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Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Sunday 16 December Patrick Smith offers some tips on how to fill your diary. Thanks for the Mescaline: Oh hai, fun times. Alastair Sooke's review 5. Read more from Telegraph Men. More from the web. He realized that in the Moroccan culture he had found an environment that synchronized with his temperament and afforded no hindrances to pursuing his interests and indulging in his chosen activities. He left for Tangier in November and spent the next four years there working on the fiction that would later become Naked Lunch , as well as attempting to write commercial articles about Tangier.
He sent these writings to Ginsberg, his literary agent for Junkie , but none was published until when Interzone , a collection of short stories, was published. Under the strong influence of a marijuana confection known as majoun and a German-made opioid called Eukodol , Burroughs settled in to write. Eventually, Ginsberg and Kerouac, who had traveled to Tangier in , helped Burroughs type, edit, and arrange these episodes into Naked Lunch. Whereas Junkie and Queer were conventional in style, Naked Lunch was his first venture into a nonlinear style.
After the publication of Naked Lunch , a book whose creation was to a certain extent the result of a series of contingencies, Burroughs was exposed to Brion Gysin 's cut-up technique at the Beat Hotel in Paris in October He began slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences. Scenes were slid together with little care for narrative. Perhaps thinking of his crazed physician, Dr. Benway, he described Naked Lunch as a book that could be cut into at any point.
Although not considered science fiction , the book does seem to forecast AIDS , liposuction , and the crack pandemic.
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Excerpts from Naked Lunch were first published in the United States in The novel was initially rejected by City Lights Books, the publisher of Ginsberg's Howl ; and Olympia Press publisher Maurice Girodias , who had published English-language novels in France that were controversial for their subjective views of sex and antisocial characters.
Irving Rosenthal , student editor of Chicago Review , a quarterly journal partially subsidized by the university, promised to publish more excerpts from Naked Lunch , but he was fired from his position in after Chicago Daily News columnist Jack Mabley called the first excerpt obscene. Rosenthal went on to publish more in his newly created literary journal Big Table No. John Ciardi did get a copy and wrote a positive review of the work, prompting a telegram from Allen Ginsberg praising the review. After the novel was published, it slowly became notorious across Europe and the United States, garnering interest from not just members of the counterculture of the s , but also literary critics such as Mary McCarthy.
Once published in the United States, Naked Lunch was prosecuted as obscene by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, followed by other states. In , the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared the work "not obscene" on the basis of criteria developed largely to defend the book. The case against Burroughs' novel still stands as the last obscenity trial against a work of literature—that is, a work consisting of words only, and not including illustrations or photographs—prosecuted in the United States.
These novels feature extensive use of the cut-up technique that influenced all of Burroughs' subsequent fiction to a degree. During Burroughs' friendship and artistic collaborations with Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville , the technique was combined with images, Gysin's paintings, and sound, via Somerville's tape recorders. The cut-up method, because of its random or mechanical basis for text generation, combined with the possibilities of mixing in text written by other writers, deemphasizes the traditional role of the writer as creator or originator of a string of words, while simultaneously exalting the importance of the writer's sensibility as an editor.
In this sense, the cut-up method may be considered as analogous to the collage method in the visual arts. New restored editions of The Nova Trilogy or Cut-Up Trilogy , edited by Oliver Harris President of the European Beat Studies Network and published in , included notes and materials to reveal the care with which Burroughs used his methods and the complex histories of his manuscripts. Burroughs moved into a rundown hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris in when Naked Lunch was still looking for a publisher.
Tangier , with its political unrest, and criminals with whom he had become involved, became dangerous to Burroughs. He left behind a criminal charge which eventually caught up with him in Paris. Paul Lund, a British former career criminal and cigarette smuggler whom Burroughs met in Tangier, was arrested on suspicion of importing narcotics into France. Lund gave up Burroughs, and evidence implicated Burroughs in the importation of narcotics into France. When the Moroccan authorities forwarded their investigation to French officials, Burroughs faced criminal charges in Paris for conspiracy to import opiates.
