The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk

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(aka “The Talking Asshole Routine” from Naked Lunch)

William S. Burroughs

Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

This ass talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriliquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called “The Better ‘Ole” that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?”

“Nah I had to go relieve myself.”

After a while the ass start talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: “It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we dont need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.”

After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have have amputated spontaneous — (did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?) — except for the eyes you dig. Thats one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eyes on the end of a stalk.

Naked Lunch was originally published in 1959 by Olympia Press in Paris. The first printing in July 1959 consisted of 5,000 copies, and a second printing of 5,000 copies was done shortly thereafter. The first printing is distinguished by a green ornament border on the title page. Later printings also lacked the dust jacket. (Maynard & Miles A2)

12 thoughts on “The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk

  1. This is one of the craziest stories I have ever read in my life. The only naked lunch I’ve ever heard of is sthe very, very very strange movie.

    I need to check this out.

  2. I first heard this on the “Spare Ass Annie” record with WSB and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy… Worth checking out.

  3. The definitive performance of this for me is still Frank Zappa’s reading on the Giorno Poetry System’s “The Nova Convention” which is long overdue for a CD reissue.

  4. This describes what happened to the GOP. From the “Southern strategy” to “Willie Horton” to cuddling birthers and the Tea Party, they have spawned Donald Trump – marking the final victory of the asshole.

  5. Thanks for introducing me to this. I admire it for the same reason that I admire some of the absurdists and also Franz Kafka.

    It happens that your sharing of this story coincides this morning with a debate that I was just having with someone about biblical stories, a debate in which I took the perspective provided by William James, known as Radical Empiricism, in which the existence of an experience -able object is a given, but is assessed differently by anti-pragmatists as an independent a priori trait we call true-or-false, as compared to the pragmatist perspective which evaluates experience -able objects in terms of their empirical functions.

    I prefer the pragmatic understanding for how the functions of experience fit within the physical world and also, therefore, within an empirical model known as Evolution.

    Which brings me to a legitimate consideration of the function of the traits and behaviors of Burroughs’s talking asshole.

  6. After reading this I realized that there are books that are worth reading.
    I am ignorant as hell and when I read one page and don´t get a vibe I put it aside, but this – immersed immediately!
    Needs to be in the curriculum at every school, instead of this stupid digital stuff.

  7. I was just delivered from the Hell of July, Summer of Covid-19 for a few minutes courtesy of Mr. Burroughs. I’ll go to sleep tonight thinking whether I’d rather get the virus or have a talking asshole. Thank you, Mr. Burroughs!

  8. I just found this article and it is a lot like what some friends and I came up with about a teacher in our high school named Michael Hars. We came up with how he was liberal and his ass was conservative and they would always get into arguments and his ass would always win because it would shit his pants to humiliate him in front of others. I ruined many years of my life talking about this man and his ass after high school! Now he and his wife have both passed away.

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