Thursday, November 25, 2010
A Thanksgiving Prayer : William S. Burroughs (1990)
He was born to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, grandson of the founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs, and nephew of public relations manager Ivy Lee. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University, studying English and anthropology, but after being turned down by the Office of Strategic Services and U.S. Navy to serve in World War II, dropped out and spent the next twenty years working a variety of jobs. In 1943 while living in New York City, he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the mutually influential foundation of what became the countercultural movement of the literary Beat Generation, while becoming involved in the drug addiction that affected him for the rest of his life.
Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris, the South American Amazon and Tangier in Morocco, locations he collectively referred to as "the interzone". He found success with his confessional first novel, Junkie (1953). Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift," a reputation he owes to his "lifelong subversion" of the moral, political and economic systems of modern American society, articulated in often darkly humorous sardonicism. In this respect, he is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch (1959), a work wrought with controversy that underwent a court case under then sodomy laws. He also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy (1961–64). In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. J. G. Ballard considered him to be "the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War", while Norman Mailer declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius."
Burroughs had one child in 1947, William Seward Burroughs III, with his second wife Joan Vollmer, who died in 1951 in Mexico City after Burroughs accidentally shot her in the head while drunk, an event that deeply permeated all of his writings. Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas after suffering a heart attack in 1997.
This is the short film by Gus Van Sant that he did in 1990 of WSB reading his poem A thankging Prayer
I thought I would add this film on this day, being it Thanksgiving and I thought you would enjoy.
A THANKSGIVING PRAYER
GUS VAN SANT (1990)