It was during this impending case that Maurice Girodias published Naked Lunch ; its appearance helped to get Burroughs a suspended sentence, since a literary career, according to Ted Morgan, is a respected profession in France. The " Beat Hotel " was a typical European-style boarding house hotel, with common toilets on every floor, and a small place for personal cooking in the room. Life there was documented by the photographer Harold Chapman , who lived in the attic room.
This shabby, inexpensive hotel was populated by Gregory Corso , Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky for several months after Naked Lunch first appeared. Burroughs' time at the Beat Hotel was dominated by occult experiments — " mirror-gazing , scrying , trance and telepathy , all fuelled by a wide variety of mind-altering drugs". The actual process by which Naked Lunch was published was partly a function of its "cut-up" presentation to the printer.
Girodias had given Burroughs only ten days to prepare the manuscript for print galleys, and Burroughs sent over the manuscript in pieces, preparing the parts in no particular order. When it was published in this authentically random manner, Burroughs liked it better than the initial plan. During this time Burroughs found an outlet for material otherwise rendered unpublishable in Jeff Nuttall 's My Own Mag. Burroughs left Paris for London in to visit Dr. Dent, a well-known English medical doctor who spearheaded a reputedly painless heroin withdrawal treatment using the drug apomorphine.
Burroughs however was convinced. Following his first cure, he wrote a detailed appreciation of apomorphine and other cures, which he submitted to The British Journal of Addiction Vol. Though he ultimately relapsed, Burroughs ended up working out of London for six years, traveling back to the United States on several occasions, including one time escorting his son to the Lexington Narcotics Farm and Prison after the younger Burroughs had been convicted of prescription fraud in Florida.
In the "Afterword" to the compilation of his son's two previously published novels Speed and Kentucky Ham , Burroughs writes that he thought he had a "small habit" and left London quickly without any narcotics because he suspected the U. He claims he went through the most excruciating two months of opiate withdrawal while seeing his son through his trial and sentencing, traveling with Billy to Lexington, Kentucky from Miami to ensure that his son entered the hospital that he had once spent time in as a volunteer admission.
Louis, Missouri, taking a large advance from Playboy to write an article about his trip back to St. Louis, one that was eventually published in The Paris Review , after Burroughs refused to alter the style for Playboy' s publishers. Southern and Burroughs, who had first become acquainted in London, would remain lifelong friends and collaborators. In , Burroughs and Southern unsuccessfully attempted to adapt Naked Lunch for the screen in conjunction with American game-show producer Chuck Barris. Burroughs supported himself and his addiction by publishing pieces in small literary presses.
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His avant-garde reputation grew internationally as hippies and college students discovered his earlier works. He developed a close friendship with Antony Balch and lived with a young hustler named John Brady who continuously brought home young women despite Burroughs' protestations. In the midst of this personal turmoil, Burroughs managed to complete two works: It was during his time in London that Burroughs began using his " playback " technique in an attempt to place curses on various people and places who had drawn his ire, including the Moka coffee bar   and the London HQ of Scientology.
Reason for operation was outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisonous cheesecake. Now to close in on the Moka Bar. Let them see me. They are seething around in there Playback would come later with more pictures Playback was carried out a number of times with more pictures.
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Their business fell off. They kept shorter and shorter hours. October 30, , the Moka Bar closed. The location was taken over by the Queen's Snack Bar. In the s, Burroughs joined and then left the Church of Scientology. In talking about the experience, he claimed that the techniques and philosophy of Scientology helped him and that he felt that further study of Scientology would produce great results. In , concerned about his friend's well-being, Allen Ginsberg gained for Burroughs a contract to teach creative writing at the City College of New York.
Burroughs successfully withdrew from heroin use and moved to New York. The building fell within New York City rent control policies that made it extremely cheap; it was only about four hundred dollars a month until when the rent control rules changed, doubling the rent overnight. You were giving out all this energy and nothing was coming back. Grauerholz suggested the idea of reading tours. Grauerholz had managed several rock bands in Kansas and took the lead in booking for Burroughs reading tours that would help support him throughout the next two decades.
