People who are really into William S. Burroughs, in my experience, have either been heavy drug users or the type of people who seemingly have used heavy drugs for quite some time but do not do drugs and do not drink alcohol either (for the most part). Like drugs though, Burroughs has the ability to bring people together who are worlds apart who might not otherwise communicate with one another.
With the passing of Burroughs in the summer of 1997, I felt as if I would not see any work from him unless someone got all up in his shit and dug something out. I was ecstatic about the release of “Last Words,” which was his journal the last couple years of his long life. There have been books about Burroughs, but not by Burroughs.
That time has arrived with “Everything Lost: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs.”
I have had the opportunity to talk with Prof. Oliver Harris, of Keele University, in England, about the book. Harris is a true Burroughs scholar, editing the 50th anniversary edition of “Junky,” working on the Burroughs/Allen Ginsberg collaboration “The Yage Letters Redux,” and quite a number of impressive others. He is even working on the 50th anniversary edition of essays regarding “Naked Lunch,” an anniversary edition of “Queer” as well as a new book of letters. The dude knows what’s up.
We discussed how diaries/notebooks allow the reader to get close to the artist we admire. I am a huge fan of reading the diaries or notebooks of artists/authors. They permit you to “get inside” the artist and see what was going on inside their head during a specific period, or see some works or sketches that may have not been published in a collection previously, or that evolved into something else later on. They allow us, the reader, to see something “outside” of their writing, as Harris put it, and we both absolutely agreed upon.
I am very anxious to get my copy of the book delivered, as its set to be released in about a week or so. I am not sure what to expect from it, being Burroughs. His favorite book of mine though is a collection of essays, collected in “The Adding Machine.” He goes an about the process of teaching creative writing, to essays on books/writers that have influenced him, to discussing what the Johnson code is all about, something I know people reading this will be, and actually probably are, practicing already.
And so the book is coming out soon, compiled by a man who knows exactly what he is doing and is one of the most educated people in the world on Burroughs. Get it.
edit: I have learned some more about this book, and would like to add that the book is like no other Burroughs book that has been published; being this was never meant to be published at all. The original notebook is put side-by-side with the transcription. I have seen some of the handwriting and it is not easy to decipher what it states, in fact, it is quite easy to misinterpret what the handwriting says. Having a thorough knowledge of Burroguhs, as Harris does, qualifies him to correctly lay out some precious work for us to enjoy.
*posted by Dan