02.02.12

Newfound letters from William Burroughs explain his writing game.

A new book compiling the letters of William S. Burroughs, the drug-addled satirist who wrote Naked Lunch, and my personal favorite author when I was a kid, will be released in February. A sample of the letters, ran by The Paris Review, shows a personable side of Burroughs rarely seen in his fiction.

One letter alludes to Burroughs’ writing “game”, the technique he used to write abstract, impossibly fragmented books such as Nova Express and The Soft Machine in the ’60s.

A game I play is to type out phrases from Rimbaud or any poet I fancy. Then I cut into sections. Rearrange putting section four with section one and section two with section three and select a new arrangement.Try it some time with Rimbaud or any writing.

Also, Burroughs on taxes:

As regards the War Tax Protest if I started protesting and refus­ing to contribute to all the uses of tax money of which I disap­ prove: Narcotics Department, FBI, CIA, any and all expenditures for nuclear weapons, in fact any expenditures to keep the antiquated idea of a nation on its dying legs, I would wind up refusing to pay one cent of taxes,

And Burroughs on making a living as an artist:

It is indeed difficult to make a living as a writer and my advice to anyone contemplating a literary career is to have some other trade. My own choice would be plumb­ ing, but I suppose they have a tight union to keep this twenty dollar an hour with two lazy worthless assistants to hand the head man his tools good thing from being swamped. I have a friend in New York who is a painter and can’t make a living at that, who makes 50 dollars per day fixing up lofts

-Jason Johnson

[via Paris Review]