Take a creative writing course with William Burroughs
07:00 am


William Burroughs

So, you want to write but can’t afford those darned writing courses you see advertised online or in all those fancy cultural ‘zines you spend your hard earned dollars on?

Well, fret no more, for now you can have your very own creative writing class from William S. Burroughs, all thanks to the wonders of YouTube.

Burroughs gave these creative writing classes at Naropa University in 1979, where the author discussed works of literature, writing techniques and exercises for becoming a better writer.

Lecture One:

William S. Burroughs lecture on Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and A Short Trip Home, and Stephen King’s The Shining.

Burroughs also discusses exercises for increasing awareness, books as mental film, codes of conduct, heroes, and the film of Burroughs’s novel Naked Lunch.


Lecture Two:

William S. Burroughs lectures on creative reading, including a discussion about various authors including Joseph Conrad, Denton Welch, Jane Bowles, Brion Gysin, and Julian Jaynes.

Burroughs also addresses subjects such as art heroes, hemispheres of the brain, and the training of assassins.


Lecture Three:

William S. Burroughs’ lecture on creative reading - Burroughs mentions a wide variety of authors including Aleister Crowley, Paul Bowles, and many others.

The class also discusses science fiction, non-fiction, General Semantics, scriptwriting, cloning, rotten ectoplasm, and judgement in cut-ups, as well as Burroughs’s novel The Soft Machine.



William Burroughs on writing and art.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
A word in your era: William Burroughs explains Brion Gysin’s Cut-Up Method

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
The Cuddlification of Cthulhu
02:09 pm


H.P. Lovecraft

cthulhu leggings1
Cthulhu leggings from Ali Express

After endless weeks of snow, ice, and subzero temperatures, the clear, starry winter sky makes a girl’s thoughts turn to one thing: H.P. Lovecraft.

In the manner of people who like to kit themselves out with ducks, spouting whales, pink flamingos, or lucky cats, it is possible to dress head to toe in Cthulhu-themed clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Not to mention all those Cthulhu tea cosies, car decals, window stickers, class rings, Jello molds, and holiday decorations.

Some of these items are downright cute, an adjective never used by Lovecraft in his Cthulhu mythos. The cuddlification of Cthulhu drives a lot of people…well, mad. He’s supposed to inspire mind-fucking fear, not make you want to snuggle him as a plush toy or wear him as a comfy accessory! Still, Geek Crafts is why some of us learned handicrafts.

Cthulhu charm bracelet
Stuart Williams’ Lovecraftian Charm Bracelet

cthulhu medallion necklace
Stuart Williams’ Cthulhu Medallion Necklace

cthulhu scarf ravelry
Cthulhu Scarf knitting pattern from Merelen’s Knits on Ravelry

cthulhu scarf humphreys
Crocheted Cthulhu scarf from Humphreys Handmade
More after the jump…

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Shooting on movie adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s ‘High-Rise’ to begin in June
03:28 pm


J.G. Ballard

Late last year I was casting about for a good book to read, and I inquired on Facebook which J.G. Ballard book is the right one to start with. (I read The Atrocity Exhibition many years ago.) DM’s own Tara McGinley weighed in with alacrity, urging me to try High-Rise, which I directly went and did. I found it just tremendous, and I kept running into Ballardian resonances of the novel while I was reading it, news stories and the like. It’s a marvelous, anomic novel, counterintuitive in all its surface premises and yet emotionally and psychologically true every step of the way.

According to Wikipedia, “For over 30 years, British producer Jeremy Thomas has wanted to do a film version of the book. It was nearly made in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg.” Instead Thomas ended up producing David Cronenberg’s 1996 adaptation of Ballard’s Crash instead.

Ballard fans can rejoice (or cringe) at the news that a high-profile version of High-Rise is officially in the works. Director Ben Wheatley, whose last two efforts were A Field in England and the pitch black comedy Sightseers, today tweeted that principal photography on High-Rise is now set to begin in June. Wheatley is also directing the first two episodes of the upcoming season of Doctor Who, so he is being entrusted to introducing audiences to Peter Capaldi in the main role.

Starring as Dr. Robert Laing in High-Rise is Tom Hiddleston, best known for playing Loki in the Avengers movie franchise. This adaptation of High-Rise is likewise being produced by Jeremy Thomas.

High-Rise is a formidable challenge for any director, and we’ll just have to wait and see how well it comes out. Certainly, if we can judge by the poster art, we have substantial reason for optimism.

