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Infinite Summer • View topic - William S. Burroughs and IJ

Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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 Post subject: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:08 am 
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Thought I'd start a new topic here. I could be way off, but I am often reminded of many issues that Burroughs dealt with in many of his novels and essays while reading IJ. There are the obvious links to drug addiction and detailed information about different kinds of drugs. But there is also the whole theme of addiction being bigger than simply a chemical need. Burroughs was always careful to point out that heroin addiction was only one aspect of a larger affliction that Controls all areas of our personal, political, and social lives. And the word "Control" was always an important one for him. Essentially Burroughs is asking: "Aren't we all junkies in the end, and isn't the real problem figuring out how to rid ourselves of the need; rid ourselves of the Pusher?"

I also think that many of DFW's uses of dialect and stream of consciousness might be influenced as much by a reading of Burroughs as it is by a reading of Joyce.

And lastly, these three quotes from Burroughs:

"The 'Other Half' is the word. The 'Other Half' is an organism. Word is an organism. The presence of the 'Other Half' is a separate organism attached to your nervous system on an air line of words can now be demonstrated experimentally. One of the most common 'hallucinations' of subject during sense withdrawal is the feeling of another body sprawled through the subject's body at an angle...yes quite an angle it is the 'Other Half' worked quite some years on a symbiotic basis. From symbiosis to parasitism is a short step. The word is now a virus. The flu virus may have once been a healthy lung cell. It is now a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try halting sub-vocal speech. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word."

"Junk yields a basic formula of 'evil' virus: *The Algebra of Need*. The face of 'evil' is always the face of total need. A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: '*Wouldn't you*?' Yes you would. You would lie, cheat, inform on your friends, steal, do *anything* to satisfy total need. Because you would be in a state of total sickness, total possession, and not in a position to act in any other way. Dope fiends are sick people who cannot act other than they do. A rabid dog cannot choose but bite."

"Language is a virus from outer space."


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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:52 am 
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I've been getting a sort of general Burroughs-feeling as I read IJ, but... well, I think Eggers puts it simply but pretty well in his introduction to the 10th anniversary paperback: "...Burroughs ingested every controlled substance he could buy or borrow. But Wallace is a different sort of madman, one in full control of his tools..." (though we now know of course that DFW had struggles of his own).


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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:01 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:01 pm 
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Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to the discussion.
What I'd like is some suggestions on good Burroughs reading, as my interest has been piqued. Thanks in advance!

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"It is easy to put on a show & be cocky. . . Or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself. . . now that, my friend, is very hard to do." --Bruce Lee


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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 12:08 am 
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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 1:22 am 
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I should probably note that at least a little bit of my hesitation to "go along" with the Burroughs stuff is totally pyscho-biographical bias, having gone on huge Burroughs-and-other-dark-junkie-books period in high school and getting totally burnt-out on the whole worldview, and beatnik malaise, etc. etc.
That said, I think it's a fair point that "influence" and "agreement" are entirely different beasts (see, just as one instance, Bloom's Anxiety of Influence).
At any rate I do wonder how much was direct influence and how much was sort of Wallace-reading-Pynchon/Gaddis/et al.-reading-Burroughs. A chart would be really quite helpful, and stunning.


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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:21 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:49 am 
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I thought I might have been going crazy. Also look at the James and his father section and compare it to "The Discipline of DE." Then "The Junky's Christmas" and the yrstruly section, especially how Chinese dealers appear regularly throughout Burrough's work.


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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:02 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: William S. Burroughs and IJ
PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:35 pm 
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polymathicj, I would also suggest The Wild Boys or Cities of the Red Night as very good places to start. They follow more of a traditional plot, in my opinion, and Cities starts the trilogy that ends in my very favorite WSB book, The Western Lands.


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