Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Accident - Tea With WSB

Speaking of William S Burroughs (we were?), E@L has been chuckling and ruminating by turns through the publishable snippets of Philip Willey's WIP (novel, autobiography? who the fuck can tell). Other snippets have be seen occasionally at Dick Headley's blog.

Dick sent E@L a copy of his alter-ego's small text, printed on real paper, kindly signed by someone called Winston and dedicated to someone called Josef, all in exchange for a line of finely printed text on E@L's Mastercard statement. You too can join the select community - a copy may be purchased from the link on the link above. [Full disclosure: E@L has had beers with the man in various globetrotting locations, he seemed harmful enough.]

Naked Tea - The Burroughs Bits. Philip Willey. Ahndai Books 2011. ISBN: 97809734021 1 7

The typewriter font, love it. The illustrations, superb - videlicet, above.

And text, as E@L expected. Self-indulgent and dense stream-of-consciousness gonzo. Just way I like it.


Is this autobiographical? The introduction says it partly is. Then you think no, he's made this all up, including the introduction, he's pulling our legs. Then, once again you think this is real stuff, this is close to what happened, close to the core; PW was there, being as gonzo as he possibly could.

There are four sections, three written by PW, some (all?) of these are on the DH blog somewhere. No don't go looking for them! Buy the book. Like, PW needs the money.

First there is titular cup of Naked Tea with WSB at Fortnum and Masons, where Simon (who in the third section becomes Phil) conducts an interview that turns into an excellent, sardonic lecture on modern literature and life and the compulsion to write that non-linear "pastiche of drug-induced prose poems, essays, routines, dramatic fragments and therapeutic ramblings." WSB's observations, and Simon's reflection on them, clearly concern the greater novel we are reading a part of now (or perhaps the squandered talent in Chuck Woww's efforts) as much as WSB's own novels.

Then comes William at the the 1970's Phun City rock festival. Burroughs was there, as was JG Ballard (thanks Google), but was PW? It is from Burroughs' point of view (stoned - being raped by a giant cockroach) and is funny. Does he work his tapes into something later? I am not familiar enough with the compete works to know. Or is it PW doing the work here?

Thirdly, PW sits in a cafe in Morocco and writes a letter to the late Burroughs. He is talking with the ghost of WSB - who is observing and commenting on the writing of the letter, ("I find the times changes a little confusing") - and to describe Tangier as it is now, how low PW has sunk, how the world is now and then lets him have the last word: "Facebook sounds terrifying."

In the fourth section, the epitaph, there is a reprint of an online essay by one George Laughead about WSB obliquely confessing that the shooting of Joan was no accident. Interesting...


This is humour from the inside. As in our favorite parts of his blog, where Dick is sailing the BVI with a pair of Thai babes, or mixing it with the hoi-rock-polloi of the 60's (maybe some pre-reading is required?), there is a sense of complete but utterly casual immersion in the events and zeitgeist (of the times, man!).

This is the technique, the theme, perhaps the point. Being there.

Cleverly self-aware anachronisms, true-ish facts, throw-away name-dropping (where to start with a list of names!), invented voices on authentic vices, and the result is that you cannot help but find yourself in the midst of it. In the thick of the chaos, on the edge of notoriety and perhaps a hastily-unweighted decision away from fame and fortune yourself, as was Phil/Simon/Dick/Chuck himself, the rumour has it. Yes, that's it in the end, to have them (the soon to rich, the already infamous) as part of your story, but you are not of theirs. Imagine Rozencrantz and Guildenstern with AAA passes to the 60's and 70's. Sigh.

You couldn't imagine that all the serious fun of these times - the frighteningly new music and all this self-parodying art and literature happening around you - would become legend. While you took notice because it was your life, you didn't take notes for the same reason, and instead sat down to think over things in your life and called for a nice cup of tea.

With none other than Bill Burroughs. Well you might as well take notes now, because you are here to interview the man, make a name for yourself, perhaps succeeding, perhaps failing at both/either task(s). Unreliable narrator interviewing an unreliable character. What can go wrong? Nothing! Just as long as you hold that glass still on your head Joan, darling.


"Shoot the bitch and write a book! That's what I did! … There are no accidents." WSB (allegedly).




savannah said...

i read it, sugar. *L* why are you using comment moderation??? :(

expat@large said...

Sav: was getting a lot of spam.

I wonder if you agreed with what i said. But I just want to describe the structure of the book, whihc i failed to do in that first draft at 2am. Would fail Lit 101 with a review that superficial.

And to avoid ambiguity and those "the reader feels..." and "the writer places..." cliches, that is my hope.

expat@large said...

You might think I've prolly gone a bit overboard, but I haven't even started on PW's (WSB's) bleak literary philosophy.

But I'm mainly trying to explain why I like the Dick Headley style.

Skippy-san said...

I am considering comment moderation myself. Not for spam-but to weed out pissed off and irrational commenters.

WSB sounds great.

Unknown said...

I am not even sure what you wrote, never mind what I might find in the book.

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