Here’s a peculiar “adaptation” of High-Rise by Mike Bonsall executed in Google SketchUp:

via Den of Geek

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
A visit with Truman Capote
09:01 am


Truman Capote
In Cold Blood

Truman Capote said he started writing In Cold Blood to test out his theory that a writer could produce a work of art out of factual material.

“This new adventure of mine, the experiment, is what I call ‘the non-fiction novel.’

“A non-fiction novel being a genre brought about by the synthesis of journalism with fictional technique. In other words, the end result of it being this new book of mine, In Cold Blood.

In Cold Blood is the story about the murder of a family, in a small town in western Kansas. A Mr. Herbert W. Clutter, and his wife, Bonnie Clutter, and their two teenage children. This was an especially strange and brutal murder in 1959, in which the family were shot to death for no apparent cause or motive whatever.”

His experiment was a success, and made Capote perhaps the best known novelist in the world. But it came at very high price, for Capote was never to equal the quality of the writing he achieved with In Cold Blood ever again.

Produced, filmed and edited by Davis Maysles, Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, this brief film A Visit With Truman Capote (aka With Love From Truman) captures the author at his Long Island hideaway, during an interview with Karen Gundersen from Newsweek magazine.

Part 2 after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Happy 100th birthday William S. Burroughs!
02:00 pm


William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs was born one hundred years ago today, February 5, 1914, in St. Louis, MO. Unsurprisingly, this year there will be countless celebrations of his life, work and still very profound cultural influence. The best place to keep up with the events of the Burroughs’ centenary is at the Burroughs100 website.

Here are some past Dangerous Minds posts about the author:

When Bowie met Burroughs

Jimmy Page and William Burroughs discuss magick and eat burritos, 1975

Cover Versions: Worldwide covers of William S. Burroughs books

The William S. Burroughs/Beatles connection

Everybody Loves William Burroughs: A photographic collection

When Kurt Cobain met William Burroughs

William S. Burroughs on the occult

When William Burroughs met Joy Division

Ah Poop is Here! William Burroughs’ actual turd used in bioart project

When Madonna met William S. Burroughs

Below, an excerpt from NOVA EXPRESS: “Last Words of Hassan Sabbah” by Andre Perkowski:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘The Art of Tripping’: A Who’s Who of creative drug users

The Art of Tripping
The title of The Art of Tripping, a documentary about the visionary uses of narcotics that aired on Channel 4 in the UK in 1993, has a slippery double meaning. The surface notion is the idea of a guide to tripping well, of tripping with style, but that’s not what it refers to. More literally, the documentary addresses the artistic uses of drugs, art produced by tripping.

“Devised and directed” by Storm Thorgerson, well known as one of the members of the legendary Hipgnosis artistic team, The Art of Tripping is a satisfyingly intelligent narrative that brings the viewer through two centuries of the effects of mind-altering substances on highly creative minds. Hail Britannia: I’m trying to imagine CBS coming up with a program like this, without success. Even PBS wouldn’t likely go out of its way to praise the salutary uses of mescaline, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong on that point. The narrator is Bernard Hill, who does an excellent job of imitating a certain kind of louche academic type who might plausibly have created the documentary you’re watching (even though he didn’t).
Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
The documentary takes you from the days of Coleridge more than 200 years ago up through De Quincey, Rimbaud, Modigliani, and Picasso before getting to the golden age of chemically enhanced literature and painting following World War II. Be warned: this is a high-minded documentary, and the focus is entirely on authors and painters. You won’t hear anything about Jimi Hendrix here. The doc has a highbrow bias but is no less witty for that: many interviews are digitally fucked-with in appropriate ways, including a Picasso expert whose bit is presented in a cubist style and a commentator on LSD whose outline is briefly replaced with footage of an underwater vista, and so forth. In the familiar effort to make sure everything stays amiably “visual,” there’s also a metaphor in which the narrator ascends a creaky elevator to the rooftop of a building—the resolution of that metaphor could not be more cheesy or perfunctory.

Most notable for the purposes of DM is its lengthy succession of prominent talking heads, from Allen Ginsberg and J.G. Ballard to Hubert Selby Jr. and Paul Bowles. Where such personages were unavailable for reasons of death, Hill “interviews”  De Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe, Anaïs Nin, Andy Warhol, and a few others who are embodied by actors who quote diaries and other literary works in order to “answer” the questions.

