Thursday, August 29, 2013

One of many reasons why you should read some William Burroughs

From Nova Express (1964) the literary equivalent of the one-take tracking shot.

He set up screens on the walls of his bars opposite mirrors and took and projected at arbitrary intervals shifted from one bar to the other mixing Western Gangster films of all times and all places with word and image of the people in his cafes and on the streets his agents with movie camera and telescope lens poured images of the city back into his projector and camera array and nobody knew whether he was in a Western movie in Hongkong or The Aztec Empire in Ancient Rome or Suburban America whether he was a bandit a commuter or a chariot driver whether he was firing a 'real' gun or watching a gangster movie and the city moved in swirls and eddies and tornadoes of image explosive bio-advance out of space to neon...
And that's one of the most coherent, legible pieces of the entire book.

Over the past few weeks I've been dipping into Nova Express.It falls into that rare category of books that are tremendously hard to read (because of Burroughs' cutting up and remixing of his own and others' work throughout) but feel one-hundred-percent worth the effort.

Where language fails, the imagination leaps in, fills in the blanks, tries to creates value. Burroughs' dub writing here asks not just your attention but your participation as well.

But any clarity the reader gains is transient - no sooner have you grabbed at words as your eyes fall down the page, and pieced together some coherent narrative, than it is eroded by the linguistic chaos in the next paragraph.

Entropy wins out in Burroughs in the most magical way.

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