Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
There are times in your reading life when you dabble in a book, dip into it periodically, put it down, and come back to it. Your experience with the book is leisurely, casual. You are chipping. The book does not have a strong hold on you. Then one day you turn to the book again, and next thing you know, you are hooked. The book has become essential, an obsession, a part of your daily thoughts and life.
This series of events just occurred to me with William Burroughs’ neglected cut-up APO-33 Bulletin, A Metabolic Regulator. I wrote about APO-33 before, but I focused on its printing history, especially the aborted Fuck You Press edition (entitled Health Bulletin: APO-33, a Metabolic Regulator). I see the book in a different light now, and I see why Ed Sanders and Fuck You Press had to have a crack at it. I have read it much more closely and examined it in light of Burroughs’ publishing activity in the mid-1960s, the period of his most sustained relationship with the mimeo revolution. As a result, APO-33 and the other apomorphine-related cut-ups of the period are now key Burroughs texts for me. I believe they are pivotal for understanding Burroughs as a writer.
So what changed? Why did APO-33 suddenly rush into my head with all the force of a crashing wave? In a word: speed. Yup, amphetamine. Not taking it, but reading about the history of it. A few months ago I picked up two books on drug history. Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom by Andy Letcher and On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine by Nicolas Rasmussen. Shroom is the more reader-friendly book. It is written for the casual reader in an engaging, welcoming style. Timothy Leary is in there. Allen Ginsberg is featured. Aldous Huxley plays a role, as does Robert Graves who wrote The White Goddess. There are a few minor mentions of Burroughs.
Letcher briefly discusses Yage as another example of a natural psychedelic, but no Burroughs, Ginsberg, or The Yage Letters in this context. Letcher talks of the influence of Carlos Castaneda, Graves, and Huxley in bringing natural psychedelics to the masses. But surely the 1963 City Lights edition of The Yage Letters was another bible for the burgeoning psychedelic generation. Not to mention the fact that Burroughs was exploring this terrain, geographic and psycho-pharmacological, in the early 1950s along with, and in some cases alongside, the pioneers in the field: Richard Evans Schultes and R. Gordon Wasson. Ginsberg and Leary captured a lot of the headlines in the 1960s and dominate much of the cultural history of the psychedelic era, but Burroughs, despite his dismissal and distrust of drugs like LSD, and maybe because of his critical eye on hallucinogens, must be at least the equal of Leary and Ginsberg in cultural importance. No doubt he was their superior in theorizing about the significance of psychedelics.
On Speed also mentions Burroughs only in passing, but reading this book helped further my appreciation of Burroughs and turned APO-33 into a key text for me. Most people do not associate Burroughs with speed. His son Billy Jr. wrote the book on amphetamine, but, as with psychedelics, Burroughs was at the beginning of speed culture in the United States. The proto-Beat group of Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr, Joan Vollmer, Edie Parker, and Herbert Huncke were early users and abusers of speed in the mid-1940s. Vollmer was the first woman with a reported case of speed psychosis in New York State in 1945. Much has been written on the importance of speed in Kerouac’s writing in terms of style and process, but it was Huncke who played a key role in speed culture in New York City during the late 1950s and early 1960s that involved writers such as Alex Trocchi, Peter Orlovsky, and Janine Pommy Vega. This circle probably helped spawn more creatively productive scenes, like Warhol’s Factory and the Second Generation New York writers who gathered around Ted Berrigan.
I have always found these amphetamine scenes to be extremely important, and the key role of speed on the creative output and thinking of these groups ought to be examined. Can the writing that we know as distinctly Kerouacian be separated from Kerouac’s use of speed? The same goes for Warhol. For example, the movie Sleep becomes much more complex when viewed in light of amphetamine use. These topics are treated in Rasmussen’s book, but his focus is really on speed’s relationship to the history of the pharmaceutical and medical industry. It was this discussion that seemed truly Burroughsian.