Paul Bowles
All of the great druggie classics of the postwar era are explored. Allen Ginsberg reads some bits of “Laughing Gas” from Kaddish and Other Poems, while Paul Bowles discusses the practice of ingesting kif in Tangier and reads a druggy bit from his book Let It Come Down. J.G. Ballard calls Naked Lunch “a comic masterpiece … a kind of apocalyptic view of the postwar world.” Amusingly, Ballard later says that “taking LSD was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life.” Of course, a few years after this documentary aired, Ballard wrote Cocaine Nights, which would obviously have fit this show to a T.
J.G. Ballard
J.G. Ballard
The show is chronological, so if you’re looking for Aldous Huxley or Ken Kesey or Jay McInerney, it won’t be too hard to find. My favorite bit comes towards the very end, when Lawrence Sutin, author of Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, describes Dick’s disturbingly high intake of amphetamines:

At his peak, in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, by his own testimony he was taking a thousand amphetamines a week. White crosses and whatever speed, street drugs he was taking. The testimony of the roommate who I interviewed was that he would go to the refrigerator, in which was a large jar of white crosses, and simpy dip his hand in, take a handful, and swallow them, so if you ask how he fared with all this, the answer was: badly.


via {feuilleton}

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Ernest Hemingway and the six-word short story
07:56 am


Ernest Hemingway

It is claimed Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story that could make people cry for a bet. The wager was ten dollars, which Hemingway won with the following:

“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

However, there’s no hard evidence that this ever happened.

Snopes has categorized the anecdote as “Undetermined.”

Quote Investigator claims Hemngway’s tale was first reported in Get Published! Get Produced!: A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing by Peter Miller in 1974:

Apparently, Ernest Hemingway was lunching at Luchow’s with a number of writers and claimed that he could write a short story that was only six words long. Of course, the other writers balked. Hemingway told each of them to put ten dollars in the middle of the table; if he was wrong, he said, he’d match it. If he was right, he would keep the entire pot. He quickly wrote six words down on a napkin and passed it around; Papa won the bet. The words were “FOR SALE, BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.” A beginning, a middle and an end!

The six word story was also mentioned by author Arthur C. Clarke in a letter dated 11 Oct. 1991:

“My favourite is Hemingway’s—he’s supposed to have won a $10 bet (no small sum in the ’20s) from his fellow writers. They paid up without a word. . . .

Here it is. I still can’t think of it without crying—FOR SALE. BABY SHOES. NEVER WORN.”

Quote Investigator suggests possible sources for the story may be early advertisements from 1906 onwards; newspaper stories, the first from 1910; or even an essay on creative writing by William R. Kane from 1917.

Whatever the truth of the matter, this short story does succeed in telling a moving tale in just six simple words, and the anecdote about its origin does little to change Hemingway‘s position as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Here’s how Mr. Hemingway described the author’s role in his Nobel Prize winning speech in 1954:

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

“For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”


Ernest Hemingway interviewed at his home in Cuba after his Nobel Prize win had been announced.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Talking sex with Andy and Bill: William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol discuss ‘the first time’
05:53 am


Andy Warhol
William S. Burroughs

Two cultural icons of the twentieth century, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol, enjoying dinner and amiably discussing the first time they had sex with another man—whatever could be more salubrious? Horses are part of the conversation, too. Read on in the excerpt from Victor Bockris’ classic book, With William Burroughs, A Report from the Bunker

Burroughs: Cocteau had this party trick that he would pull. He would lie down, take off his clothes, and come spontaneously. Could do that even in his fifties. He’d lie down there and his cock would start throbbing and he’d go off. It was some film trick that he had.

Bockris: How’d he pull that off? Have you ever been able to come through total mental—

Burroughs: Oh, I have indeed. I’ve done it many times. It’s just a matter of getting the sexual image so vivid that you come.

Warhol: How old were you when you first had sex?

Burroughs: Sixteen. Just boarding school at Los Alamos Ranch School where they later made the atom bomb.

Warhol: With who?

Burroughs: With this boy in the next bunk.

Warhol: What did he do?

Burroughs: Mutual masturbation. But during the war this school, which was up on the mesa there thirty-seven miles north of Santa Fe, was taken over by the army. That’s where they made the atom bomb. Oppenheimer [the scientist who invented the bomb] had gone out there for his health and he was staying at a dude ranch near this place and said, “Well, this is the ideal place.” It seems so right and appropriate somehow that I should have gone to school there. Los Alamos Ranch School was one of those boarding schools where everyone rode a horse. Fucking horses, I hate ‘em. I had sinus trouble and I’d been going to New Mexico for my health during the summer vacations and then my family contacted the director, A. J. Connell, who was a Unitarian and believed very much in positive thinking, and I went there for two years. This took place on a sleeping porch, 1929.

