William Burroughs - Cities of the Red Night

Can someone explain this book to me. I read it, and it gradually gets more and more bizarre. By the end I wasnt sure what planet I was on!

None of you read it?

Burroughs was very heavly influenced by drugs. His work is very impressionist. He tries to create emotions more than a stry. When you didnt know what planet you were on, he had done his job. I dont personally like him, but an easy read would be something like “my education” or “junky”…it may help you further grasp his more radical works

Burroughs for me falls in the category of More Trouble Than It’s Worth. I’m sure there’s some value there, but it’s just not worth trying to puzzle it out.

I read Cities myself, and I didn’t get much out of the experience, either. I also started The Ticket That Exploded. About a quarter of the way into it, I said to myself, “If he uses the phrase ‘rectal mucous’ one more time, I am done.” I got about three more pages.

But if you can find any, his spoken word albums are pretty fun.

I have read Junky, and it’s an excellent read. Started reading The Western Lands (I think that’s what it’s called) and it’s kinda difficult, even at the start.

But I enjoyed Cities. I just wish I’d understood it more. I love some of the names he comes up with - Cupid Mount Etna for example!

My 15 minutes of fame came came in 1989. I was asked to impersonate WSB in front of c.3000 rabid Ducth(wo)men in Den Haugue. That’s life I guess.

Stompzinnig Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (if Coldfire is snooping)

Iedereen hield van het ! Ik denk !

Oh, to answer the question, yess it get’s pretty bizzare, but then again, what do you expect from a wife slaying drug addict homosexual drunk-rolling er… guy.

“Cities” was also co-written by an assistant of Burrough’s (whose name escapes me presently) which might have something to do with the wildly varying prose style. The storyline itself is mind-boggling enough, but the abrupt transitions from faux-hardboiled detective prose to 17th century diary entries just does not work. Neither does the “plot”: Burroughs at his best was a satirist and prose poet, and most of his attempts to impose straight narrative sense onto his writing just makes it seem akward and unsatisfying.

The best explanation of the trilogy (Cities, Place of Dead Roads, Western Lands) I heard (and I read it about eight years ago, so give me a break on giving a cite ;)) is that it’s the attempt of an ageing writer to beat death itself.

In his earlier novels, death is something that is always hanging around, but it happens to other people, or it’s an intellectual construct which needs to be avoided, but can’t really be related to. There’s still a sense in those early books of escaping death through technology and science fiction devices such as time travel and entering different bodies, but in the trilogy (written when WSB was already I think in his mid sixties and later), escaping death from ageing through writing is his biggest concern.

I personally love both Cities and Western Lands, and Place of Dead Roads - the place where all the possibilities of life that never came to fruition lie - is one of my favourite metaphors. I do agree that you have to really want to enjoy what you’re reading in order to stick with the book long enough to make sense of it.

I think you’ve inspired me to drag out the books again and see if they make any more sense than they did when I was 19 ;).

Is Place of Dead Roads still out of print? I tried to buy it a couple years ago but couldnt find it anywhere…