Duncan Fallowell

Post Homo Sapiens

Cities of the Red Night

By William Burroughs

John Calder 332pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Burroughs has said recently that he’s interested in extending his vision outward, rather than inward. The two modes of perception of course go hand in hand, but coming from an experimental novelist, this statement is a great encouragement because modem fiction has grown solemn and rancid through self-regard, apparently forgetting in its condition of autohypnosis that there’s a whole big dangerous world out here just longing to be illumined and mythologised.

Burroughs’ particular problem is that for too long his great gift has been sidetracked by techniques of anti-writing and half-baked mechanistic theories. He has wanted to destroy the world by destroying its linguistic foundation and whereas this was an exciting proposition twenty years ago, even a salutary one, now it is no longer enough. The proximity of chaos is something we live with daily and therefore Burroughs’ persistent attempts to promote chaos out of order is no longer brave – it is enfeebled.

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