Again Burroughs uses the cut-up technique to scatter images of gay sex, hanging, drug addiction, poverty, warfare, telepathy, and insect and crustacean life through what you might call a plot. Again we meet some of his favourite characters, including Carl, and Agent Lee.
For several pages the cut-up technique involves cutting out a few words of the lyrics of a variety of love songs, some inevitably used more than once, and splicing them together. This causes some interesting curious such as "Got you under my skin on my mind." (p 35) and I suspect there are some who will celebrate the postmodern irony that makes love look so repetitive and yet so unique at the same time ... or is it trying to tell us that the creative process is merely remixing and that originality is dead? Hmmm.
"(ironically the format is banal to its heart of pulp ambivalently flailing noneffectual tentacles of verbal diarrhea)" (p22). Quite.
The plot seems to revolve around the potential of tape recordings played in some sort of synchrony to cause people to hang themselves but it is also mixed up with an intergalactic virus that seems to take the form of street boys. Or have I got that wrong? It was difficult to work out what was going on and even harder to care.
Despite Burroughs being an American author Agent Lee meets 'Genial' a drug addicted gay assassin, in Boots the Chemist in Piccadilly London; Boots of Piccadilly was famous in the 1960s as being the all-night chemist where addicts could fulfil their scripts; I wonder if it still is?
More than with any other Burroughs book (the others I have linked to from this post are quite good) the reader needs to tolerate a certain amount of being taken for a ride for the occasional nuggets of poetic beauty: either a perfect phrase, or an interesting idea, or a wonderful image:
- "it was across the table raw and bloody as a fresh used knife." (p 1)
- "who am I to be critical few things in my own past I'd just as soon forget." (p 2); Burroughs has a nice way of subverting grammar while leaving the sense entirely clear
- "Winds of time" (p 5)
- "The two beings twisted free of human coordinates" (p 6)
- "You can run a government without police if your conditioning program is tight enough but you can't run a government without bull shit." (p 15)
- "The dreamer with dirty cheeks" (p 52)
- "These our actors bid you peaceful opaqueness in this monument of tiredness." (p 135)
- "John stood there with a cup of coffee late morning sunlight in his eyes." (p 143)
April 2017; 168 pages)