Plenty of things have been said about William Seward Burroughs over the course of his life and after. He was a shamble man with a box full of mysteries, a man that can’t be admired nor respected but simply studied for the amount of chaos he produced with virtually everything he touched.
He’s a funny cat ain’t he? Probably the craziest author to have ever lived, and I am well aware of the magnitude of such statement. His stories were filled with the most brutish of images, straight out of the gates of Hell. Heroin addicts in greasy slimy orgies gushed with blood and fecal matter. Children viciously raped by prominent characters of his books. Dead junkies on the ground being consumed by rats while the people pass by. They’re some of the strangest, most disturbing pieces of literature to have ever been published, but it is their grotesque honesty what makes them perplexing in the first place.
No one had the guts to write so openly about those topics. You can’t tell if he’s advocating or condemning such behavior half the time you read him. For the most part it’s nothing more than a story, but it’s one which thousands across the world have experienced. Through his work (most notably Junky and Naked Lunch), Burroughs was acting out as a reporter to the underbelly’s underbelly. It was his way of keeping everybody in check, discretely telling its readers: “that of which I speak of is true, and here you are, reading my book away, doing nothing about it, as the condemned rot”, a clever trick to remind everyone we are nothing more than what our circumstances make of us.
My obsession with good and evil, right and wrong, is what always brings me back to Burroughs. He has seen the worst of the human race, and is constantly reminding us of such fact through his books, letters, and stories. By showing us this side of humanity, our twisted self-righteous truths take on a new meaning, exposing the double standards each of us possess at one discussion or another. Our moral compass is short, easily turned at the face of indifference.
The more you learn about Burroughs, the more you are left pondering whether he is a monster or from a different planet. I can only come to the conclusion that he’s a little bit of both. He wreaked havoc everywhere he went. He was friends with the lowest of folks. He spoke of his drug addiction as nothing more than an exercise of freedom. He killed his wife, psychologically tortured his son to the point of suicide, and not once did he make amends for any of it. He kept his own, even after all his deeds. A deep and hidden part of my soul can’t help but stand in awe of such an individual.
There is nothing sacred or beautiful about Burroughs’ world. Everyone’s a junkie or a fiend of either a violent or sexual nature. Through his satirizing of society, he shows us the crippled side of the American culture, the scary hypocrisy that lurks around every school, every church, and every town hall. The world he invented for himself and his junkie friends is only chaotic for the vain purpose of proving a point. He understood more than anyone the paradigms that shape society, and in consequence he saw how big of a joke it was. Destroying society by exploiting the grasp for ripe self-parody in the hands of depraving behavior in an already nutcase of a city was his magnum opus, his salute to the many who were ridiculed for spotting the bullshit before anyone else did.
Character were of minimal importance in his work. His goal was to encapsulate what makes a whole begrudging collective tick. There was nothing more important in his books than a character’s surroundings. That way he could tell the story with ease, more robotic and analytical than emotional. It made him unique to a fault, and in some way influence his perception as a skull-cracked lunatic extipulating shady visions of an unknown future.
Burroughs was one the few authors of his time to actually see that fully raged visions of totalitarianism of the 50s’ were not just mere tools of communist propaganda, but of capitalism as well. The idea that the 50s’ were the most perfect of times in America was feverishly rebutted by everyone belonging to or concerning the Beat Generation, but none as eloquently and grotesquely induced as Bill Burroughs’ rebuttals of modern society and where he was heading.
It takes a few reads from both his works and others to see the parody clearly. The images he created in the 50s’ of a future filled with scum and over-population all together weren’t made-up phonies by a mad man. They were an actual representation of the direction the world was presently headed to. Now, almost 60 years later, Burroughs doesn’t seem that crazy at all.
Inside his broken skull probably laid the answers to all our sufferings, and the fucker took them with him to his grave. It was a cold day in Hell the day mighty Bill Burroughs arrived. Legend says that upon meeting the Devil, he saw his own reflection. I find such statement very hard to disprove.