Incidental Intelligence: A Portrait of William Burroughs

Incidental-Intelligence

I once asked Nelson Algren what he thought of Naked Lunch. He grinned at me, as though he were being entertained by a wiseguy. I knew he had no love for the Beats. He had derided Jack Kerouac as a momma’s boy and dismissed Allen Ginsberg as a publicist. So his answer surprised me: “Burroughs wrote half of a good book.” He meant that as praise. What Algren liked were the horrific “routines” and their cosmic lineup of hilariously appalling characters. (Read more at IT: International Times) … [Read more...]

Music Theater: ‘Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano’

Abbie Conant as the Mad Soprano

This performance was recorded in Taos, New Mexico, in September 2014. The piece had its world premiere in Germany at Theater K-9, in Konstanz, in 1996. Abbie Conant, Soprano & Trombone / William Osborne, Music Text and Video From William Osborne's brief description: Imagine a singer living among the dumpsters behind the Met. Tomorrow is her big audition at the Opera House -- if only she could think of what to sing. She colors her world with opera excerpts, grandiose Swan Songs and wild escapades on her trombone -- but as she makes … [Read more...]

Last Call for the Burroughs Cut/Up Show

Burroughs Boo-Hooray

The materials in this centenary exhibition are drawn from Emory University's Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, a collection of rare books, chapbooks, little magazines, journals, broadsides, audio recordings, manuscripts, and visual art from all over the world. Assembled by collector Raymond Danowski over 25 years, the collection is thought to have been the largest poetry library in private hands until its arrival at Emory in 2004. … [Read more...]

Cody Maher: ‘Another Day at the Office’

'Score' © by Norman 0. Mustill, from 'Twinpak' [Nova Broadcast Press, 1969)

So it's back to the grind, which is absurd but apparently necessary for the GDP. Here's something to chew on besides the turkey leftovers: Subject I He appeared in our office dressed in uniform. He was asking us to believe that he had ever fought for anything in his life. The uniform didn't go with the face. The jaw seemed too weak to support his pants. His chest was puffed up at expense of his shoulders. He claimed the bullet went right through him without even wrinkling his shirt. We threw him out of the office. Subject 2 She … [Read more...]

Dear Cannibals, Have a Sweet Thanksgiving

Our delicious Thanksgiving team of William S. Burroughs and Norman O. Mustill has been a happy pairing. It still is. But the Straight Up staff of thousands wanted to add a sweetener, something like cranberry sauce, to this year's celebration of gratitude. Here 'tiz: Words by Heathcote Williams, narration and montage by Alan Cox. … [Read more...]

Once Upon a Time, Ginsberg Kept City Lights Humming

Allen Ginsberg in Boulder, Colorado [Photo by Jan Herman, 1980].

I've added a site to the blogroll, calling it "All Things Allen Ginsberg" instead of its official web address allenginsberg.org. I should have added it long ago. Bad housekeeping. The site is a goldmine of information, literary and otherwise, not just about Ginsberg, which is its main focus of course, but also about the Beat Generation. This morning the site is using a photo I took in 1980 as the lead-in for its daily blog: I've written elsewhere that one day while sitting at my desk at City Lights in the little office I shared with … [Read more...]

More News from Paris: Huge Bookfair Opens Today

Offprint Paris (2014)

Offprint Paris at the Beaux-arts de Paris showcases publishers of art, photography, design, and experimental music labels. The 2014 edition features more than 130 publishers from nearly two dozen countries, an exhibition ("Disarming Design from Palestine"), and a variety of public discussions and signings. Special guests include Paul Soulellis (Library of the Printed Web), Mathieu Cénac (Jean Boîte Éditions), David Desrimais (Jean Boîte Éditions), and Tarek Issaoui (Rrose Editions), and art historian Mehdi Brit discussing his recent book … [Read more...]

The Reviews Are In: How Many Tomatoes for ‘Algren’?

