on 19 November 2010
Even now, fifty years and counting, Burroughs' great, gamey novel resists assimilation, commodification and domestication. Any neophytes to the novel should expect a wild and careering trainride through the blasted landscape of Burroughs' imagination - the horrors of addiction and control are explicated through shock, language tested to destruction and glittering black humour.
This book is a timely collection of essays on the novel; edited by Oliver Harris (who should need no introduction to the Burroughs' critic, having carried out some sterling work in the Burroughs' archives over the years as well as producing some fine writing on the man and the work) and Ian MacFadyen (who has written about the Dreamachine, so dear to Burroughs' heart, and here contributes a very interesting series of dossiers) and containing some excellent contributions by such noted critics as Jennie Skerl and such cultural historians as Barry Miles, as well as figures such as DJ Spooky and Jonas Mekas.
That list alone should signify just how influential Burroughs has been, as well as just how much that influence has extended beyond the merely literary.
Essays on Burroughs in Tangier and Paris (Hibbard, Hemmer, Hussey and Lebel), personal responses (Miles), reactions to the Lunch as physical object (Birmingham and Mackay), even a totally new take on the subject (for me, at least) in Shaun De Waal's explication of the impact the novel had on him as a gay South African - I'm impressed by the wide range of material in this wonderful collection. It's a worthy enough tribute to Uncle Bill, God bless him.
And you even get a laudatory blurb from Lou Reed - a man not given to throwing compliments around.