The Scribbler

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Posts Tagged ‘The Soft Machine

William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer – Talk

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Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs is one of The Scribbler’s staple authors. To read his work is to understand our mission. Which is why we were so excited to hear about a discussion forum taking place this weekend on the famed beat author.

The Last Tuesday Society, of 11 Mare Street London, hosts Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature at Keele University for a night entitled: William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer.

Burroughs once wrote: “…in this life we have to take things as we find them as the torso murderer said when he discovered his victim was a quadruple amputee.”

To coincide with the publication of a new, 25th-anniversary edition of Burroughs’ second novel Queer, Harris has finished reediting the early trilogy of novels preceding the notorious Naked Lunch.

The story behind Queer starts in the early 50s in Mexico City when the fledgling author and heroin addict, accidentally shot and killed his wife, Joan, in a drunken re-enactment of William Tell.  The experience served as a catalyst awakening a creativity which produced the masterpieces The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.

This week’s talk follows a trail of evidence from letters, manuscripts, photographs, Shakespearean references, Plato, pulp publishers, vaudeville acts, and a torso murderer (a reference to the infamous Cleveland Torso Murders of the 30s which were investigated by the same police officer who successfully convicted Al Capone).

Burroughs was hailed by Norman Mailer, novelist, journalist and innovator of the non-fiction narrative, as  “The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.”

Over the years Burroughs’ work has been a major influence by musicians and artists like Lou Reed, Joy Division, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Kurt Cobain. Oliver Harris is the author of seven books and several articles on the Beatnik writer. He has also edited Burroughs’ early trilogy of novels for Penguin Books including Junkie and Queer.

Buy tickets for the William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer talk on November 19 at The Last Tuesday Society here >>

Watch a trailer for the new film William S. Burroughs: A Man Within below:

Will you be attending the Torso Murderer talk? Do you feel Burroughs is rightly labelled as one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century? Favourite book? Go on…tell us.

Words: Dean Samways

Burroughs paints London town poppy red

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William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs

William Burroughs, author of cult classic The Naked Lunch and opium addict, is having some of his work put on show in two London exhibitions this December.

The tenth anniversary of the legendary writer, filmmaker and artist’s death will be marked by a public display of some of his previously unseen artworks.

Burrough’s first show will appear at the Riflemaker gallery in Soho. The exhibition, opening 9 December, will comprise over 100 abstract works the author painted on the inside of manila folders while he was penning some of his classic novels like The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.

Samples of this work leaked into the public sphere some two years ago and caused quite a stir, making December’s exhibition a much anticipated event for fans. What makes the display more unique is this will be the first time anywhere in the world that the complete collection of abstracts has been showcased.

Since his death in 1997 the works have been lying almost undiscovered in his Lawrance home in Kansa. During the last decade workers have been cataloguing the artist’s collections and this is the first to come out of their hard work.

Tot Taylor, director of the Riflemaker gallery, said: “The file-folders come from his bedroom. He was always thinking of different things. He would file his notes in the folders and paint the insides according to how the writings could be envisaged in art. The paintings are very beautiful, some are soothing; some are psychotic. The Burroughs estate is working slowly through his things, and these files have only recently come to light.

“Burroughs has been hugely influential among musicians because of his don’t-give-a-damn attitude. He was proud to be like that and was the originator of the Beatnik movement, which was hugely influential.”

The father of Beatnik’s London outing doesn’t stop there though. Starting 16 December at GSK Contemporary, Royal Academy, a collection of unseen films will be aired from their reel tins for the first time as well as other works.

Footage of the writer caught on camera reading his work will accompany portraits of the counter-culture icon by painters like David Hockney, and collaborations between the multi-talented Burroughs and other artists.

David Thorp, curator of GSK Contemporary said the show would inspire younger artists by demonstrating just how important he was to his own generation of artists.

“He was hugely influential as a presence with value outside the mainstream. He stands for something that is iconoclastic and anti-establishment in a romantic but robust way.”

For the diary:
‘Life-File: The Private File-Folders of William S Burroughs’ is at Riflemaker from 9 December ‘Burroughs Live’ forms part of GSK Contemporary at the Royal Academy from 16 December

Below is a snippet from a documentary wherein Burroughs discusses his time in London and his famed method of writing, ‘cut up’. Rest assured The Scribbler will explore Burroughs’ artistic techniques in much greater detail in the near future:

Words: Dean Samways

Written by Dean Samways

October 21, 2008 at 4:30 pm