Thursday, February 05, 2009

William Seward Burroughs February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997

222 Bowery - New York - 2000
William S. Burroughs' residence (The Bunker) during the late Seventies and early Eighties

My love for reading was killed, stepped-upon, decimated by the time I entered the fourth grade. I took me nearly thirteen years to re-ignite the passion, and I owe it all to Old Bull Lee passing away in 1997. I was unfamiliar with Burroughs and the rest of the "Beats"; certainly I had heard of On the Road and had heard comments about dirty beatniks and the like. A poorly-placed TV commercial during the late summer of 1997 compelled me to switch channels. A picture of a man in a suit and fedora flashed across the screen with the words WILLIAM BURROUGHS 1914-1997 (Wikipedia / A piece I penned in 2000 about Burroughs and his second wife Joan). I paused, after all, I am a sucker for suits and anyone that compliments the ensemble with a fedora has my full attention (albeit briefly...). As the reporter recounted Mr. Burroughs' career, travels and gang of miscreant co-conspirators the desire to read was re-awakened.

I admit, I acted cowardly and reached for the safer bet (Jack Kerouac) first, but after reading On the Road I knew that I had only licked the tip of a very important iceberg. Next I purchased Burroughs' most famous tome Naked Lunch and it completely altered my pre-conceptions of "literature". For several years during high school, and the two years following, I was writing quite a bit. I had been exposed to, and reveled in 'zine-culture and was manufacturing my own magazines at a rate of five or six per year. Though I was writing I carried a prejudice against anything lengthier than an essay or short story. The overall overwhelming notion that a novel must be linear was my primary reason for avoiding such an endeavor altogether (even then I was poorly equipped to stay on subject for 300pages). In Burroughs I found a complete and successful deviation from the concept of a linear story, further, I found a complete rejection of all "rules" regarding writing in general.

This discovery pushed me to try my hand at more involved writing. Longer, more verbose, and ultimately more fulfilling (to me that is) projects were now my goal. Burroughs' work heavily influenced my first novella (at times, embarrassingly, influenced very heavily). When I finished Silence I felt like I had finally accomplished a feat I considered impossible until that warm and uncomfortable summer in 1997.

I've only participated in one pilgrimage in my life, on my first (as well as my latest) trip to New York I made a point of having my photograph taken in front of The Bunker, where Burroughs lived and worked after returning from exile overseas.

FULL CIRCLE: 222 Bowery - New York - 2009

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