"Cuddle up with"...?

I've moved on to author number two:

"Cuddle up with William S. Burroughs,"

I realise now just how incongruous this marriage of verb and noun is intended to be. I mean, if there were any author whose work you wouldn't want to cuddle up with... Even the author himself is suspect in this regard, having famously accidentally shot his first wife, but I should note that the song's fictional "baby" is enamoured with the authors' works, not with the authors themselves. Well...for the most part. I'll explain later.

I didn't ask for book suggestions this time around: it seems to me that if you're going to read Burroughs, you ought to read Naked Lunch. Nearly half way through it, I'm wondering if that was a wise choice.

My experience so far has been...unusual. I've found most of it surprisingly easy to read, but that ease is surprising: there's no real plot, only the slightest of tenuous structures, no clear point of view. There are three themes knitting it together, though if it is knitted then Burroughs is using some kind of viscous bodily secretion instead of wool, because those themes are drug addiction, violent (mostly homosexual, and frequently fatal) sex, and disease.

This is not a kind of book I've experienced before.

I don't know how representative he is of Beat; perhaps I should try some Ginsberg or Kerouac (neither appear in the song). I've certainly earmarked J. G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun for a post-project read - he's not of the some mould, but in his introduction to my edition of Naked Lunch he claims Burroughs as a major influence, and I can't imagine how that translates to a work like Empire. (I just discovered he also wrote Crash, though, so who knows? They're at least linked by Cronenberg, though given the themes above I can't imagine anyone else making the decision to film this book.)

In any case, this is a new kind of writing for me. More thoughts soon.


  1. The main links that I've noticed between Burroughs and Kerouac (and I've already read On the Road), is their obvious rebelliousness towards the status quo, and their determination to use words almost as a hallucinogenic. Kerouac's a lot more comprehensible than Burroughs, but they can both create a burning, feverish, riding-on-edge-of-too-much-sensory-input atmosphere, not to mention being very funny. They're not just telling a story (and indeed story is of almost no interest to them), but they're very good at mood and I think that's why they've endured even though a lot of their stuff feels very datedly 60s.

    The link to Cronenberg, IMO, is their devotion to revolution. Not so much in the political sense, but more the psychological/sexual/linguistic kind. If you look at Cronenberg movies like Shivers you can see that he's almost on the side of the parasites, and when they win through in the end it's presented almost as a good thing. Cronenberg hates censorship, loves surrealism, and most of his films are about the revolution that takes place within some rather than without. Films like Crash, The Fly and Videodrome are about people fascinated with the things we're supposed to shy away from, and that's the link I reckon. He hasn't quite put an authorial surrogate into his fiction like Burroughs does in Naked Lunch or Ballard does in Crash, but just look at his body of work. Weirdo sex, mutating flesh, hallucinations, disntegrating reality, it's all there.

    I'm rambling quite a bit now aren't I?

  2. One thing I've noticed with Burroughs is that he doesn't allow anyone to revel in their revolution. In particular, the sex in Naked Lunch is all awful: anyone enjoying it dies in the act, homosexuals consider themselves or at least are treated as deviants, few avoid veneral disease or prostitution. In the book, sexuality is a low urge to be sated like the call of junk, and while I am enjoying and engaging with the mood this attitude is really turning me off (pun intended).