Troves upon Troves: Burroughs Manuscript

On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, the New York Times printed an article under the headline “Public Library Buys a Trove of Burroughs Papers” (reg. req’d), about the acquisition of approximately 11,000 pages of William Burroughs manuscripts by the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. (By the way, what is it with the NY Times and the word “trove”? On the same page, there was another article about the Julliard School receiving “a trove of precious music manuscripts”). Accompanying the Burroughs article was a photograph of one page of the acquisition, captioned as being from his 1965 manuscript for My Own Mag: Dutch Schultz Special. Surprisingly enough, the page was entirely legible. I thought it should be included in the LitKicks archives, so here it is, exactly as Burroughs wrote it (it’s just one long block of typewritten prose — no paragraphs, no punctuation to speak of and as you will see, lots of typos):

Zurich saturday morning meet the so conveninet webber family in the bp auto stop hear realize the bp is not only an you’ll find them buying everything from organization shannon believe they can tape recorded at 23 mount streetoh it is that8s what i thought and theres a little boy andy warhol or gerry malanger thats been reproduced in a lot of books hasnt it he has a plate camera are they going to bepublished in vogue part of the citys friday child loving tuesday for that matter oh really st louis encephilitis of birth and nickname because the swiss are finding them so convenient a part of their way of life attended to at the same time isnt everywhere thats the only time geroge okeefe virgil thomsom and 19 have died but the disease quickly spread to atlantic city what in germany he had been meaning sexel ecny sally rand cunning nvay pilot alan be weld tow acts for three saints in outer space proudly registered in phoenix was it are you sure its 4 saints inthree acts 1130 people became ill in three acts that s right infectious night biter no i8m gonna go answer the door bell definitely definitely the f rst time in thrity years houstons outbreak the first in who said atlantic city i was supposed to have done the sets for it and b was supposed to aquire the virus from birds yeah then i think they paid a dollar for infectious diseases processing of the actual film but the disease quietly spread to all west texas beauty unscheduleled in outer space you mean you did it yourself you ddint have your assistant do it nope just spreading epidemic of saint vaccine maybe we should killing kids at play how llong did it take you to process this photo to squirt at anything that flew dying it and allthat its was all part of the city’s suddeen healthy people beauty infectious disease spreading epidemic of immune humans half and hour? st lousi mo giving hope you mean its not finished yet this photo the stripper exhuberance atlantic city this XXXXX photo its goi g to fade away? you should have that! have a page fading away++ time septemebr a number not clear twang it it musical! parachute just in cas e i now can drink resevoirs of the disease is this a new play to get at the source spray everythingcharles vine i heard fridays child lvoing a registered stripper nick name conny oooh are you gonna remember this later! that last of the last ditches like you came through the door in his moon suit maybe he’s there oh no its getting too spooky i8m getting the spinnal cord and brain a male with female laughter they have this script he just dropped it like that neareve cells they always start hissing its all part of the game of war infants pay the price female laughter just came out of time starlet weld tuesday what? that’s beautiful that is fogged out in distance 21 there should be somebody so called actually this is how the old saw i think sex is healthy just too stoned germans naturally did the same long shuffle thats the clock if you set it two hours in advance the last of the

(The last eight lines of typewritten copy were at this point partially covered by an inset photo of Burroughs, Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg in 1953.)

11 Responses

  1. Ahhhhhhh, yeeaahh . . .Dig
    Ahhhhhhh, yeeaahh . . .

    Dig the *B* with a capital fedora
    Grout all around, don’t call I can do it myself
    He could write like nobody
    Is why LitKicks first came to me in my sleep
    Northern Southern + all the rest
    his Vest and Fedora hat, I guess.

    I dig Burroughs with a capital D,
    Don’t grout the plummer I can caulk the lines
    Is why I caught the novalark express
    A couple espresso guests,
    *B* is one of the best.

    thanks, eli.
    wsb rules.

  2. analysis of a cut-upThanks,
    analysis of a cut-up

    Thanks, Eli — it might not hurt to add the context that this is obviously a “cut-up”. I believe Burroughs would literally cut out sample texts from newspapers, books and magazines and combine them with snatches of overheard conversation or his own thoughts to produce texts loaded with immense subconscious meaning. Successful? Let’s examine a few phrases …

    “theres a little boy andy warhol or gerry malanger thats been reproduced in a lot of books hasnt it he has a plate camera are they going to bepublished in vogue part of the citys friday child loving tuesday for that matter oh really st louis encephilitis of birth and nickname because the swiss are finding them so convenient”

    I guess this represents the anxiety of an insecure St. Louis-born experimental writer (Burroughs himself, apparently feeling encephilitic) hanging out in a big city with stylish friends like Andy Warhol and Gerald Malagna whose artwork routinely gets published in hip magazines like Vogue. Perhaps Burroughs himself is the “friday child loving tuesday”, which a later mention suggests refers not to the day of the week but the then-popular actress Tuesday Weld, which is ironic because Burroughs was gay and unlikely to care much about Tuesday Weld. Tuesday Weld shows up in a few different places here, and later we see “fridays child” loving a registered stripper nicknamed Conny, whereas elsewhere the famous fan dancer from the 1930’s named Sally Rand echoes this mysterious stripper, perhaps in the spelling of the nickname as “conny” when a mysterious strippers might be nicknamed “connie” but is unlikely to be nicknamed “conny” since that’s not actually a nickname. There’s a lot about astronauts (Alan Be must be Alan B. Shepherd) and a three-act play that apparently made everybody sick (I’ve seen a few plays like that).