Amphetamine was one of the first drugs developed and marketed by the modern pharmaceutical industry. At its beginnings, speed had no true medical value. Early on, companies tried to market it as an anti-asthma drug (Benzedrine inhalers). Speed never really worked in that capacity, however, and the inhalers were abused to get high. For decades the drug companies and doctors knew of amphetamine’s addicting qualities and its dangers for abuse. But the drug was patented, and the patent was purchased cheaply. As a result, speed was very profitable for the manufacturers, who colluded with the medical industry to champion speed’s benefits and to downplay its dark side. Speed became the first anti-depressant, a weight-loss drug, and a potential cure for addiction.
From Speed to Apomorphine
Clearly, this is right in Burroughs’ wheelhouse, and Rasmussen’s discussion of the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession applies directly to apomorphine. In The Job, a series of interviews with Burroughs conducted by Daniel Odier, Burroughs bluntly states why he believes apomorphine is not being used as an anti-addiction medication.
Q: What is the opinion of pharmaceutical researchers on the merits of apomorphine?
A: Pharmaceutical researchers are told what research to pursue by vested interest, which gives orders to the American Narcotics Department. Billions for variations on the Benzedrine formula, for tranquilizers of dubious value, not ten cents for a drug that has unlimited potentials not only in treating addiction but in handling the whole problem of anxiety.
Burroughs also states why the companies that produce apomorphine fail to promote and market it on a large scale: “They can sell all the products they produce in any case. Remember, these pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in illness. Drugs that strike at the very root of illness are dangerous.” These two statements get to the heart of the history described in Rasmussen’s book. After finishing the book, I returned to APO-33 in earnest and started to dig into the other apomorphine-related cut-ups of the period.
Burroughs contributed two cut-ups to Aram Saroyan’s mimeo mag, Lines, in 1965. Issue 5 features “Chlorhydrate d’apomorphine chabre” and “Rex Morgan M.D.” The latter presents two scrapbook pages that contain the fragment of a short story. (This prose piece does not appear in Maynard & Miles or Shoaf.) In the scrapbook Burroughs includes a single frame from a Rex Morgan comic that deals with the topic of addiction, namely alcoholism. Not coincidentally, Dr. John Yerbury Dent, who treated Burroughs with apomorphine in 1956, first used the drug to treat alcoholics. Burroughs portrays Morgan as forward-thinking and searching for better drug solutions. When he receives a new tranquilizer, Dr. Morgan dismisses it as not treating the problem and as having “doubtful value.” Along with a sample of apomorphine comes a “circular… in blue print with some passages in red for emphasis.” The packaging for the apomorphine describes its uses and its benefits as an anti-anxiety medication and a metabolic regulator. As Dr. Morgan settles in his office, he becomes aware that a beatnik suffered a bad trip on LSD. Dr. Morgan gathers his things and leaves to treat the patient. He takes the apomorphine with him. The story abruptly ends there but one suspects that Dr. Morgan used the apomorphine to successfully regulate the beatnik metabolism. Burroughs provides a feel-good story here, but Rasmussen describes how the pharmaceutical industry flooded doctors with drugs samples of “doubtful value” and encouraged doctors to push them on patients. Similarly, the literature that accompanied the samples was often inaccurate and hyperbolic. APO-33 combats what Burroughs saw as the false information spread by the pharmaceutical companies.
A progressive doctor such as Rex Morgan is opposed by the most famous fictional character in the Burroughsian universe, Dr. Benway. In Naked Lunch Dr. Benway pontificates on drugs, addiction, and anxiety. Also interesting in light of apomorphine is Dr. “Fingers” Schafer the Lobotomy Kid. In Naked Lunch, Dr. Schafer creates the “All-American De-Anxietized Man” with disastrous results. Dr. Dent, the model doctor, wrote a book on the use of apomorphine to combat anxiety: Anxiety and its Treatment. As the promotional literature received by Dr. Morgan makes clear, Burroughs (and Dent) felt apomorphine was a more progressive cure for anxiety-related illnesses than other treatments such as tranquilizers or lobotomy. The promotional literature recommended apomorphine for “grief, anguish, anxiety states, acute drug intoxications and chronic addiction.”
