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Concerning Naked Lunch: Part 2 - Nausea and Irony

By Egil Skallagrimson in Culture
Tue May 31, 2005 at 03:19:33 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)
Books

 This is the second in a series of essays about the book Naked Lunch, designed to introduce the book properly to new readers. Generally, people hear about the life of William Burroughs before they read any of his work. The goal of these essays is to point out the more important aspects of the work, rather than the man.

This essay will deal with the use of irony and satire in Burroughs' work, and the way he uses them to highlight the hypocrisy of his time.


If there is one element that is always present in Naked Lunch it is irony. In place of a linear storyline, Burroughs opted to use irony as the one consistent ingredient, quite at odds with the world of the 1950s (think Eisenhower and a positive, can-do spirit), if not also at odds with the present world.

There are no heroes in Naked Lunch. But, then, there are no real villains, either. There are certainly characters that could be seen as villains, but the question of polar morality in Naked Lunch is a lost cause, since no one is guiltless, and everyone has already been incriminated in some way or another. To be truly accurate, one could only say that Naked Lunch has 'guilty' and 'guiltier' characters. The protagonists are just as mired as the antagonists, and it leaves only a moral vacuum where real life is left as an answer to dealing with the issues raised by an always present, but invisible author.

Burroughs didn't see himself as someone who could afford to take sides in his work. Interviews after the writing of Naked Lunch record him as saying that he thought of himself as a kind of ghost on the sidelines watching his characters, some of whom he hated, some of whom he liked and some of whom he respected. He was only there to record, so the world of good vs. evil is more or less thrown out in favor of a world wrapped in ironic portrayals of authority and conventional thinking, both subjects that he was obsessed with changing (sometimes, literally attacking) throughout his career as a writer. He becomes 'El Hombre Invisible' again (the name given to him by street kids in Mexico), even referring to himself by this name in the text. He is a silent presence, observing on the contextual sidelines of his own work.

Burroughs' satire can be vicious, at times. His grotesque images are designed to create allegories/parables for the real world designed to strip away the lies of what he believes to be a calculated, constructed world of images to reveal the naked person underneath. It is something akin to that old saying that we are all naked underneath our clothes. At times, it appears his duty is to strip away not just clothes, but skin and bone as well, if need be. The ones calculating the images are doing it for their own nefarious benefit, so it is Burroughs' duty to retaliate with the only weapon they respect, fear and know: words. His writing is a glimpse at a private war against corrupt forces at work around us and Burroughs is not anything if he is not relentlessly militant in his approach to writing.

However, the ironic only works because what the novel espouses is not what the author wants to see. As Wayne Booth noted about Naked Lunch in his book, 'A Rhetoric of Irony', "...the irony is limited still by a genuine revulsion, which means a genuine regret that life is so awful. If nothing really mattered, nothing portrayed in words could nauseate me, and what is more, I would not try to nauseate others with a picture of how things are." (RI, 211) Booth points out that the whole purpose of irony in Burroughs' work is to point to problems and issues that 'nauseate', in Booth's words. Burroughs wants to highlight problems through situations that are obviously undesirable. Most of the undesirable situations for him fall under an umbrella of religious conservatism and hypocrisy. It appears that his best weapon was satire and irony as tools to expose lies in the figures he despised, even going so far as to include himself, at times.

One of the better methods he utilizes to accentuate the absurd situations that conventional thinking and conservative religious values lead to is through grotesque satires that border on surrealism. Burroughs will often take a normal, almost scripted situation normal to life (such as a visit to a doctor, or an interview with a prospective employer), and then find a way to turn it on itself. Take one of his most famous images for example, the story of the man who teaches his rectum to talk. The man is delighted, at first, to find that he has a special talent, only to find that the talking fundament takes over. The over-active rectum decides it doesn't need the body's original mouth anymore, since it can eat and defecate on its own, all through one convenient orifice.

"Benway: Why not one all-purpose blob? Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

This ass had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and feels sort of cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose. Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly thick, stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called 'The Better 'Ole' that was a scream, I tell you...

After a while the ass started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out that it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: "It's you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don't need you around here anymore. I can talk and eat and shit."

After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole's tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body...So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous...except for the eyes, you dig. That's one thing the asshole couldn't do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn't give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab's eye on the end of a stalk. (NL, 110-112)

The image is humorous, as are many of Burroughs' images, but it also speaks to the reality of people's lies. The man is a vaudeville performer (an almost prophetic image of inherent subservience on its own) whose odd talent takes over and becomes the driving force in their strange relationship. This could easily describe the problem of any number of modern entertainers and politicians: the thing they try to mold and force to their own purposes takes over and ends up devouring them. They have no control over their creation, as they are only part of a greater whole, despite what they feel themselves to be. When his rectum becomes both his mouth and voice, leaving the brain to function on its own behind dead, insect eyes, the man's transformation is complete, leaving only a mindless automaton of a creature. The idea of being the victim of a greater power unleashed on the world is applicable in both the world of the early 20th century, when wars raged (Burroughs' generation), and in our world of ever-growing paranoia and control.

It is hard to decide whether or not this image is a figure of Burroughs himself. This is the most subversive element in this image, as the performer could as easily be Burroughs as any other performer. Inherent in his inability to trust authority, Burroughs must include his own advice in the net of lies that the reader should be wary of. As what could be a failed experiment of Benway, the unethical scientist and doctor, or simply one of his observed studies, the satirical image of the talking rectum could also be Burroughs as someone in thrall to those in the medical field, as he was often at the mercy of doctors to help him get cured from his addictions. Or, if we are to replace pharmacists with doctor as people in medical authority, he was often dependent on them to maintain his drug addictions. Either way, Burroughs as the victim of his own talking rectum is a possible location for the image in the author's (Burroughs) mind.

And, yet, beyond all of this, the image is plainly funny. It is the perfect grotesque image because it combines satirical humor and prophetic message, much in the tradition of Swift or Rabelais. Creating and utilizing the scatological image, like this one, is where Burroughs seems to feel most comfortable. He uses it over and over throughout Naked Lunch. Keeping in mind his conservative, Protestant-derived culture, it is definitely the most delicate area possible to joke about. This makes sense as Burroughs was often quoted as saying he deplored his severely bourgeois upbringing in St. Louis, with all of its false modesty and silly decorum.

The irony is central to the image, though. Without a clear message inherent to the construct, there would be nothing of note here, but because it is so easy to pick apart the image and derive the various possible targets for ridicule and judgment, and because the idea of a part of one's own body taking over the body as a whole is both so funny and so horrific that it becomes ridiculous, the image satisfies both elements of Burroughs' central purpose. His constant assault on mindlessly conservative values such as this image attacks is the ultimate goal of this novel. While it is also possible that he is poking fun at himself, the image still works as a tool for catharsis, allowing petty grievances over confusing value-systems to slip away in a wash of humor. Though catharsis seems to take a back-seat to much of Burroughs' intent, it is typical of Western ideology to produce an morally deplorable iconic figure which allows the audience to be both disgusted and nauseated at it, and even take out their anger on it, without doing harm to one another.

The introduction of Dr. Benway as an image of authority, and in his case specifically, medical authority, is an important part of Naked Lunch. Dr. Benway is one of Burroughs' more memorable characters, and one his funniest. A recurring character in later novels of Burroughs', he seems to be behind many elaborate schemes. Benway is absent-minded, careless, a drug addict (like most characters in Naked Lunch) and a master-schemer, endlessly thinking of ways to manipulate and coerce people. Above all, he is confident and arrogant, fitting the archetype of the typical 1950's doctor, a medical God who has power over the bodies and dignity of an entire hospital under his control. Though this is no longer the case in the medical field, this was certainly the message that doctors were told to deliver in the time that Burroughs was writing. Because he trained for a year as a pre-med student in Prague during the 1930's, Burroughs draws on personal experience in this particular creation. As part of his nebulously assigned mission, Lee is requested to get help from Dr. Benway to complete his goal.