    Okay, I admit it, I’m not sure what the hell this all means. I tried.

  3. cut-upsto be honest, i think

    to be honest, i think cut-ups are bad. sure, why not take a collection of text and then toss it into a pile, and then, we can claim the accident is a work of art. sure.

    the last time i played scrabble, my tray of letters was worth a load of money, if i said so. who wants to argue with me? i call it art, so you have nothing.


  4. throw it all aboutBurroughs,
    throw it all about

    Burroughs, practiced an experimental method. ie, “cut-ups”

    the odd thing about “experimental”

    is that it reveals odd connections.
    what does this tell us about this
    thing we call “language”?

    it’s obvious that writers and poets
    are on to something, but in consideration, we are also in the path of those whom would use language to inhibit our imaginations, so writers and
    poets are in between a rock and
    a hard place, or perhaps we are between a rose and a rose,at any
    rate,it would be benefical, to
    realize that the visionary writers
    and poets, are usually seeing stuff
    that, if you look closely, appears
    to be coming back to us from the future, even if we are certainly reading it in some now.

    Burroughs did this in spades in my observation. And even if he did
    not plan this, if has that sense, that texture,that weird newspaper
    phantom feeling like reading headlines at the bottom of a crystal
    ball, flashing in some peculier sequence that points us to that rare connection. So doing “cut ups” is not as simple as it seems, perhaps, and few do so even less.
    or practicing automatic writing,
    “pure psychic automatism”, as Andre’
    Breton called it. Yet we all are invited to do it.

    I recall a poet/writer i once knew
    briefly say to me on the streets of San Francisco one day that he could
    write like a “surrealist”, as all he needed would be to have a dictionary and pick words at random and string them together. I don’t know how serious he really was that day with that remark, but at the same time i thought it was funny.

    Try it!

  5. But the thing about cut-ups
    But the thing about cut-ups is, maybe one in a hundred will turn out to be something special. That ratio, one out of a hundred, is purely arbitrary. It may be more, it may be less. It’s like sampling musical sounds. There is a skill to it. I’ll have to dig up some good ones to show you what I mean. Of course, you still may not agree. A lot of people don’t like them.

  6. i think the value of cut-ups
    i think the value of cut-ups is subjective and depends on what the individual considers art. i can see your point, bill, and from time to time, i’ve seen nonsensical collections of words fit together to create an altogether pleasing or interesting idea/image/sound. the reason for my comment is that the thing i value most in art is its effectiveness in reflecting the skill and the humanity of the artist. to me, a cut-up can’t do that in any form or fashion. then again, if you like to take the work as an entity in and of itself, cut-ups can yield some enjoyable things.

    again, i think it’s just a matter of viewpoint.

    and hello, bill. long time no see.

  7. I found cutups to be one way
    I found cutups to be one way to force or to allow your self a look at some ideas, etc. in a different way. It also allows you to conciously realize connections. The presumption that Burroughs randomly shot paint at boards, left the results and called it art of was not what happened when I was present. I remember, Burroughs having shot a board, he sat there and showed me images in the board and in the destroyed or opened portals that he then “converted” into stories or themes. He then added elements or not. But later I would see some of the ideas redone in another piece of art or writing.

  8. I like what you both have
    I like what you both have written here about Burroughs and about the cut-up technique.

    Here are some random thoughts I would like to add.

    Most people agree that the more pictures a photographer takes, the more chance they have of getting one really good shot. That isn’t to say that all successful photographers are just lucky and waste hundreds of rolls of film. One likes to believe that practice and repetition builds skill. Skill, in turn, helps one realize their intuitive vision . I see cut-up writing the same way. I prefer a cut-up piece that has some thought behind it. Some people would no doubt disagree with me, saying, “First thought, best thought”. And sometimes it is. That’s why it’s a combination of chance and skill.

    To some extent, all writing is a cut-up. Think about the average western story. Nobody cries “plagiarism” if a western includes a saloon, a shootout, a posse on horseback, and an outlaw taking to the mountains. You can roll those clich

  9. hi, ellipsis! it’s good to
    hi, ellipsis! it’s good to hear from you, too. when are you coming back to jacksonville? i always enjoy discussing these things with you, agree or disagree.

    i added some more thoughts to the subject of cut-up writing in my reply to i’mhep, down on this same thread, in case you are interested.

  10. Still more on cut-upsI said
    Still more on cut-ups

    I said in a previous post that the song Modern Love by Bowie sounds to me like cut-up writing. I still think it is, but the two Bowie albums cited most often as Burroughs-influence are Heroes and Low (collaborations with Brian Eno). The thing is, when I perused all the lyrics from those two CD’s, none of them seemed overtly cut-up. This has me thinking now that maybe a successful cut-up is one that doesn’t sound cut-up.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

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