Nelson Algren (photo illustration from 'Algren')

I took a survey of viewers who saw "Algren," the new documentary that recently had its world premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival. Here's what they said: Reviewer #1: Really interesting and fast-paced. It gives me a great sense of the guy without being pious. I’m unsure about the kitschy style. The fast edits and fake newsreels and animations keep things lively -- but it’s tough to think they will age well. Maybe that’s not the point, though. Maybe the point is to repackage Algren for today and let it be the books that age … [Read more...]

Islamic Peace Warrior: Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Abdul Badshah Ghaffar Khan

Two years ago almost to the day I posted three parts of a six-part investigative poem, "Game of Drones: The Lord of the Drones and the White House Fly," by Heathcote Williams. The fifth part, which I didn't post, begins by declaring that "the spirit of Badsha Khan, the nonviolent soldier of Islam, still guides many Pashtuns." You don't usually hear about this "frontier Ghandi," a Pashtun Muslim who "preached nonviolence / To a violent culture," as Williams puts it in a new investigative poem. The man stood "six foot five inches tall, / … [Read more...]

Desktopfun: Boo-hooray’s Burroughs Cut/Up Show

desktop fun (burroughs boo-hooray-VDRSVP-triple-combo)

Boo-Hooray, in collaboration with Emory University, is presenting a William S. Burroughs centenary exhibition dedicated to the Cut-Up technique. On view will be hand-edited typescript drafts from the Nova Trilogy, rarely seen publications like the mimeographed newsletter The Burrough and the Sigma Portfolio, alongside correspondence with Brion Gysin, vinyl releases, as well as the original cut-up paper components that went on form his novels. The Cut-Ups began in October of 1959, when Brion Gysin sliced through a pile of newspapers with … [Read more...]

Long-Awaited ‘Algren’ Bows at Chicago Film Festival

'ALGREN' a documentary by Michael Caplan

Is this Nelson Algren's moment? If it is, I don't think he'd give a damn -- not personally -- considering he's gone and how long ago that was. I also don't think he'd appreciate what has become a cliché of the Algren myth -- the forgotten writer. Sure, he's forgotten. Most writers are. And of those who are remembered, many are less worthy than Algren. But let's not forget that in his time he had moments of glory that even the worthiest writers may never have. Maybe the cliché will be retired at least for a little while with the premiere of … [Read more...]

Long-Awaited ‘Algren’ Documentary to Open in Chicago

'ALGREN' a documentary by Michael Caplan

Is this Nelson Algren's moment? If it is, I don't think he'd give a damn -- not personally -- considering he's gone and how long ago that was. I also don't think he'd appreciate what has become a cliché of the Algren myth -- the forgotten writer. Sure, he's forgotten. Most writers are. And of those who are remembered, many are less worthy than Algren. But let's not forget that in his time he had moments of glory that even the worthiest writers may never have. Maybe the cliché will be retired at least for a little while with the premiere of … [Read more...]

Poet Says, ‘Ecstasy Can Postpone Every Deadline . . .’

‘Love in Old Age’ by Heathcote Williams [Cold Turkey Press, 2014]

Love in Old Age Someone I've known since I was twelve Happened to tell me the other day, 'We're now on the shady side of the hill. 'Not many more days to play.' But I found myself pretending I hadn't heard what he'd said -- The implication being so unsettling: He was saying we'd soon be dead. Then he pressed the point by asking me, 'Thought how you'd like to go?' I said that I hoped he wouldn't mind But I'd been planning to say 'No'. 'You can't! You're mad! It's against nature!' I said, 'I can do what I like. 'You see, … [Read more...]

Supervert’s ‘Vision of the Future’ Has Arrived

'POST-DEPRAVITY a vision of the future' by Supervert 32C Inc. [2014]

It is possibly Supervert's most impressive book beauty to date, judging not only from the immaculate white-and-black antiseptic look of it and the heft of it -- the text comes to 240 pages -- but also, obviously, from the read of it. At one level POST-DEPRAVITY is a page turner (literally) and at another a densely reasoned philosophical proposition (indicated by the letters S&M R&D on the book's spine). Set in a hospital, the story updates notions of perversion beyond Sadean for an age beyond technology with characters like Dr. Francis Malenkov … [Read more...]