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Posts Tagged ‘William S. Burroughs

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:

Discussion:
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

Lost beat novel ‘not worth the wait’

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And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

The US press has been hard at work this weekend dosing the flames of hype that have been rising around one of the literary world’s most anticipated releases ever.

As previously reported on The Scribbler a long delayed novel co-written by beatnik founding-fathers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is finally available to buy.

The writing of and originally planned release of And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks was surrounded by scandalous mystery. Over 60 years ago, when Kerouac was 23 and Burroughs 30, the scholars were arrested by the New York Police Department for helping a friend cover up a murder.

After they were released and cleared of the charges the pair decided to collaborate on a novel based upon the case. While Kerouac was pleased with the work American publishers unanimously disagreed.

While some sources cite this as being the reason why the book was so delayed, others state a pact was made between the writers and the real killer, one Lucien Carr that the novel would not be published until Carr passed away in an attempt to protect his name.

Thus the manuscripts were locked away and remained unpublished until this month when Grove Press did the right thing and treated it to some long deserved daylight.

Associated Press writer Bruce DeSilva this weekend damningly wrote: “The characters are aimless, intellectual wannabes who spend most of the book engaging in vacuous conversations while wandering from one seedy apartment and bar to another in pursuit of sex, drugs and whiskey.

“It is impossible to work up much concern for what will happen to any of them.”

DeSilva also added: “The crime, with its bohemian characters and hints of paedophilia, was a lot more interesting in the newspapers of the day than it is in the novel.”

The said crime was one of passion. Carr, the son in a well-to-do family, had become the object of obsession for the victim David Kammerer who met Carr years earlier in St. Louis while working as his Boy Scout leader. Kammerer reportedly followed Carr to New York where the older man met his demise at the end of Carr’s scout knife. The murderer then filled his pockets with stones and sent him to the bottom of the Hudson River.

Carr quickly confessed to Burroughs and Kerouac who in turn did not call the authorities, in fact it is claimed Kerouac helped get rid of the murder weapon. Eventually Carr was brought to justice and was found guilty of second-degree murder but was only given a two-year sentence after his lawyer argued that the crime was committed in self-defence from homosexual, paedophilic predator. Carr served his term and later led a successful career as an editor. He died in 2005.

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

DeSilva believes while the crime caused a sensation in 1944 New York and gave the writers a lot to write about ‘they failed to do much with it.’

Describing the book, DeSilva said: “The story is plodding, the characters uninteresting and the writing listless, with few hints at the innovative styles that would later make these writers icons of the beat generation. Perhaps the book will be of interest to literary scholars, but Grove could have posted it on an obscure internet site and spared the rest of us.”

DeSilva goes onto to protest: “Kerouac and Burroughs changed the names of all the characters, including themselves. Inexplicably, they also changed the murder weapon, turning the delicious detail of the scout knife into a hatchet. As ‘Mike Ryko’ and ‘Will Dennison’, the authors take turns narrating the story in a hard-boiled style, trying to write like Mickey Spillane and making a mess of it.”

Kerouac and Burroughs may have made a mess of the book in one reporters eyes but fans of beat writing and contemporary literature should remain enthusiastic about a release by two of the world’s most renowned authors that has been a closely kept secret for some 60 years. Posthumous releases are always something to look forward to.

Keep it The Scribbler Blog for a review of the novel in the coming weeks.

To buy your own copy of And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks click here.

There’s a 71 minute documentary on Jack Kerouac below if you have the time and the patience to watch it, we did:

For a William S. Burroughs video cast your eyes below:

Discussion:
Has anyone read the book? What is your opinion of it? Is it on a par with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, regarded as one of the best pieces of crime writing ever produced?

Words: Dean Samways

Early Beat collaboration novel finally released

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Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Two of the beat generation‘s shining lights are having one of their earliest collaborations published. A young William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac were linked to murder which shocked New York; this unpleasant episode led the pair to write a debut which remained unpublished for years.

The book has been Beatnik‘s holy grail for many generations. It is seen as the book that started it all; bringing together two of the best beat writers. The book, named And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, tells the tale of male friendship, gay obsession and murder, which went on to fascinate and inspire future generations of authors.

The reason it has taken over 60 years to be published fully is down to the man who was found guilty of the murder that shook New York. Lucian Carr was found guilty and after serving his prison sentence he re-invented himself as Lou Carr how got a job at the UPI news service and got married and started a family.

Kerouac always scared Lou Carr with attempts to get the book published. Kerouac wrote a fictional account of events using fictional names and then after his death his biographer Ann Charters brought up the murder in her book on Kerouac. In 1976 an article in New York Magazine included extracts from the book.

William Burroughs decided to help his friend sue the magazine and gain controlling rights over the book, after Burroughs died in 1997 his executor James Grauerholz visited Carr promising that the account won’t be published whilst Carr was alive. Lou car died in 2005 and after 60 long years waiting the book can finally be published.

And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks has been one of the eagerly anticipated releases in a long while. Although the story surrounding the books release may over shadow the book itself there is no doubt this will be met with baited breath by many beat generation fans cross the globe.

Watch Johnny Depp reading Jack Kerouac below:

Words: Seamus Swords

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