On one level, APO-33 is Burroughs’ enlightened rewriting of the promotional literature of the pharmaceutical companies. In addition, APO-33 provides what Burroughs felt was the real story that the medical industry would publish if it did not need to perpetuate addiction, illness, and anxiety. The back cover and first page of text features the name Chabre, a French pharmaceutical company that produced apomorphine. The front cover posits APO-33 as a report (“A Report on the Synthesis of the Apomorphine Formula”) and a bulletin. Like Time, published by C Press in 1965, the covers of APO-33 reproduce the look and feel of a “circular” that Burroughs believed would be issued by enlightened pharmaceutical companies.
With its incorporation of handwriting and its illegibility, APO-33 also serves as a prescription pad of sorts, prescribing apomorphine as a cure for society’s ills. The various meanings of script would not have been lost on Burroughs. He realized that doctors were pressured to overprescribe dubious medications and in a sense were legal pushers. In addition, he was aware of the power of written language to perpetuate order and rationality — Control.
A Treatment That Cancels Addiction
The opening of APO-33 as published by Beach Books refers to a lost text that served as an appendix to the Italian edition of Junkie published in 1962 (the edition was translated as La scimmia sulla schiena or Monkey on the Back). According to Maynard and Miles, the text was the original version of an essay titled “A Treatment that Cancels Addiction.” Burroughs declares in APO-33 that the manuscript was lost and that the text can only be found in La scimmia sulla schiena. Ultimately Burroughs rewrote the essay to publish it in the Fuck You version of APO-33. The entire APO-33 Health Bulletin section of the Fuck You edition was reprinted in the Beach Books version. However, the Beach Books edition excluded “Locked Out of Time” and “Apomorphine Statement 2”, both of which had appeared in the Fuck You edition. (For a complete discussion of the differences between the various editions of APO-33 see Maynard & Miles.) The final version of “A Treatment that Cancels Addiction” appeared in the New Statesman (March 4, 1966) and was eventually reprinted in the British edition of The Soft Machine published by Calder in 1968.
Burroughs felt this article was a compromise and a failure. In APO-33 he writes, “I geared [the Italian appendix] to popular appeal being younger you understand I over estimated my ‘popularity potential.’ I did not criticize the American Narcotics Department officials nor the Public Health center at Lexington.” Burroughs laments the fact that his beliefs regarding the corruption of the medical profession were not stated more forcefully and aggressively. Burroughs writes, “My attempt to attribute good will where it patently does not exist proved ill-advised. I see no reason at this point to pull punches in the expectation of popularity.”
Few readers of the various editions of APO-33 would be aware of the original “A Treatment that Cancels Addiction” essay. Yet readers of APO-33 might be aware of some other appendices that discuss apomorphine: the “Letter from a Master Addict to Dangerous Drugs” and “Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness,” both of which appeared in the 1962 Grove Press edition of Naked Lunch. Burroughs believed these articles also failed to present the case for apomorphine strongly enough. Burroughs writes, “Feeling that the articles I had written on apomorphine treatment (British Journal of Addiction January 1957 vol. 53 no. 2 page 119, Evergreen Review 1959 reprinted in the American edition of Naked Lunch) were not adequate… ” These failures prompted him to write “A Treatment that Cancels Addiction.”
In all these pieces, Burroughs toned down his views and presented his arguments straight. He played nice — nowhere more so than in the British Journal of Addiction. In that venue Burroughs did not expose what he saw as the conspiracy — in which academic journals played a role — against apomorphine. In addition, deliberately or not, the British Journal of Addiction effectively pigeonholed Burroughs as an addict and outsider and thus not truly trustworthy. The requirements of academic writing made Burroughs water down his views and his style, although as Carol Loranger points out, Burroughs’ hip and radical attitude towards drugs and literature comes out.
