June 14, 2011

Strange fruit

Saw A Man Within, last year's Burrough's documentary. I was a big fan in my more fucked up youth, mainly of the last three novels and some essays, but even more so of the man himself. Whatever I was supposed to be [I went to a military school] I was not interested in becoming. Burroughs the man presented rebellion hiding in plain sight - short hair, three piece suit, balding and stiff. You couldn't imagine him dancing or fucking, never mind doing either of them well. For an uncool teen he represented an entirely plausible role model of sorts, as long as you ignored almost everything.

Burroughs expressed a lack of interest in psychedelics as opposed to the numbing altered states of junk and booze. This is reflected in his lack of emotion and human connection, an abstractness from himself and others. The desire to shock seemed as much aimed at himself as others. [A quote I remember runs something like: “...I think of the most horrible, disgusting things I can imagine, and then write them down...”]. What's hinted at in the work is made clear by friends / admirers in the documentary – he was incapable of confronting his own feelings for others and need to love and be loved, right up until almost the end.


Another angle. Now I read a lot fewer fucked up writers, or if I read them, the first attraction isn't toward their fucked-upness. If I'm going to pay close attention to someone then they need to moving toward to the light in some respect, trying to make things better.


The thing about waking up from time wasted along strange, unproductive and unfulfilling paths (again and again), is that eventually you get a sense that things need to change in quite obvious ways. And so we have our weaknesses / contradictions, and beyond a certain age are stuck with genuinely narrowing horizons, limited by decisions made long ago for reasons that at best were romantic or senseless, if not demented. There's very little that I can explain about my life, and long ago gave up trying to impose a narrative, because all the ones I came up with were just absurd creations myths.


I had very limited expectations as a teenager, with Burroughs being the best of the worst version of myself I could have been – paranoid and repressed – and if I'd worked harder I could have achieved a shitty local optimum, being really great at something I wasn't happy with. While Burroughs seemed to push as far as possible down a blind alley, I'm glad that I turned back, broke things down, and took the simpler in the long run step of changing everything possible, an option that – narrowing horizons notwithstanding – I keep in my pocket and pat on occasion, just for kicks.

Related: You are what you read

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