So I am assigned to engage the services of Dr. Benway for Islam Inc.

Dr. Benway had been called in as advisor to the Freeland Republic, a place given over to free love and continual bathing. The citizens are well adjusted, cooperative, honest, tolerant and above all clean. But the invoking of Benway indicates all is not well behind the façade: Benway is a manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing and control...

I reach Freeland, which is clean and dull my God. Benway is directing the R.C., Reconditioning Center...

"C'mon," says Benway, "I'll show you around the R.C."

"God damned matriarchy. All matriarchies anti-homo-sexual, conformist and prosaic. Find yourself in a matriarchy walk don't run to the nearest frontier. If you run, some frustrate latent queer cop will likely shoot you. So somebody wants to establish a beach head of homogeneity in a shambles of potentials like West Europe and U.S.A.? Another fucking matriarchy, Margaret Mead not withstanding...

"Spot of bother there. Scalpel fight with a colleague in the operating room. And my baboon assistant leaped on the patient and tore him to pieces. Baboons always attack the weakest party in an altercation. Quite right too. We must never forget our glorious simian heritage. Doc Brubeck was a party inna second part. A retired abortionist and junk pusher (he was a veterinarian, actually) recalled to service during the manpower shortage. Well Doc had been in the hospital kitchen all morning goosing the nurses and tanking up on coal gas and Klim - and just before the operation he sneaked a double shot of nutmeg to nerve himself up."

"I had a yagé hangover, me, and in no condition to take any of Brubeck's shit. First thing he comes on with I should start the incision from the back instead of the front, muttering some garbled nonsense about being sue to cut out the gall bladder it would fuck up the meat. Thought he was on the farm cleaning a chicken. I told him to go put his head back in the oven, whereupon he had the effrontery to push my hand, severing the patient's femoral artery. Blood spurted up and blinded the anesthetist, who ran through the halls screaming. Brubeck tried to knee me in the groin, and I managed to hamstring him with my scalpel. He crawled about the floor stabbing at my feet and legs. Violet, that's my baboon assistant - only woman I ever cared a damn about - really wigged. I climbed up on the table and poise myself to jump on Brubeck with both feet and stomp him when the cops rush in."

(NL 19, 25-26)

The ridiculous fight in the operating room between the assisting doctor and the baboon nurse and Benway is one of Burroughs' most acute uses of satire, hinting at the reality behind the fake décor of hospital professionalism. It takes a serious and austere situation and turns it on its ear. The irony of taking the baboon assistant seriously pokes fun at the way power is used by those who wield it, given that Benway has the ability to maintain that kind of a staff if he so chooses. Benway is Burroughs' strongest example of control and power gone awry. He crafts the character as someone that believes himself to be an expert, while constantly showing himself to be incompetent. Yet, he holds all the power, and in this case, power over the bodies of those in the Reconditioning Center (an ominous title in and of itself, hinting at the use of power to do with the weak what it will). People still listen to him and respect him as figure to be honored, even though it is clear that he is useless, and they know it. Burroughs' sets up a situation where the help of Dr. Benway is required to carry out his mission (though what the mission is exactly, and whether it was assigned to him by someone else or himself is unclear) though it is immediately obvious that Dr. Benway is of no help. In fact, as the head of the R.C., he may very well be working against Lee, in this pulp-fiction world of spies and intrigue. Nonetheless, Benway is a clear indictment of authority figures, for which Burroughs seems to have no end of animosity.

The mixed jumble of assignments and spying are another part of the ironic fabric of Naked Lunch. The `assignments' come from out of nowhere and they seem to evaporate just as quickly into the background. This is why it is unclear whether they are actually part of the dreams of a sick junkie, or the mission of someone who is too addicted to stay focused on the task at hand. Either way, they set a tone of intrigue against a backdrop of satire that Naked Lunch maintains throughout. The confusion is part of the plot, and it is required to reinforce the sense of paranoia and loneliness that Burroughs infuses into all his novels.

The setting of the pulp novel is also important to Burroughs. We see the pulp novel setting in at various points and it is used in a number of ways. Sometimes it is a Western (a mode of story-telling he adopts for a trilogy later in his career), sometimes a Crime novel or a Horror novel. Always, though, it is ironic and meant to point away from the text to something outside of it: generally a realization of how much in life is constructed rather than lived in reality. Much of the action and description in Naked Lunch takes place only in the consciousness of Lee. A good case could be made for the idea that nothing happens at all in Naked Lunch; that the entire novel is merely a drug-addicts dreams and illusions, with real life people taking the place of characters. But, the pulp novel often sets the stage for the description. While Burroughs uses many types of rhetoric throughout the novel, all them in a somewhat ironic posture, the pulp novel is the most consistent.

Though Burroughs claimed in interviews to never read very many books, most interviewers over the nearly 30 years he was writing usually noted the various books he kept in his immediate vicinity. They were often a mixture of traditional literature such as Joseph Conrad, a major on Burroughs, and the pulp novels of the genre variety he continually used as inspiration for writing his own books. He loved Science Fiction and Crime novels all his life, so Naked Lunch is rich with the language of pulp novels. For example, the characters of O'Brien and Hauser, two cops in the Narcotics Squad of an ambiguous city's Police Department (probably Interzone, but it is not stated) reappear from time to time.

Hauser and O'Brien. They had been on the City Narcotic Squad for 20 years. Old-timers like me. I had been on the junk for 16 years. They weren't bad as laws go. At least O'Brien wasn't. O'Brien was the con man, and Hauser the tough guy. A vaudeville team. Hauser had a way of hitting you before he said anything, just to break the ice. Then O'Brien gives you an Old Gold - just like a cop to smoke Old Golds somehow - and starts putting down a cop con that was really bottled in bond. Not a bad guy, and I didn't want to do it. But it was my only chance.

I was just tying up for my morning shot when they walked in with a passkey. It was a special kind you can use when the door is locked from the inside with a key in the lock. On the table in front of me was a packet of junk, spike, syringe - I got the habit of using a regular syringe in Mexico and never went back to using a dropper - alcohol, cotton and a glass of water.

"Well, well," says O'Brien..."Long time no see eh?"

"Put on your coat, Lee," says Hauser. He had his gun out. He always has it out when he makes a pinch for the psychological effect and to forestall a rush for toilet, sink or window.

"Can I take a bang first, boys?" I asked..."There's plenty here for evidence..." (NL 175-176)

As if it were right out of a Raymond Carver or a Mickey Spillane paperback, Burroughs creates a short episode that echoes the situation he introduces in the opening pages of the novel. It is the junkie running from the law, outwitting them as he seems to always do, despite the fact that he feels some kind of affinity for them, at least in this moment. They are not evil necessarily, just doing their job, as he is. They are as much a victim of a confused system as the junkie is, so the only question that remains is whether or not they will capture him. The rest is up to the wit and desperation of Lee, it seems.

The irony of a situation that neither party is able to escape from is shown here with the language of a Crime novel, whose well-established rhetorical lines form a situation with only two possible outcomes: either the junkie dies or cops die. Perhaps Burroughs is hinting at the futility of such situations in real life, and the way that many things are almost set plots due to the prejudices of Western culture. Burroughs often remarked in interviews that the introduction of an authoritarian presence into a situation would inevitably cause a negative outcome, where there wasn't one before. The scripted reality of the events in the Hauser and O'Brien episode are a good illustration of this idea. The familiarity of cliché rhetorical methods such as the ones usually found in genre fiction are used by Burroughs to reverse the purpose of the archetype that we expect from a crime novel, and the language is used to present a comic scene in which the 'bad guy' wins.

