William S. Burroughs
Humanity’s underrated. It’s one of my tenets. It’s easier to indulge the negative than give press to the creative, the good and the generous. The other day, my colleague Martin Schneider wrote a fine post on William S. Burroughs’ connection with Wilhelm Reich and his orgone box. By its source, Martin’s post reacquainted me with Burroughs writings for porn magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.
Years, ago I had a friend who owned two pristine copies of one these skin mags. He prized these editions not for any titillation but for Burroughs’ articles contained within. I recall one was on Scientology. The other I think was on space travel.
Martin’s link led to a cornucopia of Burroughsian materials. That one individual (Jed Birmingham) has spent so much time carefully sourcing and scanning Burroughs’s adult magazine work for others to read/access/download was another confirmation of humanity’s good points.
Before Graham Masterton was better known as an author of best-selling horror fiction, he was deputy editor of “gentleman’s entertainment magazine” Mayfair. Started in 1965, Mayfair was modeled on the hugely successful Playboy magazine. The canny Masterton wanted Mayfair to be a similar mix of quality writing, top notch interviews and classy erotica. One of the best things Masterton achieved with Mayfair was to commission William Burroughs to write for the magazine.
Masterton had corresponded with Burroughs from the time the Beat writer was living in Tangiers. When Burroughs relocated to London, Masterton visited him in his cramped attic apartment to enquire if he had anything suitable for the pages of Mayfair.
From this meeting in 1967, Burroughs contributed a regular column for Mayfair under the heading “The Burroughs Academy.” The gig allowed Burroughs to write about his personal preoccupations (Scientology, sexuality, mechanisms of media and political control) and test out various ideas (drugs/space travel) in the magazine’s pages between 1967 and 1969. It also supplied him with a steady income so he could write his novels.
Mayfair was primarily sold in the UK. It had a limited circulation which meant most of Burroughs’ fans missed out on his monthly bulletins. They were eventually gathered together in (an equally hard to obtain) edition Mayfair Academy Series More or Less.
But it’s thanks to Jed Birmingham over at the Reality Studios that we can read Burroughs’ articles (though by no means comprehensive) as they were originally published in magazines like Mayfair, Screw, Swank and Wildcat.
Below are scans from Wildcat that published an extract from Burroughs’ novel Junkie, plus an interview from Swank. There are also the first four Burroughs Academy articles and one short story from Mayfair. More can be viewed/downloaded here.
More readable scans of Burroughs’ skin mag articles, after the jump…