Two Burroughs Cut-Ups Compared
A few months ago Professor Oliver Harris was kind enough to share with RealityStudio one of his working documents for Yage Redux. It is an incredible Microsoft Word palimpsest comparing Burroughs’ various yage publications and manuscripts. RealityStudio couldn’t publish it (for obvious copyright reasons), but we did add a few images of it to Jed Birmingham’s review of Yage Redux. Here they are again: one, two, three.
At about the same time, Patrick C. also happened to send RealityStudio a pile of xeroxes of weird and obscure Burroughs texts, mostly from small publications of the 1960s. These included Burroughs’ review of Mind Parasites and a 1974 interview with Allen Ginsberg. There was also a cut-up text called “Transitional Period,” which had been published in Two Cities #6 in 1961.
Noting that “Transitional Period” was an early version of the chapter “Gongs of Violence” from The Soft Machine, RealityStudio thought it would be interesting to create a side-by-side version of the two texts, noting what had been deleted from the first and interpolated into the second.
And while this comparison can’t achieve the depth of Professor Harris’ palimpsest, for the reason that RealityStudio did not have access to manuscripts or even to the first edition of The Soft Machine, putting the two texts beside each other did reveal some interesting things about Burroughs’ creative process.
For example, you can clearly see that the later text was dramatically cleaned up. Some completely crazy punctuation was straightened out and obvious signs of the cut-up process (“// Cut.”) were removed. The text was stylized by the insertion of em dashes. Elements that echoed Naked Lunch were removed: two mentions of Dr. Benway were deleted, as were two of three mentions of A.J. Two long passages were interpolated into “Gongs of Violence,” and several short paragraphs at the end of “Transitional Period” were deleted, only to reappear later in Nova Express.
The page juxtaposing the two texts opens in a new window, since it was more intelligible to format them in a simple way that makes no use of RealityStudio’s standard page design. If you notice any other interesting points of comparison between the two texts, please feel free to discuss them on the Burroughs forum.