If we are to think back to Booth's comments about 'nausea', this time in a literary sense, Burroughs is using the format of pulp novels as a method to speak in the language of a genre that is both familiar, but not taken seriously, to demonstrate that both the genre and the characters are indicative of a control center that must be avoided. The language of a crime novel finds familiar territory in the addition of two narcotics officers trying to bust a sick, but desperate junkie. The only untypical thing that happens is that the junkie makes his escape after killing the two seemingly able cops.

Burroughs was often strongly criticized for the pornographic sections of Naked Lunch, and especially for the homosexual scenes, which make up the majority of all the sex scenes. They were a shock to audiences when he wrote the book and they are generally shocking now. Some have called them nothing but perverted fantasies written only to amuse Burroughs' himself, but they definitely have a purpose beyond the scope of titillation, though that may be part of it. At the center of the sexual imagery, which is also violent and even distasteful, is Burroughs' constant purpose in Naked Lunch: control mechanisms. Much like the Marquis de Sade's portrayals of eroticism, sexual imagery in Burroughs is both flamboyant and grotesque to the point of offending the reader, but it is decidedly un-erotic.

There is an early scene in the book that involves a Mugwump, a non-human creature (or, at least, it is not human anymore) that is the actualized epitome of the drug and control addict. In it, during a party at the famous Hassan's Rumpus Room, he makes a violent sexual spectacle of having intercourse with and then killing a boy by hanging him. Hanging is Burroughs' favorite sexual/violent image as it demonstrates the physiological fact that males immediately have orgasms when they are hanged. Burroughs uses the situation over and over again, usually in situations where another is forcing the bizarre sexual/violent ritual.

The Mugwump slips the noose over the boy's head and tightens the knot caressingly behind the left ear. The boy's penis is retracted, his balls tight. He looks straight ahead breathing deeply. The Mugwump sidles around the boy goosing him and caressing his genitals in hieroglyphs of mockery. He moves in behind the boy with a series of bumps and shoves his cock up the boy's ass. He stands there moving in circular gyrations.

The guests shush each other, nudge and giggle.

Suddenly the Mugwump pushes the boy forward into space, free of his cock. He steadies the boy with hands on the hip bones, reaches up with his stylized hieroglyph hands and snaps the boy's neck. A shudder passes through the boy's body. His penis rises in three great surges pulling his pelvis up, ejaculates immediately.

The imagery is designed to both shock and unseat the reader, as an alien being takes total control and all dignity from a young boy. There is no disputing that Burroughs may well have found these images attractive and arousing, but the point goes beyond that to demonstrating the grotesque sensibility that can stomach atrocities such as public murders. Remember, Burroughs lived in Tangiers at the time, where public executions were not unheard of by the Islamic government of the time. Burroughs takes the idea even farther by adding the sexual element, which is often present in Western depictions of violence, and then makes it ironic by staging the scene in front of an audience. The Mugwump is an artist, drawing attention to his art-form - in this case sex and murder - as a kind of statement, though within the context of the story, the only statement available seems to be total depravity. It also highlights the total control over the boy that Mugwump has, a perfect example of Burroughs' concept of sex as a control device. The theme of control through sex echoes throughout Burroughs' work, and he sees this kind of act as a nightmare world of rape and, as he calls it, death through the Last Erection. After this scene, the party goes wild and mass orgies begin taking place.

Yet, none of this is explicitly condoned within the context of what Burroughs is setting up. He is an outsider looking in, and even if it a kind of fantasy for him as a writer, it is also a grotesque fantasy. As he does with all his characters, he is merely the observer, El Hombre Invisible, in this case, merely watching from the sidelines as things fall apart. Given that sex was a very complicated and confused subject for Burroughs, I would argue that he is both turned on and repulsed by the descriptions he gives in Hassan's Rumpus Room and later in A.J.'s annual Party. Both contain explicit sexual depictions of grotesque demonstrations of violent sexual activity presented before a depraved audience of characters designed to be seen as perverts. However, they are also free, so the image confounds itself, creating a disconnect between clear morality and the typically ambiguous morality of Naked Lunch.

Nonetheless, the sexual scenes in Naked Lunch are generally what most people remember, and often receive the most vicious criticism from those who dispute the value of the book. One has to wonder whether Burroughs summation of the uneasiness people of the time had with any conversation about sex is much different in our day. Certainly, people are more inclined to talk about sex in a pragmatic way, but reactions to Burroughs' work even in our day seems to be divided at times between the nausea Booth refers to, though not in an ironic context, and discomfort. Perhaps this is not a negative situation, since the images are clearly designed to evoke an uncomfortable feeling among readers, leaving them with a clear image of a depraved way of thinking. Typical of Burroughs, though, is the subversive element of leaving in the reader's mind a question as to what is, in fact, the more depraved image: bizarre sexual behavior, or the mass confusion of people from an authority that does not care.

Burroughs' overall purpose in creating this world of manic images and often violent humor is to make the reader laugh and to preach a straightforward message of confusion. (Given that Burroughs' grandfather was a circuit preacher for the Methodist church, one sometimes detects a religious-like stance in his writing.) His message is that nothing is as simple, pure or easy as it has been presented to you. Anything that seems to be simple and pure is probably a lie. Whether or not this is true is dependent on the reader. Much of Burroughs' conclusions are derived from his own jaded life, it seems, but nonetheless his book foreshadowed many events that took place in the years just after he wrote it. The war in Vietnam, the lies of Watergate, even the rumors that Kennedy had been shot and killed in a conspiracy all seemed to ring true to the prophetic sounding message he delivered in 1959.

A few years after the publishing of Naked Lunch, Burroughs' ironic view of the world also seemed to come to light in the Deconstructionist philosophies of the post-WWII French literary critics and philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes. Taken from early 20th century ontological philosophers such as Husserl and Heidegger, their main message was that whatever was being said to the reader could probably be dismantled into its separate parts and be shown to be false. Often, they said, the very words used to prove one thing could easily prove that very thing wrong. Words and ideas were considered to be transitory in meaning and not the fixed moorings of knowledge that earlier philosophers had tried to make them. Not everything was/is so easily, magically created from a simple combination of words and phrases owned by an intelligentsia that shuts out the less informed. Though he did not know it, in his later cut-ups and the jangled writing style of Naked Lunch, Burroughs was a perfect demonstration of many of the ideas espoused by the Deconstructionists, though there is basically no way Burroughs would have known about them until much later in his career, when their work became more popular in North America and England. Also, Burroughs seems to have been almost entirely ignorant and uninterested in Literary Criticism, though its growing popularity is almost synchronous with Burroughs' career.

Texts used in this essay:

Booth, Wayne C. A Rhetoric of Irony, University of Chicago Press. Chicago: 1974.

Burroughs, William S. Naked Lunch: the Restored Text, Grove Press. New York:1959, revised 2001.

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Concerning Naked Lunch: Part 2 - Nausea and Irony | 98 comments (76 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
I find it funny (2.66 / 3) (#12)
by bankind on Mon May 30, 2005 at 10:19:25 AM EST

That you spent such an effort to try and prove Burroughs wasn't influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, when his contemporaries all were, yet you propose NL as almost applied deconstruction literature, even though you admit it is an anachronism.

The big question to me is how and why you use this rather hubris filled jargon instead of the much more direct (and especially appropriate in consideration of the book's later influence) category of nihilism?

Burroughs always is more interested in emphasizing that institutions are unnecessary and then showing the lack of decency in humanity by tearing down these aspects (that you relate to 1950's US) through, as you say, irony. In fact doesn't even the relation of the work to either real life or 50's culture go against the basic concepts of deconstruction? I would imagine deconstruction literature as primarily a text that refers only to itself.

