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A Word in Your Era: William Burroughs explains Brion Gysin’s ‘Cut-Up Method’

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I have always thought William Burroughs was a terribly superstitious man. His life was tinged by the strange, the paranormal and the occult. Whether this was his interest in the number “23”; or his hours spent gazing into mirrors in search of visions; or his belief that he could negate curses by repeating his own (“Go back, go back…” etc); or that he could, somehow, divine the future from Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up” techniques.

Of course, he couldn’t. But he was always smart enough to suggest he could (for what it’s worth), while at the same time creating distance through the wry aside, the knowing wink, to escape any suggestion he was deluded.

Put it this way, if some acquaintance buttonholed you at a party, with a relentless, monotone whine of how they closed down a Scientology office by repeatedly playing recorded tapes outside the premises, you would make your excuses and head for the canapes.

Burroughs claims as much here, in his explanation of Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up Method.”

When you experiment with Cut-Ups over a period of time you find that some of the Cut-Ups in re-arranged texts seemed to refer to future events. I cut-up an article written by John-Paul Getty and got, “It’s a bad thing to sue your own father.” This was a re-arrangement and wasn’t in the original text, and a year later, one of his sons did sue him.

Then comes the knowing aside…

Purely extraneous information, it meant nothing to me. Nothing to gain on either side.

Before he goes on to confirm his acceptance of some mysterious powers of divination.

We had no explanation for this at the time, it just suggesting that when you cut into the Present the Future leaks out. Well, we certainly accepted it, and continued our experiments.

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
 

A Complete Disorientation of the Senses: William Burroughs’ and Anthony Balch’s ‘Cut-Ups’


 
More on the Burroughs, Gysin and ‘The Cut-Up Method,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment