Friday, June 29, 2012

The Whole Tamale

The Seer of Cleveland asks, "It seems to me that an interest in or association with William Burroughs ties together much of America's avante garde writing. Do you know if RAW and Burroughs were friends, or if they ever corresponded? Do you know of Burroughs read RAW's work?"

Bob knew Bill Burroughs. They hung out at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 along with Allen Ginsberg. They sat in a bar discussing The Cantos. Bob Wilson and Bob Shea included both of them in Illuminatus! Bob told me Burroughs thought it appropriate that the great epic poem of the 20th century ended in fragments.

(ASU bought Burroughs' papers in 1983. I used to hang out in the Special Collections room of the ASU library going through them. I remember reading a cut-up Burroughs did of Canto I.  I met Burroughs in the Special Collections room on October 23, 1985, when ASU bought the papers. I found him the most intimidating person I ever met.) (I found Roscoe Mitchell almost as intimidating, and I found Richard Bandler intimidating in a different fashion. I trouble getting Burroughs or Mitchell to talk, but I felt like Bandler could see right through me.)

I talked with Burroughs about Robert Anton Wilson and Philip Jose Farmer, and he nodded his head and said he had read them, but not much else.  I certainly did not find him garrulous.


  1. Philip Jose Farmer wrote a story called "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod," which was a Tarzan story, written as if Tarzan had been written by William Burroughs rather than Edgar Rice Burroughs. So Farmer was certainly familiar with William Burroughs' writing.

  2. I wonder what you'd say about the role of difficulty in reading books like The Cantos, Finnegans Wake, Ulysses, Zukovsky, Gravity's Rainbow, WSB, The Wasteland, the S-Cat Trilogy, even Illuminatus! (Just today someone on Internet labeled Illuminatus! as "unreadable.")?

    Why do you think some readers ENJOY difficulty, while others not only dislike it, but disparage it?

    My main model has to do with personality "types" and predilections, but I'm not wedded to this as my main model. What say you?