Wow, wouldn't that be insular hubris?

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

Thanks for reading. [nt] (none / 0) (#13)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon May 30, 2005 at 10:38:04 AM EST


----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

So I take it (1.50 / 2) (#17)
by bankind on Mon May 30, 2005 at 12:59:45 PM EST

that there really is no reason you say deconstruction instead of nihilism. Except of course the typical counter-culture need to sound esoteric.

Is this some of that meta-humor: were you're mocking the superficiality of NL with your own?

It always bothered my how Burroughs will drop a name like Margaret Mead for really no reason other than to sound educated. Although he doesn't do it near as bad as Hunter Thompson, who would mix in some reference to Milton with a discussion of his contribution to the Jimmy Buffet song catalogue.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Thanks for your continued support [nt] (none / 0) (#18)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon May 30, 2005 at 01:03:12 PM EST


----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Okay, okay, I'll bite (none / 0) (#19)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon May 30, 2005 at 01:05:43 PM EST

The reason I say Deconstruction is because I'm referring to Deconstruction.

Nihilism is something else entirely.

Please refer to Wikipedia for help with Deconstruction, the literary and philosophical approach to varuious things that comes as a result of the work of Husserl, Derrida, Paul DeMan and Barthes.

but, mostly, I was referring to an historical issue and nothing else.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 1) (#30)
by bankind on Tue May 31, 2005 at 04:13:58 AM EST

That wikipedeia looks pretty cool, but I don't think you should really champion the Nazi propagandist Paul De Man.

So are you referencing Of Grammatology or Writing and Difference?

Really what I'm most interested in is how you can compare the obscurantism of NL with deconstruction, except to say that they both practice. Deconstruction is much more about the decomposition of meaning of words based on their contextual meaning within a specific text--and declaring that there is no context with reality.

I just find you contradict yourself by comparing NL to deconstruction, when instead most of his writing challenges authority and conventionality (which is why he is a Beat writer). But the big thing on Burroughs his that if he proposes a pair to institutionalism as anarchy, which is why he is much more a nihilist.

I feel you're giving it the relativity treatment. What I mean is some people will say "relativity theory means everything thing is relative" just like some people say "deconstruction is to deconstruct things." Both being very wrong.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Mmmm, yes, okay... (none / 0) (#32)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Tue May 31, 2005 at 08:17:15 AM EST

I'm referencing an idea shared among a number of writers, not just 2 books by Derrida, though they are part of the body of knowledge you're talkig about.  The Paul DeMan stuff is pretty funny.  You almost sound like you've heard of him before.

This is the funniest part: I just find you contradict yourself by comparing NL to deconstruction, when instead most of his writing challenges authority and conventionality (which is why he is a Beat writer).

How can you find a contradiction about something you clearly don't understand (Deconstruction)?

I was simply comparing Burroughs in the slightest way to a philosophical approach that he shares many similarities with.  Why are you picking out the most passing detail to take umbrance with when you don't even kow what that philosophical school is about?  Why don't you actually read the essay and then find something better?

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Jesus (none / 1) (#33)
by bankind on Tue May 31, 2005 at 12:51:54 PM EST

I was simply comparing Burroughs in the slightest way to a philosophical approach that he shares many similarities with. Why are you picking out the most passing detail to take umbrance with when you don't even kow what that philosophical school is about? Why don't you actually read the essay and then find something better?

What A pussified way to say that you don't know.

"Pick something else to complain about!"

I'm just interested in how you can distinguish that Burroughs was NOT a nihilist, because he clearly is. And you'd have to prove how he wasn't before you could even possibly hope to bring in deconstruction, which you don't.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Uhh, you brought up the (none / 0) (#34)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Tue May 31, 2005 at 12:57:50 PM EST

the 'nihilist' thing.

Anything else I'm being a pussy about that I didn't even raise in the essay?

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I'll repeat the question (none / 0) (#36)
by bankind on Tue May 31, 2005 at 09:48:35 PM EST

The big question to me is how and why you use this rather hubris filled jargon instead of the much more direct (and especially appropriate in consideration of the book's later influence) category of nihilism?

Your answer thus far has been to say "deconstruction meaning deconstruction" and that apparently this is the collection of ambiguous, undifferentiated "work of Husserl, Derrida, Paul DeMan (Nazi) and Barthes."

I've already raised why I think this is inappropriate, in particular in regards to different approaches to context and purpose (Burroughs undeniably being a nihilist). I'm just trying to understand your argument, but it seems you don't really have one.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Okay, seriously. (none / 0) (#37)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Tue May 31, 2005 at 10:05:22 PM EST

What's the deal, kid?

Is Burroughs a nihilist?  I don't know.  I would imagine so, but I never brought the idea up or suggested that he might be.

Deconstruction, the non-ambiguous, very formalized approach to lit crit has nothing, if very little to do with nihilism, at least in the formal sense.  I'm sure they must intersect at some points, but I don't know enough about nihilism in any formal sense to even tell you.

Which is why I never brough the idea into the argument.

What I was saying was, as I seem to be repeating over and over and over again, is that Naked Lunch anticipated the work that Deconstructionist Literary Critics would do in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  I think where you are having trouble is that you have never heard of Deconstruction until now.

But, beyond all of that, I am not saying Burroughs was a Deconstructionist.  Or a nihilist. I'm saying he was ironic.  Which was the point of the essay.

Perhaps where you missed the argument was when you didn't read the essay.

You are exhausting.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

We Agree! (none / 0) (#38)
by bankind on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 05:55:49 AM EST

Deconstruction, the non-ambiguous, very formalized approach to lit crit has nothing, if very little to do with nihilism, at least in the formal sense.

That is what I was trying to get at, the two philosophies are completely different and in many senses adhering to one negates that you can be the other. Nihilistic writing like Burroughs is about destroying institutions. A deconstruction approach to nihilistic writing would perhaps follow that if there was no context then there would be no meaning, however if there was a relationship within the text, then there would be something and the prospect of nihilism would be void.

Which is why I disagree with the prospect that Burroughs anticipated deconstruction--as if he were a nihilist (as he clearly is) then he would have written without relation, without context.

Also, this is a participatory website, we are encouraged to comment. You're insulting nature is inappropriate and oppressive.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#39)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 08:14:21 AM EST

A deconstruction approach to nihilistic writing would perhaps follow that if there was no context then there would be no meaning, however if there was a relationship within the text, then there would be something and the prospect of nihilism would be void.

No.  You misunderstand Deconstruction.

Deconstruction and nihilism, as you explain it it, would be perfectly happy to live together.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I present (none / 0) (#43)
by bankind on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 11:18:38 AM EST

2 cases one where there is compatibility the other where they aren't. In the case where nihilism is valid under a deconstruction approach, the text would have to have zero meaning. If you could deconstruct a text and find meaning then it wouldn't be nihilism. I would also go as far to say that since all text has some meaning, then under a deconstruction approach nihilism would be pretty difficult to validate.

I agree that the two theoretically could be compatible, but Burroughs is certainly not practicing both.

All this should have been covered in your review of Wittgenstein and the birth of post-modernism, in particular the logical systems developed via word-association games in the Blue and Brown books. If you need any of my notes during my tenure at the Sorbonne, they will be available at the reference library.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Okay, look: (none / 0) (#44)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 11:23:51 AM EST

I agree that the two theoretically could be compatible, but Burroughs is certainly not practicing both.

I never said Burroughs was practicing either.  You brought up nihilism and i said his work anticipated Deconstruction.

Now that you have figured this out for yourself (you might notice that none of this argument included any of my conclusions - your alone, kiddo), can we get any actual issues?