In spite of the fact that the British Journal had published his views, Burroughs felt that academic journals continued to censor the facts about apomorphine. As On Speed makes clear, articles on amphetamine were in many cases written by doctors and researchers sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies. Those companies only released reports that supported their agenda. By the mid-1960s, Burroughs understood that the medical industry was not going to share his and Dr. Dent’s optimistic view of apomorphine. A drug-free, anxiety-free society was unthinkable in the present system. According to Burroughs, the financial and political stakes were too high.
For Burroughs, the academic medical journal was just one more weapon in the hands of the drug establishment. As such, the power of these publications had to be subverted and diminished. Critics have mentioned that Burroughs cut-up his letter from the British Journal of Addiction and incorporated it into APO-33. Burroughs more likely incorporated “A Treatment that Cancels Addiction” to greater effect than the letter, but the medical journal, as represented by the British Journal, was very much on Burroughs’ mind in APO-33. This becomes even clearer in the fifth issue of Lines. “Chlorhydrate d’Apomorphine Chabre” contains the citation for the issue of the British Journal of Addiction in which Burroughs appeared: Volume 53, No. 2, along with the date of its publication, January 1957. The manuscript page of “Chlorhydrate d’Apomorphine Chabre” was printed by offset, so in a sense the text in Lines served as an alternative to the fifty offprints of the “Letter from a Master Addict” that Burroughs received in 1957.
The Dream Police of Poetry
Given the debacle that ensued with the aborted publication of APO-33 by Fuck You Press in 1965, one wonders why Burroughs entrusted Ed Sanders with such a difficult project that tested the capabilities of mimeo as a medium. Clearly the mimeograph was poorly suited to recreate the intricate scrapbook nature of the APO-33 manuscript. Burroughs published another scrapbook piece, Time, with C Press, also in 1965. Ted Berrigan was more successful in pulling off Time by resorting to offset printing, but again Burroughs submitted the manuscript to a mimeo press. Interestingly, much of Burroughs’ writing on apomorphine also appeared as mimeo (usually offprinted copies of original mansucripts). His texts were printed by Fuck You Press, My Own Mag, and Lines. Fellow travelers in the mimeo revolution, like Beach Books run by Claude Pélieu and Mary Beach, also published apomorphine-related texts. Burroughs’ understanding of the importance of apomorphine cannot be separated from the publications, culture, and spirit of the mimeo revolution in several key respects.
For Burroughs, the suppression of apomorphine was not just the fault of censorship and corruption in pharmaceutical literature and academic journals. He believed the mainstream press was in collusion with the government and medical community in censoring information on apomorphine. In The Job Burroughs states, “The press is working with the Narcotics Department to publicize and spread the drug problem. It is not in their interest to stop this source of copy and circulation by advocating measures that would control addiction and reduce it to a minor health problem. What is the press selling? Violence, sex, and drugs. These items are sure copy. That is to say, effective measures to eliminate criminality or drug-taking are not good copy.” I have discussed elsewhere how the C Press Time represents Burroughs’ attack on the Time-Life media empire and how it was his rewrite of Time magazine, particularly the November 30, 1962 issue that savagely reviewed Naked Lunch. Burroughs saw the suppression of apomorphine as another of the evils perpetuated by corporate media.
The mimeo revolution arose in the post-WWII era in opposition to the consolidation and bureaucratization of print media. Large, corporate, mainstream publishers stifled innovation and radical thought in creative writing in much the same way the medical establishment controlled information about addiction and apomorphine. The mimeograph, as well as the letterpress and cheaper offset printing, allowed writers to take control of their own work and its distribution. Clearly, Burroughs saw the mimeograph and the publications of the mimeo revolution as ideally suited to present the anti-authority and anti-establishment message of APO-33. According to Maynard & Miles, the Fuck You edition features, “a drawing by Sanders built on the Egyptian hieroglyph for the Eye of Horus; at the top is an ankh, the hieroglyph for life, at the bottom a mimeo machine, a hookah, and an ejaculating movie camera.” This was Sanders’ “TOTAL ASSAULT ON THE CULTURE.” The mimeo press subverted and provided an end-around the corporate media that Burroughs felt was suppressing apomorphine.
