique, is still visible on a clear night. But the beautiful Lucien Carr, an Alain Delon lookalike drawn into the Beat circle by ...

Dependencies

Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... mother was the great-granddaughter, not granddaughter of the Victorian physician Richard Bright; William Burroughs did not have access to ‘vast family wealth’. Callard does not appear to know that when Kavan fictionalised her second husband as ‘Oblomov’ she was referring to Goncharov’s terminally lazy hero. He is inconsistent about Kavan’s ...

At the Jeu de Paume

Brian Dillon: Peter Hujar, 9 December 2019

... sitters can resemble figures by Nadar or Julia Margaret Cameron. Some of them were famous – William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, John Giorno – or soon to be: Hujar recorded successive generations of downtown scenesters, including Gary Indiana, Fran Lebowitz and Cookie Mueller. Even if he had been only a portraitist, Hujar’s work would be an ...

Adventures at the End of Time

Angela Carter, 7 March 1991

Downriver 
by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... The decisive influence on this grisly dystopia is surely the grand master of all dystopias, William Burroughs. Jack Kerouac, asked for a quote for the jacket of The Naked Lunch, said it was an endless novel that would drive everybody mad. High praise. Downriver is like that, too. It is mostly about the East End. This reviewer is a South ...

Predatory Sex Aliens

Gary Indiana: Burroughs, 7 May 2014

Call Me BurroughsA Life 
by Barry Miles.
Twelve, 718 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 1 4555 1195 2
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... Depending​ where you look, the William Burroughs centenary has either occasioned an outpouring of variously celebratory and carping prose, or a trickle of grudging acknowledgment in outlets thought to speak for the literary establishment. Writing on anything of passing public interest triggers an online avalanche of ad hominem posturing which quickly renders the original topic, whatever it was, numbingly opaque ...

Ackerville

Gary Indiana: Nymphomania, antic incest and metaphysical torment, 14 December 2006

Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker 
edited by Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman and Avital Ronell.
Verso, 120 pp., £10.99, May 2006, 9781844670666
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... she was supported by writers and artists including Joseph Kosuth, Keith Sonnier, Sol LeWitt, William Wegman and Leandro Katz (who, with Ted Castle, produced Acker’s first ‘real’ books). She was, for a time, known only as the Black Tarantula; her work was fresh and defiant, and blended perfectly with the cultural mix of 1970s New York. The ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... Literature Sausage. When Phillips stumbled across Mallock’s novel, he had just read an interview William Burroughs gave to the Paris Review in 1965, and had been experimenting with cutting up copies of the Spectator. Phillips later visited Burroughs: ‘I had a very tough day with him,’ he recalled in 2011. ‘Very ...

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