Michael has a post up about the Art Pepper album, Smack Up. I mentioned a song from this album in a piece published in the first issue of Monday Night; the prose poem or whatever you want to call it is reprinted here.
During the Coltrane I fantasized wild out of control glorious spasms. During Art Pepper it was something thinner; a quiver, a shiver, a sitting alone. It was a blues song, Las Cuevas De Mario; I didn’t know it was a blues until it blew into me. I’d heard it before but the time hadn’t been right.
The trumpet is rounder than the sax; it makes one’s head revolve. Saxophone, a straighter sound: when it curves, the turns are tighter, the head moves vertically, within itself.
Shaken by everything; reading Burroughs, listening to Coltrane and Pepper, drinking: I’m just frail, and that’s how I’m supposed to be, and that’s how these artists make me. I realize I don’t associate Burroughs with music, his writing seems more to do with painting and film: it lacks the fluidity of most music. But there is music, good music, that lacks fluidity; the world often lacks fluidity, is as fluid as chaos. And there is music that reflects that, and some of it is what I’ve been listening to while reading Burroughs tonight.
Making love to a stranger/the possibility of sudden death/the chance to see what has not been seen.
There is in Burroughs a bizarre, sinister hope, a wish for love that cannot be possible, and that when imminent is sure to be destroyed, interrupted, or corrupted. Yet the hope remains.
A man whose life is centered on one great tragedy—in this case, the shooting death of his wife—must, of course, be veiled. That Burroughs has in his writing unveiled an imagination of vast horror is certainly no more amazing than that some critics have somehow seen these horrors as impersonal.
In his work Burroughs has succeeded in creating a world solely his own, replete with fantasies clearly personal—homosexual fantasies far from polite revealed to a world that to a large degree thought such acts subhuman, fantasies that often combined orgasm and death, as written by a man who shot to death his wife and afterward openly loved men, fantasies that blatantly preferred the outcasts to the society.
And the hedonistic pleasures, well yes, they are there to see us through; and the visions of madness and terror, we know versions of these to be true; and the travels through time, and dreams, these test our pallid visions of reality, our insufficient and inaccurate definitions of what is.
Burroughs, of course, also does not know. But he is willing to fill the page with possibility, to intelligently, emotionally and physically challenge life: those who see his work as distant are missing the sadness that rains down from its clouds. Fold up those umbrellas and be soaked.
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