Yet the relationship between apomorphine and the mimeo revolution goes deeper than that. In Burroughs’ mind, apomorphine was ideologically similar to mimeo. In The Apomorphine Times, a newspaper supplement edited by Burroughs and included in My Own Mag Issue Twelve, Burroughs writes of apomorphine: “Like a good policeman, apo-morphine does its work and goes.” APO-33 contains a picture of Burroughs with the caption “in a policeman’s bed sitter.” The “Rex Morgan, M.D.” cut-up also contains a reference to the good policeman as well as the phrase “So he takes over newsmagazine… The way we like to see.” The concept of the good policeman deserves a little explanation. To those familiar with Burroughs’ distaste for the law, his belief in a good policeman can be confusing. On one level, the phrase refers to an effective policeman. In that sense, like a policeman, apomorphine would rid society of addicts and pushers and help wipe out the junk paradigm. But Burroughs realized that the police (as force of control, as bureaucracy) were also part of the problem. In this light, the good policeman refers to the ideal or beneficial policeman in the Burroughsian universe. The ideal policeman is not intrusive; he does what business he has to do and goes. He does not attempt to increase or perpetuate the power of an established entity. Ideally, society and its members would mind their own business and tend to it without a bureaucratic police force. That Burroughsian ideal may be impossible. “The police are a necessary evil,” as Gregory Corso writes in his poem “Police.”
Apomorphine was a drug that steadied the system and then left no trace. It was not addictive. Burroughs went to great pains to state that apomorphine was not an aversion therapy and was non-invasive. The key term is metabolic regulator. Like the ideal policeman, apomorphine regulated without attempting to exert control or to extend its power or influence. Methadone was addictive and thus not a good policeman. Likewise, LSD altered the consciousness and thus left a trace on the system. Burroughs makes clear apomorphine’s role as ideal regulator in APO-33. He writes, “Like a good policeman apomorphine does its work and goes. Yes we of the Nova Police do our work and go.”
Burroughs links the “policeman” concept to mimeo productions. This becomes clear in a magazine like The Apomorphine Times. Burroughs edited this magazine-within-a-magazine that appeared in issue 12 of My Own Mag. The Apomorphine Times includes a four-square fold-in text. Burroughs writes, “(sexless providence supported by the rich. Policemen jumped out on them.) From Afternoon Ticker Tape My Magazine published by J. Nuttall of London Not even the generous injections of the green and ready could keep it afloat for more than two issues after which it sank under the dead grey sludge of its own prose. The cadaver was has been however resuscitated in New York under the name I believe of The National Magazine under the editorship of Mr. Buckley…”
Therefore a close reading of The Apomorphine Times reveals that Burroughs viewed the products of the mimeo revolution, be it a little magazine or a scrapbook like Time, as “good policemen,” a print version of apomorphine. Like apomorphine, mimeo mags did their job and disappeared. Mimeo is generally a guerilla strike on the literary, social and political landscape. They only last a handful of issues (two in the case of “The Burrough”) and they fade away. In addition their ephemeral, fragile nature ensures that they will not last although their effect lingers on. For Burroughs, the alternative press of the mimeo revolution was a good policeman that combats the Time-Life machine.
For quite some time Burroughs had seen a strange relationship between law and the little magazine. In 1958, Burroughs dreamed of starting his own little magazine with Gregory Corso. They were going to call it Interpol after the international police organization. In a letter of September 28, 1958 cowritten by Corso and Burroughs, Corso writes that “‘the poet is becoming a policeman.'” This idea is clearly Burroughs’ own as Corso places this phrase in quotes and attributes the policeman / poet idea to Burroughs later on (“like Bill says we’re policemen”). Burroughs writes, “When the Human Image is threatened, The Poet dictates the forms of survival. Dream police of poetry protect us from The Human Virus. The human virus can now be isolated and treated. This is the work of The New POLICE-POET.”
