Saturday, 2 August 2014

Ah Bill Was Here...

I can just about fit this in before the day slips away... On this day 17 years ago the great William Burroughs passed away due to complications from a heart attack he sustained the previous day. I've been reading Burroughs since I was a teenager - I can't quite remember if it was Cronenberg's film that led me to Burroughs, but any seeker of strange worlds will inevitably discover his most famous work Naked Lunch. It's a novel I re-read every year and it remains one of the most astonishing works of 20th century literature. For this post I wanted to share one of my most prized possessions, which is a Burroughs autographed copy of his 1977 book The Third Mind written in collaboration with Brion Gysin. The signing of the book comes with an interesting story - in 1979 Michael Butterworth to whom the book is dedicated to was looking to publish Burroughs' next novel Cities of the Red Night in the UK under his Savoy publishing company. Butterworth and his Savoy partner David Britton met with Burroughs at his home at The Bunker on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where the copy of The Third Mind was signed. This story was told to me by Michael Butterworth himself who sold me the book to raise funds for a new Savoy venture. And without further ado, here's one object I would run back into my burning house to save...




6 comments:

  1. Lovely stuff, Wes! For a moment there I thought you might have somehow met the man himself, but alas... My introduction to him was through Naked Lunch, too. I had seen the film first (on its premiere on Sky Movies... boy was I confused) and the book was soon rented, though I had no idea what was going on in it. It was vivid, though, as it stuck in my head for years, and eventually led to me picking up the likes of Queer and Junkie in my late teens, which really cemented the man as a rare breed of genius in my mind. Sadly, I've never gone back to Naked Lunch, though I really should. It will be something I'd get much more out of now than when I was 13. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

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  2. I know ! When I was putting together the post I was aware that it might be anti-climactic, that I didn't get to meet Burroughs but I think the circumstances of the signing of the book are interesting enough and I still get a giddy feeling to know that the great man handled the book ! Naked Lunch is a difficult read and some of the more mind-blowing passages can scramble your brain but like I say to people about Ulysses, read it anyway - who cares if you'd get all of it...

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    1. Ah no, it's still a great post... as you said, just even knowing that the man himself wrote on the book is good enough! I gotta say, I have no signed books, or DVD's for that matter. I guess it stems back to what we discussed before, about us not getting many celebs coming over this way... I would have loved if I had of gotten a sig off Clive Barker when I met him a few years ago... sadly his health was pretty poor, and no autographs or photos were allowed... Still, I stood in the presence of genius and that was enough!

      I'll defo put Naked Lunch back on the list, but I guess when I'm reading non fiction these days (which is seldom enough, sadly) I tend to go for 'lighter' material (paperback horrors, booker prize stuff, etc)... my days of enjoying a challenging read seem to have passed with my transition to my 30's. I just don't get enough time anymore, and I don't like getting frustrated when I do get the chance. Saying that, I do want to read the likes of Ulysses at some point... Maybe during the winter, when the fire is on, I'll settle down with something truly epic.

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    2. That's a shame about not getting Clive Barker's autograph, I saw some item that he appeared in a few years ago and he did look shocking, in real bad shape - he physically changed so much when he went to LA - I imagine he lived it up there in those first few years - I'd say in his younger days he was like the Hellbound Heart's Franks, a seeker, or to quote Hellraiser, a traveler in the further regions of experience. I never read anything of his after Imagica... John, I'd be wayyyyyy too shy to ever approach anyone for an autograph, but like you said, we're on the outer edges here in terms of meeting personalities, so my fully signed Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten CDs, or David Warbeck-signed Beyond still, were not obtained in person sadly. I can't remember whose hand it was he shook but Orson Welles once said that shaking this person's hand was a great moment because it put him within 2 degrees of Napoleon - I love that...

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  3. My buddy Brad in high school was a big Burroughs fan - he turned me on to Naked Lunch - which was a great read. Not one I will probably revisit - as I'm realizing how much time it takes of my remaining days to read a book. (We had a running gag too - asking for items nearby to be soaked in heroin, Doc, so we could suck on them. )

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    1. Yeah, I think anyone with an interest in the more esoteric things in life will be led to Burroughs in one way or another – Naked Lunch is a difficult read alrite, but some out of it is very funny, and to hear Burroughs reading it aloud is a real treat. Burroughs has that amazing drawn out drawl

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