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Posts Tagged ‘William Burroughs’

Allen Ginsberg’s Accountant

April 18, 2016 | by

Detail from a portrait of Ginsberg by Elsa Dorfman, 1980.

In the early sixties, Don Wilen had just one tax client—Mrs. Sheftel, who ran the candy store on his corner. When Paul Krassner, radical prankster and editor of the satirical journal The Realist, printed an interview with George Lincoln Rockwell, the American Nazi Party founder, Wilen wrote in to complain.

“I said,” Wilen recently recalled, “ ‘I’m a Jewish accountant, and respect your right to free speech, but hate—’ ”

Krassner rang him up. “An accountant! I need an accountant.” Now Wilen had two clients.

One day Wilen’s mother, babysitting, picked up the phone. “Some friend of yours, making believe he’s the famous poet Allen Ginsberg.” Wilen now had three. Read More »

An Indulgence of Authors’ Self-Portraits

March 24, 2016 | by

Philip Roth

“An Indulgence of Authors’ Self-Portraits” appeared in our Fall 1976 issue, the same year Burt Britton’s book Self-Portraits—Book People Picture Themselves was published. Britton’s book displays his collection of self-doodles by famous authors, artist, athletes, actors, and musicians, much of which was sold at auction in 2009. “So what does Mr. Britton look like?” asked the New York Times in 2009. “He refused to be photographed.” —Jeffery Gleaves

One evening fifteen years ago Burt Britton (now head of the Review department at the Strand Bookstore) and Norman Mailer were sitting together in the Village Vanguard where Britton then worked. On impulse, Britton asked Mailer for a self-portrait. Mailer complied—the first of a collection which began to fill the pages of a blank book in the Strand. These were done by friends—primarily writers—who entered their drawings and salutations when they visited the store. No one has refused him a self-portrait. When he remarked on James Jones’ generosity, Jones explained, “Burt, for Christ’s sake, I wouldn’t be left out of that book!”

As his collection grew, Britton was approached by a number of publishers, but always refused publication on the grounds that the self-portraits were the property of his private mania. But recently Anais Nin and others have persuaded him to let others in on how writers view themselves. Random House will publish the entire collection this fall under the title, Self-Portraits—Book People Picture Themselves. Many of the portraits reproduced here are by writers who have been published and/or interviewed in this magazine.  Read More »

Lost Downtown

January 25, 2016 | by

Peter Hujar, Candy Darling on her Deathbed, 1973, digital pigment print, 20" x 16".

Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown” opens this Thursday at Paul Kasmin Gallery. The exhibition chronicles Hujar’s time on the Lower East Side between 1972 and 1985, when he photographed his friends and acquaintances, including Susan Sontag, John Waters, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Paul Thek, Edwin Denby, Divine, Fran Lebowitz, and William Burroughs. “There was something about him that invited a personal intimacy,” the writer Vince Aletti said of Hujar, who died in 1987. “He was very allowing. He allowed people to be themselves.” Hujar’s photos are on view through February 27. Read More »

The Official Resort of the Third Reich, and Other News

February 6, 2014 | by

prora nazi beach resort

Photo: m.a.r.c., via Creative Commons

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Lobster and Vodka Chez Burroughs

February 5, 2014 | by

Meeting William Burroughs on his eightieth birthday.

William_S_Burroughs Christian Tonnis

Illustration: Christian Tonnis

I have this fairy godmother, a childhood friend of my mother’s who lives in Lawrence, Kansas. My mother and I call her up several times a year and she’s always turning me onto cool stuff. One day, when I was a senior in high school, it occurred to me to ask her,

“Do you know William S. Burroughs?”

“Oh, sure.”

I should emphasize that this moment came at the feverish height of a blind obsession I had with William Burroughs and everything Burroughs related.

“Personally?”

“Oh, sure.”  

“You’re friends with him?”

“Well, we certainly know each other. He’s one of our local characters.”

“Do you see a lot of him?”

“I see him all the time, but mostly in the cat-food aisle of the supermarket.”

I went straight to my mother and demanded that we visit my godmother at the earliest opportunity. That summer, after I’d graduated high school and had had my wisdom teeth out, we went to Kansas. Read More »

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Selected Letters of William S. Burroughs

January 26, 2012 | by

WSB [Paris] to Laura Lee and Mortimer Burroughs [Palm Beach, Florida]
[ca. November 17, 1959]

Dear Mother and Dad,
I am sorry.. Can only say time accelerated and skidded—No time to eat as you see in the photo—(Taken by my friend Brion [Gysin] the painter, certainly the greatest painter living and I do not make mistakes in the art world. Time will bear me out.. Brion used to run The 1001 Nights, restaurant night club in Tanger but at that time we barely spoke disliking each other intensely for reasons that seemed adequate to both parties.. Situation and per­ sonnel changed.. The 1001 Nights closed for dislocations and foreclosures and Brion woke up in Paris.. And I, stricken by la foie coloniale—the colonial liver, left the area on advice of my phy­ sician.. “You want to get some cold weather on that liver, Bur­ roughs. A freezing winter would make a new man of you,” he said.
So when I ran into Brion in Paris it was Tanger gossip at first then the discovery that we had many other interests in common..
Like all good painters he is also a brilliant photographer as you see.. A curious old time look about the photo like I’m fading into grandfather or some other relative many years back in time..)
Rather a long parenthesis.. It strikes me as regrettable that one should reserve a special and often lifeless style for letter to parents.. So I shift to my usual epistolary style.. When my correspondents reproach me for tardiness, I can only say that I give as much atten­ tion to a letter as I do to anything I write, and I work at least six and sometimes sixteen hours a day..
I am considering a shift of headquarters from The Continent— or possibly England—All we expatriates hear now is: “Johnny Go Home”and may be a good idea at that..Terrible scandal in Morocco.. Cooking oil cut with second run motor oil has paralyzed 9544 per­ sons.. The used motor oil was purchased at the American Air Base and was not labeled unfit for human consumption .. The Moroccan press holds U.S. responsible not to mention 9,544 Moroccans and a compound interest of relatives.. “Johnny stay out of Morocco.”
I want to leave here in one month more or less a few days and make Palm Beach for Christmas if convenient.
I was sorry to hear that Mote has been ill.. Take care of your­ self—Dad—and get well. I will see you all very soon —
Love
Bill
PS. If my writing seems at times ungrammatical it is not due to carelessness or accident. The English language—the only really adjustable language—is in state of transition.. Transition and the old grammar forms no longer useful..
Best.
Bill

 

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