What we see here is Burroughs and Corso subverting and complicating terms and organizations like the police and Interpol through a creation of and takeover of media. This is a process known as détournement. This idea was the most used weapon of the Situationists. In the mid-1960s Burroughs was on the fringes of this group with his work with Alexander Trocchi and The Sigma Project. Works like Time and APO-33 are textbook examples of détournement.
This technique was particularly productive for Gregory Corso at the time. This is the period of poems like “Power,” “Army,” “Marriage,” “Hair,” “Bomb” and, particularly interesting for this discussion, “Police.” Corso explored the fascination / repulsion of these charged concepts and attempted to turn them to his advantage and make them hip. In APO-33, Burroughs similarly examined the word fix. Burroughs was clearly ambivalent about the police. He attempted to join the OSS and he was intrigued / repulsed by agents and operatives. He wrote in a private eye style in Junkie. In addition he examined the role of the police as part of the junk paradigm and as agent of control throughout his writing life. Possibly like Corso, Burroughs realized that the “police are a necessary evil.” But an enlightened / ideal / hip police, i.e. a good policeman. Thus the concept “Police-Poet. Given Corso’s reverence for Shelley, we can see links to Shelley’s concept of the poet as the Legislator of the World which itself is an old concept that dates back to Sir Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poetry. Interpol as magazine would be the publishing outlet for “Police-Poets”, i.e. hip policemen.
In “Police” Corso writes, “My father’s indifference, Rosalind Russell’s stardom / the great, big circulation of the News, the Mirror / I praised the police their backing, their fame —” Corso here acknowledges that the police derive their power and authority from patriarchy, apathy, and the mass media. Poems like “Police” and a projected magazine such as Interpol would explore and “detourne” those relationships. Burroughs took the idea of Interpol into the 1960s. He titled his newspaper supplement to My Own Mag, “The Burrough.” The title suggests the FBI or the Bureau, another reference to a policing organization. Little magazines enacted the concept of the good policeman, an ideal regulator that monitored the cultural, political, and spiritual aspects of society as a whole from a position outside the existing system. Mimeo and the little mag helped keep society honest and straight. Burroughs saw that the little mag and apomorphine served the same function.
Cut-Ups: The Complete Picture
It seems obvious to me that a full understanding of Burroughs’ use of the cut-up technique is in the infant stage. With almost all the focus on the cut-up trilogy as published by Grove Press and with nearly a blind eye to any cut-up published in little mags, the picture of Burroughs’ experiments cannot be completed. Oliver Harris has started to dig into Minutes to Go (as well as some of the little mags), but The Exterminator, Time, APO-33, and the material in the more obscure little mags, particularly the mimeos (ones not included in White Subway, The Burroughs File, or Ports of Entry) are largely unexplored territory. Even a collector runs into seemingly insurmountable obstacles in attempting to tell the cut-up story. The Fuck You edition of APO-33 apparently differs substantially from the Beach Books version. But copies of the Fuck You edition are so rare that they are as good as lost. The Burroughs scholar must be an archeologist of sorts. Library holdings need to be opened up and utilized. The completely untouched manuscripts of and letters on the cut-up in the New York Public Library and elsewhere must be made available to interested readers.
Previous scholarship, such as that by Christopher Land and Timothy Murphy, would greatly benefit from taking these under-studied cut-ups into account. In “Apomorphine Silence: Cutting-up Burroughs’ Theory of Language and Control,” Christopher Land outlines Burroughs’ theory of language and the role of the cut-up in subverting the control of the Word. Other critics, such as Timothy Murphy, have done the same. For Burroughs, the cut-up subverted “the trap of linear, narrative time produced by language” and opened up the potential of space. The cut-up was an attempt to break down the apparent coherence of language. The experiments published in little mags best represent this aspect of the cut-up and best demonstrate the cut-up in practice. The cut-up trilogy straightjackets the cut-up into the form of the novel. The block paragraphs force the reader to approach the cut-up from left to right onward down the page and forward through the codex. This is precisely “the trap of linear, narrative time” that Burroughs hoped to explode with the cut-up. APO-33 provides much more freedom for the reader. The three-column format can be read across columns or from top to bottom. In addition, columns on a page connect within the page or across to other pages thus introducing several options of approaching the text. “Rex Morgan, MD” can be read like a painting or a projective verse poem. APO-33 and the Apomorphine Times present cut-ups in a grid format. The reader can process these texts “any which way” or even take the scissors to them and reenact the process of the cut-up. Such texts challenge the format of the book in ways the cut-up trilogy does not. It can be argued whether the cut-up as practiced by Burroughs successfully enacted his theories (as Oliver Harris does in “Cutting Up Politics,” published in Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization). Yet the final judgment on the cut-ups cannot be handed down without moving away from the novels and digging into the magazines and, even more importantly, the manuscripts and letters.