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Uncle Bill is NOT a Nihilist (none / 1) (#95)
by Winkhorst on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 08:05:04 PM EST

You need to go beyond Naked Lunch to find the upbeat elements in his philosophy. Naked Lunch is a single novel among many, and although it bears certain similarities to his other works, it cannot be used to extrapolate his entire viewpoint. To use one of Burroughs' own metaphors, it is but a snapshot taken with the flashbulb of orgasm at a given time and a given place. Other novels represent other photographs, other viewpoints, other times, other realities, all blowing down the street like an old newspaper carried by the winds of change following a band of bicycle chain wielding Chinese partisans headed for the headquarters of Government Incorporated. Take back the Reality Studio! they shout. That is a positive goal and its implimentation is expected to lead to a world that is not controlled by corporate gangs and drug cartels and military industrial lunatics. No. Bill Burroughs is not a nihilist. Is he a deconstructionist? Personally, I don't think it matters. What he is attempting to deconstruct has little to do with the novelistic form and all to do with reality itself.
______ *****Welcome to Avalon*****
[ Parent ]
Funny enough, though (none / 0) (#96)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 05:28:00 PM EST

when people first began writing about his work, they kept calling him a nihilist. It seems like a very '50's - '60's thing to say to me.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

If you say so.... (none / 0) (#97)
by Winkhorst on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 07:36:00 PM EST

I have read a lot of Burroughs and I have read a good deal about him, mostly biographical, and I don't recall anyone ever calling him a nihilist. This is because he is obviously not a nihilist. Yes, he rejects accepted values, but he does not reject values as such. He simply has his own set of values, sans the hypocrisy of most current value systems. Certainly the Nova Police that appear in Nova Express have values, and they are about as close as he comes to representing his own persona in his written works. The techniques he describes in these passages are in fact his own techniques described in his interview with Odier.
______ *****Welcome to Avalon*****
[ Parent ]
I agree with you. (none / 0) (#98)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 09:10:43 PM EST

I don't think he's a nihilist, either, but those were all of the early reviews of Naked Lunch.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

not really (none / 1) (#20)
by khallow on Mon May 30, 2005 at 01:10:12 PM EST

I would imagine deconstruction literature as primarily a text that refers only to itself.

If properly done, it won't even refer to itself. Maybe I'll do a proper example for an April Fool's joke or something.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Good point. (none / 1) (#21)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon May 30, 2005 at 01:11:06 PM EST

I found that comment a little weird.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Quick question (none / 1) (#31)
by bankind on Tue May 31, 2005 at 04:19:38 AM EST

If properly done, it won't even refer to itself.

Then how could you have any context? Or would that be the point?

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

why need context? (none / 1) (#42)
by khallow on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 10:20:04 AM EST

Then how could you have any context? Or would that be the point?

Seriously, we're talking the epitome of deconstruction. The story need not have any context at all or a point for that matter. The reader would, of course, be welcome to supply context or points as desired.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

ok (none / 1) (#45)
by bankind on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 11:38:05 AM EST

The text would simply have to exist as text. Context would have to be the direct relationship between the reader and the text such that the reader's only context was the text.

Descriptive aspects of the text could not have physical reference, because the deconstruction approach denies physical reference (but not reality as Burroughs does).

Do you see the problem with saying a piece of literature is deconstructive? It is like saying a car is a race. One is a thing; one is a process you do to a thing.

So saying you are going to write deconstruction is like saying you are going "to car a race." I hope you win.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

You can't say a piece of literature is (none / 0) (#46)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 11:53:53 AM EST

deconstructive for the very reason you cite.

However, you can say that a piece of literature anticipates a school of thought by demonstrating ideas/methods that a group of later theorists would use to explain their theories.

Case in point: fragmented text to show that text is illusory.  Read Derrida's essay in "On Deconstruction" if you want to see what I mean.

Also, saying Burroughs denies reality is a bit much.  At best, he denies the reality of Institutions.  In fact, what he disagrees with most is the idea that Institutions use words to create an illusion of their reality.  He was very interested in reality as reality, and said so in in numerous interviews.

Lucky for you, my next essay deals with this very idea.

Don't get hung up on the Deconstruction thing: it was an aside, at best.  I don't know how much clearer I can make that point.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Deconstruction and reference (none / 1) (#49)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 02:59:13 PM EST

Descriptive aspects of the text could not have physical reference, because the deconstruction approach denies physical reference (but not reality as Burroughs does).

Not to spoil your fun, but I really must take exception to your claim that "deconstruction"--by which you presumably mean Derrida?--"denies physical reference". Derrida, to my knowledge, has never denied the possibility of reference, he has only attempted to demonstrate that any act of reference is dependent upon a prior context, and that in the absence of a fixed and transcendent context (the transcendental signified), the reference function of language is bound to exhibit a degree of instability. Reference, in Derrida view, isn't impossible, it's just more complicated than when conceived of as a simple ostensive act.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Hey, any (none / 0) (#52)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:15:11 PM EST

essay advice?

You never said anything during editing, and you seem to know your stuff.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I don't visit this place... (none / 1) (#53)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:40:18 PM EST

...as often as I once did. Allow me a bit to digest what you've written and I'll offer up a response. To be completely honest, I've only skimmed this installment, but I did enjoy the fist of the series (although I had little to say about it).

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Cheers. (none / 0) (#54)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:42:21 PM EST

K5 is just the testing ground, because these essays are blooming into a book-length manuscript.  So, I could use all the knowledgeable advice possible.

FYI, my interminable wordiness has been pointed out.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

If you're gonna do this right... (none / 1) (#57)
by abulafia on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 09:22:41 PM EST

you can't leave out the society-as-text meme, and the requisite counterclaims. Levi-Strauss set the stage for Derrida. I feel it is sad to give top billing to the actor without a nod to the venue.

[ Parent ]
Or Husserl? Hedeigger? and Levinas? (none / 1) (#60)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 02:40:30 PM EST

And where does it end? Plato?

I wasn't looking to write a general introduction to Derrida. Just a quick comment about an incidental detail of Bankind's comment.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#58)
by bankind on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 06:41:02 AM EST

but if we are creating a generalized school called deconstruction pedantic notions like identifying the degree of differance (play) between the signifier and the signified are not of critical importance

My problem with this essay is that it makes this conclusion that Burrough's use of fragmented speech was related precursor to the analysis of differance. The problem in that most of Burrough's significant work would clearly be phonocentric and nihilistic. For Burroughs, a talking asshole is not much more than that. And most of his work is written to be read aloud.

I think it is very difficult to conclude that he had a very strong understanding of play in meaning versus simply a rather silly assault against society and the institution of language.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#59)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 02:31:48 PM EST

I don't think the author profits at all by his characterization of Burroughs' writing in Naked Lunch as somehow anticipating deconstruction. But, it should be noted, I generally oppose any non-technical use of the word deconstruction, as it almost always serves only to obscure rather than to clarify (this thread being an obvious case in point).

On the other hand, and in the author's favor, Burroughs' cut-ups could probably be profitably treated as being a kind of deconstructive or, if you prefer, proto-deconstructive text. Although, I'd say the same thing for Nabokov's Pale Fire as well.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Cheers. (none / 1) (#61)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 03:06:33 PM EST

That's pretty much all I was saying, since I didn't make it the point of the essay or anything.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I have a bit (none / 0) (#62)
by bankind on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 07:18:35 AM EST

different point of view. On the subject of obscuring texts, I think a deconstructive approach works best in a very direct reference framework, which is why so often we see its application to technical writing and mass media.