It raised his public profile, eventually aiding in his obtaining new publishing contracts. Through Grauerholz, Burroughs became a monthly columnist for the noted popular culture magazine Crawdaddy , for which he interviewed Led Zeppelin 's Jimmy Page in Burroughs decided to relocate back to the United States permanently in Financed by a reclusive acquaintance of Burroughs, the project lost traction after financial problems and creative disagreements between Hopper and Burroughs.
Burroughs senior had not seen his son for over a year and was alarmed at his appearance when Billy arrived at Ginsberg's apartment. Although Billy had successfully published two short novels in the s, and was deemed by literary critics like Ann Charters as a bona fide "second generation beat writer",  his brief marriage to a teenage waitress had disintegrated.
Billy was a constant drinker, and there were long periods when he was out of contact with any of his family or friends. The diagnosis was liver cirrhosis so complete that the only treatment was a rarely performed liver transplant operation. Fortunately, the University of Colorado Medical Center was one of two places in the nation that performed transplants under the pioneering work of Dr. Billy underwent the procedure and beat the thirty-percent survival odds. His father spent time in and in Colorado, helping Billy through additional surgeries and complications. Ted Morgan's biography asserts that their relationship was not spontaneous and lacked real warmth or intimacy.
Allen Ginsberg was supportive to both Burroughs and his son throughout the long period of recovery. Grauerholz helped edit Cities when it was first rejected by Burroughs' long-time editor Dick Seaver at Holt Rinehart, after it was deemed too disjointed. The novel was written as a straight narrative and then chopped up into a more random pattern, leaving the reader to sort through the characters and events. This technique differed from the author's earlier cut-up methods, which were accidental from the start. Nevertheless, the novel was reassembled and published, still without a straight linear form, but with fewer breaks in the story.
The trilogy featured time-travel adventures in which Burroughs' narrators rewrote episodes from history to reform mankind. Novelist and critic Anthony Burgess panned the work in Saturday Review , saying Burroughs was boring readers with repetitive episodes of pederast fantasy and sexual strangulation that lacked any comprehensible world view or theology ; other reviewers, like J.
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Ballard , argued that Burroughs was shaping a new literary "mythography". In , Billy Burroughs died in Florida. He had cut off contact with his father several years before, even publishing an article in Esquire magazine claiming his father had poisoned his life and revealing that he had been molested as a fourteen-year-old by one of his father's friends while visiting Tangier.
The liver transplant had not cured his urge to drink, and Billy suffered from serious health complications years after the operation.
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After he had stopped taking his transplant rejection drugs , his body was found near the side of a Florida highway by a stranger. He died shortly afterward. Burroughs, by , was once again addicted to heroin. The cheap heroin that was easily purchased outside his door on the Lower East Side "made its way" into his veins, coupled with "gifts" from the overzealous if well-intentioned admirers who frequently visited the Bunker. Although Burroughs would have episodes of being free from heroin, from this point until his death he was regularly addicted to the drug.
He died in on a methadone maintenance program. In an introduction to Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs , James Grauerholz who managed Burroughs' reading tours in the s and s mentions that part of his job was to deal with the "underworld" in each city to secure the author's needed drugs.
Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas in , taking up residence at Learnard Avenue where he would spend the rest of his life. He once told a Wichita Eagle reporter that he was content to live in Kansas, saying, "The thing I like about Kansas is that it's not nearly as violent, and it's a helluva lot cheaper. And I can get out in the country and fish and shoot and whatnot. This deal included the publication rights to the unpublished novel Queer.
He attended the induction ceremony in May Lawrence Ferlinghetti remarked the induction of Burroughs into the Academy proved Herbert Marcuse 's point that capitalistic society had a great ability to incorporate its one-time outsiders. By this point, Burroughs was a counterculture icon.
In his final years, he cultivated an entourage of young friends who replaced his aging contemporaries. He inspired s proto-punk rock band Doctors of Madness. A collaboration with musicians Nick Cave and Tom Waits resulted in a collection of short prose, Smack My Crack , later released as a spoken word album in In , with Burroughs' approval, director David Cronenberg adapted Naked Lunch into a feature film, which opened to critical acclaim. During , Burroughs developed a painting technique whereby he created abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans some distance in front of blank surfaces, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shotgun.
