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...]

Everyone Is Thinking About the Cops

Bad Cop [McFadden]

Aw gee! David Brooks says "not enough attention is being paid to the emotional and psychological challenges of being a cop." Such fragile flowers they are. I recall that William Burroughs gave it some thought back in 1968 when Flower Power was in bloom: “The people in power will not disappear voluntarily, giving flowers to the cops just isn't going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window." … [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...]

‘Anatomy of Violence,’ a Prophetic Blast from the Past

An article in the Washington Post declares that the riots in Ferguson have been "the most significant explosions of racial frustration since the election of the nation’s first black president, and so Ferguson forced the country out of the fantasy that America had entered a 'post-racial' era." I'm not sure who really entertained that fantasy outside of the politicians and other public figures who needed to promote it and the pundits who were willing to go along with it. But Ferguson brought to mind this prophetic blast from the past -- a 1967 … [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...]

A Message From My Orwellian Phone Carrier

Orwellian Message from Verizon

The email arrived with this message: "At Verizon Wireless your privacy is our priority." How nice. So I read on: "We're enhancing our Relevant Mobile Advertising program in a way that can help marketers reach you with messages ..." And here I thought privacy was defined as "the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people." I can opt out of their program by signing into the Verizon website with my password, which I don't have. Or I can phone, in which case I will be required to climb a phone tree. An … [Read more...]

‘An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza’

The brutality of the Israelis in its savage response to Hamas rocket attacks has been documented in photographs so horrendous I can't bear to look at them. Listening to "An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza" -- as read by Alan Cox in a recent radio broadcast on the KPFA program Cover to Cover with Jack Foley -- had me feeling no less shamed but more bitterly enlightened. The poem, by Heathcote Williams, ends with these lines: Israel's vision of itself was once
 As a ‘light unto the nations.’
 It has no need of the fearful hatred, Fueling its … [Read more...]

‘Killing Kit’ to Be Staged in London Try Out

First Staging: 'Killing Kit' at The Cockpit, in London, Sept. 21, 2014

Heathcote Williams's first new play in many years is to open Sept. 21 at The Cockpit, where it received a reading last February. The company advertises itself as a radical fringe "theatre of disruptive panache, angry critique and useful, progressive ideas for the future." "Killing Kit" traces "the volcanic life and mysterious death of Christopher Marlowe -- poet, playwright, and proto-punk; sworn enemy of Queen Elizabeth’s court and of her Church; a gay spy ensnared by the Tudors’s secret state, and William Shakespeare’s greatest influence." … [Read more...]

Cold Turkey Press Publishes Portrait of Nelson Algren

TICKET TO NEW JERSEY: A Portrait of Nelson Algren [Cold Turkey Press, 2014]

This is a byte of self promotion. A byte? Haw. From the jacket blurb: Who could resist a study of a writer that begins, “if his writing had taken a flying fuck into a deep canyon, it was always balls-to-the-wall”? Jan Herman has borrowed the ghost of Algren’s golden arm with which to write this riveting, gonzo mini-biography of the man Hemingway called “the best novelist in America after William Faulkner.” Algren was being translated by Jean-Paul Sartre while he was sleeping with Sartre's wife and he preferred to spend time in boxing gyms … [Read more...]

Touring ‘Poetry Army’ Charts History of Radical Verse

A Poster for 'The Poetry Army' Tour in the U.K.

A posting by the Stop the War Coalition: From The Peasants’ Revolt to recent events at Tahrir Square, this incendiary performance celebrates radical verse in all its glory down through the centuries. The longstanding collaboration between poet Heathcote Williams and performer Roy Hutchins, encompassing such hits as Whale Nation and Autogeddon, continues as Hutchins combines forces with local actors, poets, and musicians to give voice to a host of radical writers, such as Shakespeare, Shelley, Ginsberg, Blake and Pussy Riot. Here's a … [Read more...]