I want to closely examine a single page of the Beach Books edition of APO-33 to highlight the critical potential of this unexplored material. The back cover of APO-33 contains the phrase “pellets sublinguaux chlorhydrate d’Apomorphine.” This refers to a tablet of apomorphine to be taken orally, dissolved under the tongue. The suggestion of dropping APO-33 highlights a link to LSD. In Lines 5, Burroughs also draws parallels between LSD and apomorphine. Like LSD-25, APO-33 is a consciousness-expanding drug of sorts, but according to Burroughs, apomorphine is the more beneficial drug and does not contain LSD’s baggage. Burroughs distrusted psychedelics. As demonstrated in The Job, Burroughs viewed LSD as physically dangerous. It was engulfed in vague theorization and lulled users into a sense of peace, love, and complacency. In contrast, apomorphine is to Burroughs a “good policeman” and a metabolic regulator. It reduces anxiety, clears the mind, induces sanity, and is non-addictive. It does its job and goes. No flashbacks.
More importantly the word “sublinguaux” suggests Burroughs’ theories of the sub-vocal and sub-language. Land writes, “At one level, Burroughs focuses on our everyday subvocalizations, the internal monologue that provides a narrative sense of personal, subjective continuity which we think of as ‘our self.’ These subvocalizations simultaneously come from outside, hence the notion that they are a viral infection and constitute an inside: the subject ‘I’.” The French word allows Burroughs to get across these ideas in a creative manner. In addition “sublinguaux” conjures up the idea of subverting language. Burroughs viewed the apomorphine as the cut-up in drug form. In “Rex Morgan M.D.” in Lines 5, there is a picture of Burroughs with the caption Dr. Zeit. Zeit is German for Time. The picture and caption in a cut-up about apomorphine highlights Burroughs’ belief that the drug subverted “the trap of linear, narrative time produced by language” and opened the potential of space. For Burroughs, apomorphine regulated the human body just as the cut-up regulated the power of the word. Land writes, “[A]pomorphine was the perfect way of regulating the addict’s metabolism and silencing the screams of his inner demons. Within the context of Burroughs’ concerns with control and language, the idea of ‘apomorphine silence’ seems suggestive of a balanced state of self-governance without a governed self that is itself the product of control.” The miracle drug cured the addiction to subvocalization. Apomorphine provided silence. Therefore Burroughs felt apomorphine acted in a similar manner to that of the cut-up technique. It was the cut-up in the form of a pill.
According to Burroughs, mimeo was another metabolic regulator. APO-33, as radical anti-establishment text, was ideologically compatible with mimeo. The back cover of APO-33 by Beach Books captures this dynamic. The page triangulates Chabre, Beach Books, and City Lights Books. Chabre is a French pharmaceutical company that manufactured and distributed apomorphine (in pellets sublinguaux) for the European market. It should be noted that “Chlorhydrate d’Apomorphine chabre” in Lines 5 has been mistitled “Chlorhydrate d’Apomorphine cham bre” in Maynard & Miles. The mistake is crucial and covers up some of the associations that can be made from this valuable and unstudied cut-up. The reference to Chabre provides Burroughs with a realistic touch to make APO-33 look like establishment medical literature. It functions like the cover of Time that takes the image of the November 30, 1962 edition and cuts it up. The presence of Beach Books and City Lights as distributors of APO-33 twists and subverts the corporate associations of Chabre. APO-33 is truly anti-establishment, a product of the alternative press. For Burroughs, the presses of the mimeo revolution serve as alternative sources of information and correctives to the establishment.