I think deconstruction had much more to gain from the clear limitations from guys like William Carlos Williams. Wittgenstein hits the issue of play dead on by looking at the process of two carpenters building a house and asking for different types of materials. Derrida certainly drew a great deal on Joyce, but the key difference between Joyce and Burroughs is that Joyce (and Nabokov) had a much better grasp of context and a much greater sense of reference (think source material). Burrough's tendency toward nihilism created a much more bombastic and disorganized writing style that I hardly associate with the rigor of deconstruction.

Following on the last essay that claimed Burroughs wasn't a Beat, and now this association with deconstruction, the author is clearly trying to revise the history of his personal hero rather than critically analyze a work of literature. Sure that is his prerogative, but I'm not going to sit idly by.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Umm.. (none / 0) (#63)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 08:30:59 AM EST

Burroughs didn't consider himself a Beat, and niether do many of the theorists who've looked at his work.

An association iwth deconstruction is valid.  You still haven't explained why it isn't.  Even your friend there agrees with me, or are you ignoring the posts that rfute your point?

But, of course, if you have any actual evidence to refute what I'm saying, then please present it.  So far I've only heard criticism based on your opinion, while I've actually cited sources.  There's a difference.

Or, should I say differance?

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Burroughs was claimed by the Beats (none / 1) (#65)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 10:42:29 AM EST

Burroughs was a counter-culture hero, and the counter-culture of the time was the Beats. But, as Egil says, Burroughs himself never claimed to be a Beat, and it's hard to see how any of his writing could have emerged from someone who was a willing part of any counter-culture.

Burroughs entire position is one of loathing. He hates the social control systems he's part of (including the drug system), he hates the culture, and he hates the counter-culture. There was no "escape" for Burroughs, there was no way to be that was not already corrupt and complicit.

Beats, and hippies, and every other counter-culture define themselves in opposition to the dominant culture. Burroughs was all about pointing out that the culture and the counter-culture always work together as an oppression machine, like the pusher, the junkie and the cop, or the whore, the john and the pimp. And that, I think is where you could get the idea that Burroughs is a sort of proto-deconstructionist. His writing was deconstructive of his culture, and his view of any culture, in that it tended to explore the ways that what we would usually think of as opposing forces in fact always need each other to define themselves.

I didn't mean to even get into the deconstruction argument, but somehow it appeared. So there's my take on this whole thread. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

May I please (none / 0) (#67)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 10:47:40 AM EST

kiss you ass?

Thanks for watchin the Viking back, yo!

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Also, any advice (none / 0) (#68)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 10:51:07 AM EST

on the essay is welcomed.  Obviously you have mroe than apssing knowledge about Big B.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I talk a good game (none / 1) (#69)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:06:37 AM EST

But really I do have very little more than a passing knowlege of Burroughs. I've read Naked Lunch, Nova Express, and Junkie, and in college I lived with a guy who was a big Burroughs fan, so I kind of got a lot of info about him at one remove.

I've never personally been all that fond of Burroughs' writing. Naked Lunch has its moments, but Nova Express I thought was mostly gibberish. Having already sort of gotten the point from NL, I wasn't particularly willing to put in all the work it would have taken to try to figure out what the hell it was actually about.

Burroughs the person I have more respect for. For all the unfortunate things he did, he was at least honest to himself and about himself. And what I mentioned above is probably the most remarkable thing he managed -- he saw the social systems of control clearly for what they were, and saw his role within them. This is very much in opposition to the syncophantic duo Ginsberg and Kerouac (who I don't think ever understood a damn thing that Burroughs ever wrote) and every other triumphalist counter-culture dilettante before or since.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I love you (none / 1) (#70)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:09:34 AM EST

tell your wife a Viking has a crush.

I frikkin hate Kerouac and Ginsberg.  they nearly ruined the guy just because he had ahard-on (literally) for both of them, at times.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Maybe this is some other Burroughs (none / 0) (#71)
by bankind on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:29:41 AM EST

Burroughs, who co-developed albums with such luminaries as Ministry, Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain, and the Disposable Heroes of Hipohoprisy, was hardly a hater of culture and counter-culture. In comparison, Thomas Pynchon (who is of that same era) is someone who truly HATES all culture (really try and find out anything about that guy, good luck).

Burroughs was an icon of the Beat movement and you'd be hard pressed to find any "Beat reader" without him. Now this was a group that included Kesey and Ginsberg which are pretty far apart on the literary scale, so I think you would be hard pressed to say that there is a "beat style" and for this, this, and this... Burroughs is not one of them. It was a social circle that influenced each other and collectively marketed each others books as much as anything.

Your argument is like saying Virginia Wolfe wasn't in the Bloomsbury Circle because she doesn't write like Keynes.

However, there is one major consistent feature of the Beats that Burroughs shared, and that was the belief drawn from eastern religion that all reality was an illusion. It was their excuse for using drugs and they generally promoted their drug usage as a demonstration of their understanding of reality--especially in the case of Burroughs, who wrote near nothing BUT drug literature.

Now I'm not going to go so far as to say a junkie's habit is applied deconstruction of reality, to do that is intellectualizing the mundane. My understanding of deconstruction is that it is the analysis of meaning within a particular text with the assumption that there is a degree of slack in the word and its mental construct.

So when you say "deconstruction of culture," to me is makes absolutely no sense, because "culture" already is a mental construct.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Do you have (none / 0) (#72)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 12:08:15 PM EST

anyhting to back this up?

Please cite sources.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I entirely disagree (none / 1) (#73)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 12:28:56 PM EST

My point was not that Burroughs was not a beat because he didn't share their writing style (which I agree is irrelevant), but that he was not a beat because he didn't see himself as one. He did hang around with them, his career was very much affected by them, and yes, anyone who collects "beat writings" will invariably include some Burroughs. But he himself always staunchly claimed not to be one, and I doubt any of his circle of associates would have gladly claimed him as one of them either. They idolized him and exploited him, but he was not of their generation and he did not share their worldview.

Being an icon of a cultural movement is not the same as being a member of that movement. You can certainly be both, but there are plenty of examples of people being only one or the other. I'm saying that Burroughs was an icon of the beats without in fact being one, in much the same way that Kerouac eventually became an icon of the hippies (who were, really, just beats that had climbed even further up their own assholes) without ever himself being a hippie.

As for Burroughs being a Buddhist or sharing their pseudo-Eastern philosophy, that's just false. He did not believe (or claim to believe) any of that "reality is an illusion" nonsense. He believed that reality is a machine -- a system for keeping everyone in their place. He used deviance and crime as an attempt to escape that machine, but ultimately realized that all deviance is defined within the overall system. That's what everything he wrote is about.

Burroughs never sought to excuse his drug use by any other explanation than that he was a drug addict. The beats held up that "reality is an illusion so it's ok to use drugs" stuff, but they, by and large, did not actually use drugs. And the drugs they did use were psychedelics. From the angle of drug choice alone, Burroughs relationship to the beats becomes very clear. Psychedelics are all about different experiences, seeing visions, experiencing alternate versions of reality. Opiates are purely about escape. If you believed that reality was an illusion, why would you choose to use drugs that are totally oriented toward pushing away the harshness of life?

Re: deconstruction -- it's more specific than just that there's a"a degree of slack" between a signifier and the signified. One of the main gists of deconstruction is that words always carry values; they attempt to privilege one thing and suppress another. But in so doing, the suppressed other always remains present, and you can expose a lot about a text through examining where these suppressions occur.

My point about Burroughs and deconstruction is that a lot of what Burroughs concerns himself with is the way that systems of control never want to actually eliminate whatever they're apparently intended to suppress, because to do so would mean rendering themselves irrelevant as well. Thus the police are always in secret collusion with the junkie, because if there were no junkies, we wouldn't need any police. And so forth. What deconstruction does with texts is show that what is suppressed is also necessary to create meaning in the first place, because you can't privilege something without always bringing along whatever is not privileged to compare it to.

