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Interzone Paperback – February 1, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
Burroughs seems to grow ever more trite with the passage of time, his rebellion against society a lame thing. Fans will probably enjoy this fragmentary collection of letters, journal entries, stories and autobiographical sketches from the mid-1950s. In style the pieces range from straightforward sociological descriptions of Tangier, where he has dope and young boys, to Kafkaesque fables ("Dream of the Penal Colony") to surreal, manic pastiche. In another story, the protagonist cuts off the joint of his little finger, then pops into his psychiatrist's office and makes light of his condition. The centerpiece is "WORD," a long, hitherto unpublished section from the working manuscript ( Interzone ) that eventually became the novel Naked Lunch. Rediscovered in 1984, "WORD" is a hipster's incoherent cosmic rant, sexually wild and often deliberately offensive. Burroughs's sense that we are all specters in a waking nightmare, so dominant in his recent fiction, is prefigured here in a futuristic sketch of a nameless U.S. city wracked by forces of evil and repression.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
"Interzone" was the working title of Burroughs's Naked Lunch , the bulk of which was written in the international zone of Tangier. The material in this collection is divided into three sections: "Stories," "Lee's Journal," and "Word." The stories, including "Twilight's Last Gleaming," are more realistic than Burroughs's later work, drawing heavily on autobiographical experiences and recalling the hard-boiled detective style of Junky and Queer. "Lee's Journals" contains sketches, routines, and notebook entries from the mid-1950s. "Word," a long, rambling, scatological piece cut from the original manuscript of Naked Lunch , is of value chiefly as a historical curiosity. While this book will have little effect on Burrough's reputation, it will be welcomed by his growing readership.
- William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib.,
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
"Here East meets West in a final debacle of misunderstanding, each seeking the Answer, the Secret, from the other and not finding it, because neither has the Answer to give".
You hear firsthand his ideas and theories on writing so this is probably the best introduction to William Burroughs, as you prepare with the artist himself, stranded in interzone, for the arrival of a much more fragmented and explosive Naked Lunch.
Interzone is divided into three distinct sections, the first of which being simply called Stories. Perhaps the most notable of the Stories is "Twilight's Last Gleamings" which was originally written in 1938 in collaboration with Burroughs' childhood friend Kells Elvins and is widely accepted as being his first attempt at fiction. Although the story as it appears here in Interzone is a copy from memory of the original, it is still the most complete version of the original that was written by Burroughs and Elvins after they were inspired by hearing about the sinking of the ship the Morro Castle. The majority of Burroughs' stories are autobiographical to a certain extent, sometimes very disturbingly so. This is particularly true in the case of "The Finger", a fictionalised account of how Burroughs came to deliberately cut off the last joint of his little finger in an effort to impress a young man in 1939 and how the episode led to a brief spell in a psychiatric hospital. Of the rest of the Stories "The Junky's Christmas" is perhaps the best and most poignant, telling as it does the story of Danny the Car Wiper, a young junky desperate to score a hit on Christmas Day.
The second section of Interzone is entitled Lee's Journals and is a further grouping of short stories, this time all written as the first-person recollections of Burroughs' alter ego William Lee. The musings of Lee's Journals were assembled from letters written by Burroughs to Alan Ginsberg and from notes he wrote in an attempt to find his own literary voice and to record his time in Tangier. The journals are particularly interesting for the insight that they give to Burroughs' own struggle and attempts to define himself and to develop his writing, some of the included entries were even written while Burroughs was undergoing heroin cures at Benchimal Hospital, and for the sometimes vicious characterisations of Burroughs' real-life friends and enemies.
WORD was originally written as part of the Naked Lunch manuscript but since only a few passages survived into the final draft, it is included in Interzone as a novella making up the third section. WORD is particularly significant as, out of all the material collected in Interzone, it best shows the complete transformation that Burroughs' work underwent as his writing shifted from the conventional to `the manic, surreal, wilfully disgusting and violently purgative regurgitation of seemingly random images'. Interestingly, although WORD marked a turning point in Burroughs' career from which he would never retreat, it's tone and style are quite unique since he never again went quite so far as to produce such a profane, sometimes incomprehensible, word soup.
Although Junky and Queer were written earlier, it is only through reading Interzone that it is possible to get a true sense of the development of William Burroughs' literary style and to gain an insight into the genesis of his greatest works, particularly his masterpiece Naked Lunch.
I think his true value as an American writer lay in his experimental work, and his strong influence on the Beats. Interzone lets you see the growth of his experimental approach.
Burroughs was a fearless writer who inspired many. His subject matter and experimental technique were both significant literary developments for American Literature. This book gives insight into his earliest attempts at developing something truly novel.
The piece called 'Word' is culmination of his efforts where his unique style and approach first become apparent.
Read it after the Naked Lunch and/or The Nova Express. Once you understand that his work is not actually just total incoherent Dada, you may like to read Interzone.
Besides, even if his experimental works are totally incomprehensible due to their fragmentary, and syntactically bizarre style, his experimental works seem to teach one about how we create meaning. And they still contain all the significant and serious subjects expected of literature. In addition, thanks to the internet and non-hierarchical hyper linked documents, his technique is not so incoherent after all.
One last point about his value as a writer: he studied his own mind and behavior with some detachment. True some of his actions are moral issues for some, but he has value in that he did not try to cover up who he was and what he did, nor did he try to white wash, and avoid topics he thought others may not want to read about. This is an important quality for a great writer to exercise.