Warhol: How great! Was the sex really like an explosion?

Burroughs: No no … I don’t remember it was so long ago.

Warhol: I think I was twenty-five when I first had sex, but the first time I knew about sex was under the stairs in Northside, Pittsburgh, and they made this funny kid suck this boy off. I never understood what it meant…

Burroughs: Made him do what?

Warhol: Suck this boy off, but I didn’t know what it meant, I was just sitting there watching when I was five years old. How did you get this kid to do it, or did he do it to you?

Burroughs: Oh I don’t know, sort of a lot of talking back and forth…

Here’s a remarkable clip of the pair, this time chatting about, er, chicken fried steak—in the very room in which Arthur Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey! Phew, so much history! The footage is from an episode of the BBC documentary program Arena about the Hotel Chelsea and there are a couple of odd narrative elements to it, but the clip mercifully ends with Nico singing a haunting rendition of “Chelsea Girls”—in the Chelsea Hotel itself, one wonders if it was in Room 506…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
The Thomas Pynchon Songbook?
08:32 am


Thomas Pynchon

Dangerous Minds pal Michael Backes writes:

Thomas Pynchon is the reclusive author of Gravity’s Rainbow, V, The Crying of Lot 49, Vineland and…  Forget that.  All the Pynchon stuff starts that way.  Cut to the good stuff.  Thomas Pynchon is a very, very smart and extremely funny writer and one of the greatest novelists of all time.  He values his privacy.  Pynchon loves history, women, science, song and weed.

His brilliant novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, is filled with song lyrics.  Very funny song lyrics.  Daniel Couch  organized the Thomas Pynchon Fake Book Project to embark upon setting Pynchon’s lyrics to music.  Thirty-seven people from four states helped the project become reality.

Have a listen here.

Aside from the fact that my uncle was the lawyer in The Crying of Lot 49 (just kidding) I actually know not one, not two, but in fact four people who have met Thomas Pynchon. One of them even made him a curry!

Below, the speculative (for what else could it be?) Pynchon documentary A Journey Into the Mind of P

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
J. G. Ballard: ‘What I Believe’
07:25 am


J. G. Ballard

J. G. Ballard’s prose poem “What I Believe” was originally published in the French magazine Science Fiction, in January 1984. It was written in response to a request from editor Daniel Riche for the series entitled “Ce que je crois.” Described as “part poem part prayer” it offers a personal and amusing catalog of tropes and memes, the recurrent imagery, themes, and influences which are to be found in Ballard’s work.

Ballard’s poem subverts the pomposity of the traditional “What I believe” list, where you expect long meanders into politics and self-justification. Ballard’s is more fun, though as equally revealing as those written by Bertrand Russell or E. M. Forster.

The animation I believe or Credo was created for the first exhibition dedicated to J. G. Ballard and his work, which was held at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Spain, in 2008.

It should be noted this is an edited version of Ballard’s “What I Believe,” as read by the author on the documentary series The South Bank Show, in 2006.

“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.

“I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash, in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile graveyards, in the mystery of multi-storey car parks, in the poetry of abandoned hotels.”

Here the poem jumps, excising Ballard’s belief “in the mysterious beauty of Margaret Thatcher, in the arch of her nostrils and the sheen of her lower lip…” too problematic for those on the Left in TV, where abhorrence is the expected response to Mrs. T. However, Ballard pointedly goes on to imagine Thatcher “caressed by that young Argentine soldier in a forgotten motel watched by a tubercular filling station attendant.”

Ballard admired Thatcher, and said in an interview contained in RE/Search that he had almost jumped for joy when the Iron Lady was first elected in 1979. But to be fair, so did most of the British voting public, hence Thatcher’s dominance in power over three elections. Margaret Thatcher was the kind of strong woman Ballard admired, though he did later satirize her as the environmentalist zealot, Dr. Barbara in Rushing to Paradise.

Like the artist Francis Bacon,  Ballard reworked his own personal obsessions in his work, he mined a distinctive style of fiction that was instantly recognizable—airport car parks, empty swimming pools, deserted beaches, forgotten motels, etc etc. These are the memories of his childhood in Shanghai, as filtered through the prism of his imagination.

H/T Suzanne Moore. More on what Ballard believes plus bonus videos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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