I hope both casual readers and critics will come around to experiencing the power of Burroughs’ cut-ups outside of the cut-up trilogy. In my opinion, much of the negative reception of the cut-up is due to the fact that most readers have only experienced the technique in the form of a novel. The cut-up is used to best effect in short pieces, particularly the offprints of scrapbook pages, like those published in the presses of the mimeo revolution. In addition, the ideology of the cut-up as Burroughs saw it is more in line with the ideology and spirit of the mimeo revolution than that of corporate publishing and the form of the novel that it promotes. Readers need to explore beyond the cut-up novels published by Grove. In support of that goal, APO-33, as published by Beach Books in 1968, is reproduced here in its entirety. I also encourage readers to go to digital archive run by Craig Dworkin, Eclipse, to view the apomorphine texts in Lines. (Lines 5 | Rex Morgan | Chlorhydrate d’Apormphine Chabre) Of course, the complete My Own Mag is available on RealityStudio. These resources will provide enjoyment for the casual reader, valuable information for the scholar, and encouragement for libraries and institutions.
Postscript: Wouldn’t You
Just after finishing this piece, I stopped by the Baltimore Book Fair. You never know what might turn up. By and large it was a wash for Burroughs material but I talked to Tom Congalton of Between the Covers for a bit and browsed through his booth. As usual he had the best books in the finest condition. He had a signed Grove Naked Lunch, but a lesser known Burroughs item caught my attention. Tom had a slightly beat up copy of LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug. The book was edited by David Solomon and published by G.P. Putnam in 1964. Timothy Leary wrote the introduction. Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Humphry Osmond contributed essays. Clearly, the book had some problems: some rubbing, a large chip, some creasing — but the timing was dead on. This anthology contains Burroughs’ text “Points of Distinction Between Sedative and Consciousness-Expanding Drugs.” The essay was later reprinted in Evergreen Review 34. In this article, Burroughs mentions apomorphine as a means to increase the psychedelic experience and decrease anxiety. It was Burroughs in “Letter from a Master Addict to Dangerous Drugs” mode. Yet another go-around with the straight press before Burroughs turned to the mimeo press in 1965 for his apomorphine crusade. For me, it was the perfect book at the perfect moment.
One of the benefits of a book fair or a bookstore is that you can see the book for yourself. You are not dependent on the bookseller’s descriptions. In this case, handling the book was key. The book had an ownership inscription by Jack Ward, MD. That sold the book for me. The signature captured the culture that I was describing in my apomorphine piece. A doctor’s copy of an anthology of academic articles by progressive medical researchers and literary explorers — it was Rex Morgan, MD in real life. The idea that practicing doctors were aware of Burroughs’ work on drugs (be it Naked Lunch or more academic pieces), and particularly apomorphine, was fascinating to me.
And then it got better. I googled Dr. Ward and LSD, and lo and behold, it turns out Dr. Ward was the American equivalent of Dr. John Yerbery Dent. Dr. Ward practiced at the Carrier Clinic in New Jersey. Founded in 1910, this clinic treated mental disorders and drug addiction in a private setting. While I found no connection between Dr. Ward and apomorphine, he was at the forefront of experimenting with LSD for medical uses such as curing alcoholism. Dr. Ward personally met with Humphry Osmond, a pioneer in LSD research in a medical setting (Osmond contributed the article “Psychopharmacology: The Manipulation of the Mind” to the anthology). Ward himself contributed “A Case of Change and Partial Regression Following One LSD 25 Treatment” to The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism, an anthology like Solomon’s published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1967.
So the book was chipped and creased. On that level it was far from the ideal collector’s copy, but like all great collectibles, this book captured a moment and told a story beyond its pages and dust jacket. I could not have had a better ending to my research into Burroughs, apomorphine and APO-33. I had to buy it despite the condition. Wouldn’t you?