I don't think anyone would reasonably claim that Burroughs could have had any formal notion of deconstruction, but he was doing things that did look a lot like it. His writing also anticipates most of Foucault's work on structures of power; that control systems always need and inherently support the thing they claim to want to eliminate.

And finally, there's no reason you can't apply deconstruction to a social form. You can apply decontruction to anything you can express as a text. Deconstruction is just a literary analysis technique, and literature is nothing but a mental construct.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

One further point. (none / 0) (#74)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 12:33:32 PM EST

Regarding this: "The beats held up that "reality is an illusion so it's ok to use drugs" stuff, but they, by and large, did not actually use drugs.

Burroughs consistently said he disagreed with the use of any hard drugs after he kicked his habit.  He thought LSD was a sham and often said that you didn't need it to see beyond reality.

That's whay the Hippy underground papers eventually got sick of him and stopped interviewing him.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

He kicked? (none / 0) (#78)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 01:23:37 PM EST

For good? Last I knew I thought he was living with a maintenance habit out in Kansas or someplace.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
He did (none / 0) (#79)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 01:30:29 PM EST

he got back into it in New York in the late '70's, but for most of his life after he was clean.  In Kansas he had a strict, 3 drink 1 joint allowance, maintained by James Grauerholtz.  But, yes, he was clean for most of the time after Tangiers.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

He certainly said something different (none / 0) (#75)
by bankind on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 12:48:56 PM EST

Well I'm not going to get into whether text is a mental construct; I think it is far more tangible than "culture"--perhaps I would have been clearer had I said "concept."

But re: Burroughs and reality I suggest this interview. I've pulled the key bits, and a great act of typical Burroughs contradiction.

PM: In The Ticket That Exploded you write: "There is no real thing-- all show business." Have Buddhism, Zen, and Oriental thinking in general exerted a strong influence on you?

WB: No. I am really not very well acquainted with the literature, still less with the practice of yoga and Zen. But on one point I am fully in agreement, that is, all is illusion.
...
PM: There was the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and then The Wild Boys, subtitled "A Book of the Dead." Am I stupid in seeing a connection between them.

WB: Oh no, the connection I think is very clear: everyone in the book is dead. Remember that Audrey is killed in the beginning of the book, in an auto accident.

PM: Did you inspire yourself from the old books of the Dead?

WB: To some extent, yes. I've read them both; not all of the Egyptian one, my God, or all of the Tibetan one, but I looked through them. In other words, the same concepts are there between birth and death, or between death and birth.


"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Yes, but how about (none / 0) (#76)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 12:55:47 PM EST

the interview I quoted for you when he says that he disagrees with them?

Since you are concious of both, this kind of re-writing is nothing more than revisionist history.

Of course he read them and of course there are similarities: however, you are trying to argue that he was completely influenced by something you have just proven he only had limited (read: he never finished the frikkin book) knowledge of.

Why don't you give up this silly exercise and write and article where you can expand this stuff instead of getting beat down here in the comments section?

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Weak evidence (none / 1) (#77)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 01:22:18 PM EST

First, the part you didn't boldface, where he says he's not well acquainted with the literature or the practice. Second, "all is illusion" is a pretty broad generalization. In the context that it's brought up in that interview, "There is no real thing-- all show business," I think it fits better into my explanation than yours. "Show business" is not an eastern philosophical concept, it seems to refer more to the social systems that I've been arguing are Burroughs' primary interest. The criminal justice system is show business, because no one involved really wants crime stopped. Social assistance programs are show business, because no one involved really wants poverty or drug abuse stopped. "It's all show business" isn't saying that all of reality is an illusion. Just that people's behavior and claims do not reflect their real motivations. It's "illusion" in the stage-magician sense -- sleight-of-hand tricks.

Besides any of that, it's pretty damn hard to argue anything based on what Burroughs says. He tends to say whatever it occurs to him to say at the moment, and his body of interviews is pretty laced with self-contradiction. I realize I said above that he never claimed to be a beat, and bringing that up as evidence would seem to contradict what I'm saying here, but hey, we're talking about Burroughs so it's probably appropriate. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Christ Rusty (none / 0) (#82)
by bankind on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:03:33 PM EST

I find you a word for word exact quote for what you denied he said and you tell me it is weak evidence. I also think you are missing that he is using a bit of modesty.

Also he is using this rather strong statement to say he agrees with the TBD on the subject of reality. The quote on show business is from his book and the interviewer is asking if this is a reference to eastern religions, Burroughs reaffirms this opinion by saying "all is an illusion." And it would not be so hard to find other interviews where he repeats this position.

I don't think there is much room here for you to disagree with what is "is."

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

What about the quotes I supplied? (none / 0) (#84)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:54:18 PM EST

You've only ignored them!!!!

????

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

It all depends on what 'is' is... (none / 0) (#87)
by rusty on Sat Jun 04, 2005 at 08:29:11 AM EST

;-)

You say tomato, I say tomato. He's said both things, so it's not like either of us is being unreasonable. I hope other readers have had an interesting read in this thread, and we should probably leave it at that.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

To your credit (none / 0) (#81)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 04:51:30 PM EST

Burroughs did study Eastern philosophy pretty heavily for a few months in the early 1950's, but rejected it after a few weeks. See his letters to Ginberg circa 1955.

However, his notion of a illusory reality, which is nothing as extreme as you would have it, came as a result of attending lectures by Count Korzybski, who taught a similar approach to language that de Sausurre taught.  That was in the 1930's, so quite a bit before he took any interest in Eastern Religion.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Reference revisited (none / 0) (#80)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 03:37:29 PM EST

On the subject of obscuring texts, I think a deconstructive approach works best in a very direct reference framework, which is why so often we see its application to technical writing and mass media.

I think I've been misunderstood. I didn't intend to claim that a proper deconstructive analysis obscures its object of study, but that the use of the word "deconstruction" should be avoided at all costs except in those circumstances where one has a precise and technical meaning in mind. In other words, as a colloquial adjective, the meaning  of "deconstruction" is too various (oh, the irony!), and thus it impedes rather than facilitates the process of communication.

That said, I would like to attend to some of what you've said with respect to deconstruction, a subject which, truth be known, interests me far more than does Burroughs. In particular, I'm interested in what you mean when you say that deconstruction is best applied in a "direct reference framework"? This strikes me as being a little odd as I've never understood Derrida to be overly concerned with reference as such. Which isn't to say that the reference function of language doesn't figure at all in Derrida's philosophical writings, only that it is somewhat periphereal to his primary concerns.

Derrida adopts Saussure's terminology in which the sign function is decomposed into two constitutive components, the signifier and the signified. The former being the actual physical marker, in the form of either a phonemic or graphemic aggregate, while the later is the term given to the meaning, basically equivalent to Husserl's eidetic object or Frege's notion of sense. Reference is then, on this account, a process which occurs outside of or in addition to the sign function proper.

When Derrida discusses the play of differance it is a process he concieves of as happening not between the sign (signifier + signified) and a thing or state of the world, but between a marker and its meaning or sense. Of course, this does have implications, even perhaps profound ones, for our understanding of reference and for the assignment of truth conditions in general.

At the risk of an extreme oversimplification, you could say that Derrida aims at rethinking how language works when the relationship between a marker and its meaning is understood to be of a bidirectional one to many type rather than a unidirectional one to one relationship. Thus reference would consist of bringing a context to bear upon the chains of substitution, that potentiality which which interleaves networks of signifiers and signifieds, such that a more stable sign function can be selected out from the range of possibilities and be made to pick out things or states of the world.