These splattered and shot panels and canvasses were first exhibited in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York City in By this time he had developed a comprehensive visual art practice, using ink, spray paint, collage and unusual things such as mushrooms and plungers to apply the paint. He created file-folder paintings featuring these mediums as well as "automatic calligraphy" inspired by Brion Gysin.
He originally used the folders to mix pigments before observing that they could be viewed as art in themselves. He also used many of these painted folders to store manuscripts and correspondence in his personal archive  Until his last years, he prolifically created visual art. So he decides to shoot up heroin and he takes out this utility belt full of syringes. Huge, old-fashioned ones from the '50s or something. Now, I have no idea how an 80 year old guy finds a vein, but he knew what he was doing. So we're all laying around high and stuff and then I notice in the pile of mail on the coffee table that there's a letter from the White House.
I said 'Hey, this looks important. I said 'Wow, do you have any idea how big this is!? He didn't even know who our current president was. In , Burroughs was honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In June , Burroughs underwent triple bypass surgery. He became a member of a chaos magic organization, the Illuminates of Thanateros , in The only newspaper columnist Burroughs admired was the right-wing opinion shaper for the William Randolph Hearst newspaper chain, Westbrook Pegler.
According to his biographer Ted Morgan, his philosophy for living one's life was to adhere to a laissez-faire path, one without encumbrances—in essence a credo shared with the capitalist business world. In he enrolled in Mexico City College under the GI Bill , which paid for his tuition and books and provided him with a seventy-five-dollar-per-month stipend. He maintained, "I always say, keep your snout in the public trough.
Burroughs had a longstanding preoccupation with magic and the occult , dating from his earliest childhood, and was insistent throughout his life that we live in a "magical universe". In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.
The dogma of science is that the will cannot possibly affect external forces, and I think that's just ridiculous. It's as bad as the church. My viewpoint is the exact contrary of the scientific viewpoint. I believe that if you run into somebody in the street it's for a reason.
Among primitive people they say that if someone was bitten by a snake he was murdered. Since the word "magic" tends to cause confused thinking, I would like to say exactly what I mean by "magic" and the magical interpretation of so-called reality. The underlying assumption of magic is the assertion of "will" as the primary moving force in this universe - the deep conviction that nothing happens unless somebody or some being wills it to happen.
To me this has always seemed self evident From the viewpoint of magic, no death, no illness, no misfortune, accident, war or riot is accidental. There are no accidents in the world of magic. This was no idle passing interest — Burroughs also actively practiced magic in his everyday life: Biographer Ted Morgan has argued that: The same impulse that led him to put out curses was, as he saw it, the source of his writing To Burroughs behind everyday reality there was the reality of the spirit world, of psychic visitations, of curses, of possession and phantom beings.
Burroughs was unwavering in his insistence that his writing itself had a magical purpose. Burroughs was adamant that the technique had a magical function, stating "the cut ups are not for artistic purposes". I would say that my most interesting experience with the earlier techniques was the realization that when you make cut-ups you do not get simply random juxtapositions of words, that they do mean something, and often that these meanings refer to some future event. I've made many cut-ups and then later recognized that the cut-up referred to something that I read later in a newspaper or a book, or something that happened Perhaps events are pre-written and pre-recorded and when you cut word lines the future leaks out.
In the final decade of his life, Burroughs became heavily involved in the chaos magic movement. Burrough's magical techniques — the cut-up, playback , etc. Our longtime friend, Douglas Grant, was a prime mover. Burroughs died August 2, in Lawrence, Kansas from complications of a heart attack he had suffered the previous day. Louis, Missouri,  with a marker bearing his full name and the epitaph "American Writer".
Since , several posthumous collections of Burroughs' work have been published. A few months after his death, a collection of writings spanning his entire career, Word Virus , was published according to the book's introduction, Burroughs himself approved its contents prior to his death.