‘Fugitive Literature': Granary Books Has Done the Deed

'My Adventures in Fugitive Literature' by Jan Herman [Granary Books, 2015]

Here's what happened: I was invited to speak about "little magazines and William S. Burroughs" on a panel with Jed Birmingham and Charles Plymell at the 2014 Burroughs Centennial Conference hosted in New York City by the Center for the Humanities. After my talk, Steve Clay came up to me and asked to publish what I'd said. I didn't know Steve, though I'd met him once years earlier, but I knew of his Granary Books. Among Granary's many titles was At a Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing: 1960-1980. Based on a 1998 … [Read more...]

I Remember Oriana Fallaci . . .

Oriana Fallaci

You hear a lot about Michel Houellebecq these days. You don't hear much about Oriana Fallaci. She was once more controversial than Houellebecq for her blistering scorn of Islam and Muslims. Mark Lilla has a big piece, Slouching Toward Mecca, in the current New York Review of Books about Houellebecq's latest novel, Soumission, which as usual is a controversial best seller in Europe. It's about "an Islamic party coming peacefully to power in France," Lilla writes. Peacefully is the word to note. What is especially surprising, he adds, given … [Read more...]

A Savoyard’s First Brush With Censorship

A feature-length experimental documentary, exploring the history of alternative publishing in Manchester, UK.

Have a look at this Kickstarter campaign: Savoy Books is an independent publishing house based above a locksmith shop in the South Manchester district of Didsbury, founded and run by Michael Butterworth and David Britton. In 1989 they published Lord Horror, the last book to be banned in the UK under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act. It was in part a response to Britton's time spent in Strangeways prison, and Savoy's constant persecution by the corrupt police force at the time. Now have a look at Keith Seward's penetrating book-length … [Read more...]

A Poet With a Dark Vision and a Tuned-Up Voice

Philip Levine [from WGBH series Poetry Breaks, created by Leita Luchetti]. Click for video.

The poet Philip Levine has died. Here's an appreciation, written years ago at the Los Angeles Times, which began like this: Philip Levine, no prodigy, wrote poetry for seven years before his first poem was published in his mid-20s. It took another nine before his first slim volume, On the Edge, appeared in 1963. But by then, at age 35, he’d emerged from his native Detroit with a dark vision unmistakably his own and a tuned-up voice as angry as it was tender. I posted it in full here, in 2011, as Levine’s Factory Stiffs, Society’s … [Read more...]

Some Got Plenty and Some Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’

Illustration: Elena Caldera

Five years after the Wall Street crash of 1929, George Gershwin wrote what he called a “banjo song” for "Porgy and Bess." It turned into "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" with lyrics by Edwin DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. The second verse goes like this: De folks wid plenty o' plenty Got a lock on de door 'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em While dey’s out a-makin' more What for? Heathcote Williams reminded me of the song when his poem Rich People was posted the other day by the International Times in London. His second verse goes like … [Read more...]

Burroughs Central This Is Not

My Adventures in Fugitive Literature [Granary Book, 2015] front cover

Anyone who thinks this blog is Burroughs Central has no idea. The fact is, I'm just skimming. The real Burroughs Central is RealityStudio, where the true aficionados congregate for deep postings by Jed Birmingham's Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker. For example, he recently made the case that le maître's cut-ups in the mimeo mags of the '60s are far more satisfying than the novels of his so-called cut-up trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express). Jed goes into great detail, brilliantly as usual, but his basic … [Read more...]

By Burroughs Possessed >>>>>> Burroughs 101

Burroughs-Possessed [Gerard Bellaart, 2015]

Being a serious writer hardly means leading the life of a saint. In 1951, in Mexico City, long before the publication of Naked Lunch, which made him famous, William S. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his common-law wife Joan Vollmer in a drunken stunt. He was trying to prove his marksmanship William Tell-style. Instead of hitting the glass placed on her head, he shot her square between the eyes. Gerard Bellaart's charcoal sketch captures Burroughs possessed by what he called "the Ugly Spirit."* * * * * “I am forced to the appalling … [Read more...]

In Memory: Carl Weissner, So Rudely Interrupted

Carl Weissner [Photo by Michael Montfort, 19XX, from 'Nachtmaschine']

Carl died unexpectedly three years ago today. On the first anniversary of his death, I posted a tribute from friends and others. Here's a photo from a trip he took to Marseille, where he was gathering impressions for a novel he wanted to write, which wasn't all that long before he died. His absence among us since then has not diminished, although the date of his departure has grown more distant. (Update below.) WEDNESDAY May 5 torrential rains, high seas, snow on the highway in the Massif Central! wind tearing at the awnings and you. … [Read more...]

Kick That Habit? Bellaart Does Burroughs

Drawing of William Burroughs [Gerard Bellaart, 2014]

This pencil drawing of William S. Burroughs by Gerard Bellaart is one of two portraits. It's the introspective Burroughs. The other drawing, a charcoal sketch to be posted soon, catches Burroughs in a wholly different state of mind, as if possessed by the Ugly Spirit that Burroughs believed had dogged him throughout his life. The text on the card is an excerpt from "Incidental Intelligence" to be published in full in The Z Collection, a tryptich of portraits to include Godfrey Reggio and Norman Mailer. … [Read more...]

Beckett But Not Beckett: ‘Being Human’

BEING HUMAN (credit-1)

It begins in blackness with whispers. Jumps to a face with eyes closed. The eyes open. Words form: "I was almost human. But then something went wrong. I was a human being. But then I became a victim. I was almost a human being but then I ran out of time." I wish I could embed the YouTube video here, but the embed function has been disabled. To see the video click the image. If "Being Human" brings to mind Billie Whitelaw doing Samuel Beckett’s “Not I,” there's nothing wrong with that. … [Read more...]

Posting a Cold Turkey Card While Paris Burns

JE M'AMUSE [Cold Turkey Press, 2015]

By way of explanation, I was occupied searching for word pattern. Found a rangy young man whose authority was roughly 50 words retyped in columns from the beginning more habit-forming than his life. He hunkered across the columns and typed them again. Undsoweiter ... And now for R. Crumb's pièce de résistance: … [Read more...]

‘Death in Paris’ Struck Prescient Note

'Death in Paris' by Carl Weissner

Apropos today's headline about the hacked U.S. CENTCOM Twitter Account . . . a friend was looking over our late amigo Carl Weissner's "Doomsday Lit" novel Death in Paris. Boy, is that title apt. Not to mention the chapter headings. How about this one? >im in ur base killin ur d00dz … [Read more...]

Consumer Poem for the Occasion: A Global Love Bomb

True Love in the Impossible Emporium

The wisdom of the words, the wit of the montage -- to say nothing of the pitch-perfect narration -- make "True Love in the Impossible Emporium" a media keeper for this holiday season and all the ones to come. Words by Heathcote Williams. Narration and montage by Alan Cox. The poem, which begins like this, is liable to cure the cynic in me: True Love in the Impossible Emporium Searching the aisles for the right kind of birdseed To feed my inner nightingale, I wandered the shelves of an outlandish store Filled with customers chasing … [Read more...]

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...]