In relation to Burroughs, I agree with you that characterizing Naked Lunch as deconstructive in some sense misses the mark, but his cut-ups seem to me to operate in such a way that they act to effectively foreground some of those normally subterranean processes involved in selecting out specific sequences from among the full range of possible substitutions.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#83)
by bankind on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:19:38 PM EST

you could say that Derrida aims at rethinking how language works when the relationship between a marker and its meaning is understood to be of a bidirectional one to many type rather than a unidirectional one to one relationship.

I don't think I have ever really made that distinction, but I like where you are going on this. I think the central question to ask is "what type relationships would characterize Naked Lunch?" And here is a point of pure opinion and speculation. I simply don't see much depth to his writing so I don't see much complexity to his writing.

In addition, as a point I made earlier, most of his writing is phonocentric oratories rather than an internalized text. There are cut-ups in some of his work, but these writings to me are an attack against language (as a good nihilist would do) versus the development of subterranean processes as you describe. I also see it as some rather lazy filler between the oratories he would cash in on later with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Hey, dooood (none / 0) (#85)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 11:57:39 PM EST

You're dead on these points:

"In addition, as a point I made earlier, most of his writing is phonocentric oratories rather than an internalized text. There are cut-ups in some of his work, but these writings to me are an attack against language."

All his writings were an attack against language!

Why belabour the point with all your silly false rhetoric?

Why make stuff up?  

You're coming around and obvioulsy boning up on Burroughs.  Why continue propagating stuff even he discounted?

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Shoot, I meant, "Dead on", not (none / 0) (#86)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Sat Jun 04, 2005 at 12:31:41 AM EST

Dead on these points.

I mean, for that short little quote, you had something.  Actually, something I will expand on in essay 3.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

I don't recall asking <nt> (none / 0) (#88)
by bankind on Sat Jun 04, 2005 at 10:40:40 AM EST


"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

fwiw (none / 1) (#89)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Jun 06, 2005 at 03:42:25 PM EST

I really don't think much of Burroughs' writing either. But, with respect to the cut-ups, I'm not so sure that his motivations in creating them matter all that much. What's important, vis-a-vis deconstruction, is that they represent a kind of composition through juxtaposition, which is sufficient to achieve to achieve the foregrounding I mentioned earlier.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
I think you're confusing... (none / 0) (#50)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:05:14 PM EST

...deconstruction, taken as a literary crititical method, with reader response theories of text reception.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
In Paul DeMan's work they (none / 0) (#51)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:13:58 PM EST

come together, tough, so maybe that's where he's coming from.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Perhaps... (none / 1) (#55)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 03:56:40 PM EST

Although, I find that the two are often conflated (and mutually distorted) in popular perception, even by those, such as Eco, who should definitely know better. The end result being that deconstruction is synonymous in the popular imagination with a species of anything goes, do-as-thou-wilt, attitude toward textual interpretation, which is an unfair characterization of all but the most rediculous practioners of either school of thought.

Re: DeMan

I have to say that I've never thought much of De Man, and the experience of reading The Rhetoric of Romanticism and Allegories of Reading back-to-back was enough to permenantly sour me on the possibility of deconstruction as a literary critical approach, no matter how much I like and generally approve of Derrida.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
I totally agree. (none / 0) (#56)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 04:39:47 PM EST

I think Deconstruction was more a product of the times than a reliable way of seeing Literature.  I prefer Reader-Response to a lot of things, but I also tend to lean on the side of Harold Bloom and Kenneth Burke.  I really see Literature as a source of meaning and a recording of culture.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Deconstruction... (none / 1) (#64)
by rusty on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 10:28:35 AM EST

...is the Dada of literary theory. It's got all kinds of interesting philosophical underpinnings and consequences, but ultimately doesn't produce anything wothwhile.  Once you've fully described deconstruction and worked out the linguistic issues, you're pretty much finished with it. That's why no one beyond Derrida has been able to really do anything with it.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Exactly. (none / 0) (#66)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 10:45:48 AM EST

It's also why I hate it so much.  I'm glad Harold Bloom got out while he still could.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Thanks, kids!!!! (none / 0) (#35)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Tue May 31, 2005 at 03:23:29 PM EST

Finally got it posted.  Cheers.

We're a quarter of the way through number 3.  Only TV and going raiding in my longship will get in the way of this mad frenzy of work!

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.

Gay rape! (none / 0) (#40)
by Mylakovich on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 09:50:51 AM EST

How very Viking of you.

Yes, I have had to kill many for (none / 0) (#41)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 09:53:06 AM EST

thier dalliances.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

What did Burroughs do during The War? (none / 0) (#47)
by Lode Runner on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 12:00:41 PM EST

I'm just curious. He would've been of age to serve.

He was briefly in the Army, but (none / 1) (#48)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 01:01:59 PM EST

his parents talked to some people to get him an honorable discharge for mental instability.  Mostly he sat around in Texas reading Proust, he said.  

He hated the Army, obviously.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Drugs behind the irony (none / 0) (#90)
by EminemsRevenge on Sun Jun 12, 2005 at 03:16:19 PM EST

What you have to understand with Burroughs is that besides being addicted to heroin, he was also a member of the bebop culture that scoffed the conventionalities of neo-Victorian Amerikkka. His obvious middle-class upbringing and his "degenerate" habits is probalby more responsible for his sense of irony than anything that could be picked up in any English lit class. Since we now see a resurrection of that faux-puritanism evident today, I wouldn't be surprised if there was not another Naked Lunch making the rounds with publishers & angents right now, but with the "Patriot" Act, who will have the chutzpah to print a book like that today???
Keep on rocking for a free world---
Bebop in what sense? (none / 0) (#91)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon Jun 13, 2005 at 07:59:35 AM EST

He was notoriously ambivilant about music and he read like a fiend.

I think I know what you mean, but don't ignore the intellectual issue, whichis what he saw as the thing that made him stick out the most.  As for degenerate lifestyles, he thought his lifestyle was as degenerate as anyone else did, so don't mistake him in that.  He did it strictly because it was degenerate.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

Burroughs and bebop (none / 0) (#92)
by EminemsRevenge on Mon Jun 13, 2005 at 08:54:09 AM EST

The reason i wrote "degenerate" with quotes around it was not only to be facetious, but also to illustrate the feeling towards the Beat generation by the general public in 1950s Amerikkka. Burroughs was like Charlie Parker and Lenny Bruce in that he used a complex harmony and rhythm in his writing that was virtually unheard of at the time, with the exception of maybe James Joyce and William Faulkner, and although he may have been ambivalent about music, the avant-garde sounds that was inescapable at the time found its way into his writing. Virtually all good writers can be said to have read like a fiend, that is obvious in even Stephen King, and your assessment that he saw the thing that made him stick out the most is probably what seperates "good" artists from great ones! It is the job of the artist to hear a different beat and dance to a drum that no one else knew existed.
Keep on rocking for a free world---
[ Parent ]
Ahh, I see (none / 0) (#93)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon Jun 13, 2005 at 09:24:14 AM EST

Good point. I thought you were talking about literally being influenced by jazz like Ralph Ellison or something.

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Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

RARRRAAAAWWWRRRGGHHJ! (none / 1) (#94)
by Egil Skallagrimsons Mother on Thu Jun 16, 2005 at 04:26:51 PM EST

What loathsome WASTE of daytime hath mine OWNFLESHE begot! A hundred score of worden if theree a one. FOUL FRUIT OF EVILTREE, put yuor skinny dovewings behind my yoke and plow with firm buttocke UPON MY FIELD!

I grow yet angry out of LOVE, yuo LAZY BEAST of small burden

Theis is whatt happenns to thoos who aske abÝt mie anachronism.

Concerning Naked Lunch: Part 2 - Nausea and Irony | 98 comments (76 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
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