‪William S. Burroughs at the Gotham Book Mart‬ - CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons-derivative work


On October 30, 1990 Legs McNeil visited the legendary author William S. Burroughs at his home in Lawrence, Kansas.

The pair, who had been friends since 1975, spent the day together and went target shooting along with Legs’ photographer friend Jim Tynan and James Grauerholz, Burroughs’ right-hand man. Legs’ goal was to interview Burroughs to find out how he felt about David Cronenberg’s film version of Burroughs’ classic novel Naked Lunch, which had just begun production. Infamous for his “cut-up method” where Burroughs would take a pair of scissors to his original manuscripts, mix them up with newspaper headlines and whatever else was lying around, and then paste them back together, Burroughs’ oral preference was also to dance from subject to subject. The interview was wide-ranging and produced quite a few gems. Here are some of the best quotes:

[clickToTweet tweet=”“Time is a human invention!” – William S. Burroughs to Legs McNeil. For more top Burroughs quotes, read:” quote=”“Time is a human invention!”” theme=”style6″]
“I was out shooting, and I pulled in the driveway and there were these psychedelic motorcycles there. I looked around, and there were these two guys sitting across the road. They were wearing all sorts of handcuffs on their black leather jackets. And I said, ‘Are you waiting for me?’ They said yes.”
“What I really enjoyed was my collaboration with Tom Waits and Robert Wilson. They came to me with the opera The Black Rider, based on an old German folk legend, and I said immediately that this was the Devil’s bargain! The story is about this guy who wants to marry the forester’s daughter, but he has to prove he can shoot first before the forester will let him marry his daughter. And of course this guy can’t hit anything so the Devil tells him, ‘I got these magic bullets that always hit.’ Well, the more you use the magic bullets the less you can get along without them. It’s just like heroin. That comparison worked very well. Step right up, hell under the shell! Tom Waits picked right up on that. Yeah, the first one’s always free!”
“And if you remember Paradise Lost, all the devils are thrown down into hell, which I equated with Hiroshima. I wanted to put up Hiroshima footage and have these devils slowly rise up out of Hiroshima, and then they become aliens, the flying-saucer people.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”“It shoots the bullets that killed Bobby Kennedy. It’s a deadly weapon. Isn’t it cute?” – William S. Burroughs” quote=”“It shoots the bullets that killed Bobby Kennedy. It’s a deadly weapon. Look at it! Isn’t it cute?”” theme=”style6″]

“Ivy Lee started the idea of press releases; he invented modern corporate public relations. Ivy Lee said, ‘They’ll come to us, and we’ll control the information.’ He turned the tables on the press. He was a real evil genius, there’s no doubt about that…. “Ivy Lee was dying of a brain tumor at the time he was working for the Nazis. The last time I saw him, he said to me, ‘I just saw Hitler and he told me, “I have nothing against the Jews!”’”
“I think psychoanalysis is nonsense at this point. At the time, I thought there was something to it. But as time went on, I saw less and less. I think people are only too anxious to talk about their me, their individuality. What comes in from the outside is much more interesting. The whole dichotomy of inner and outer reality is a basic error of western thinking. It’s not inner reality or out reality, it’s one continuum of the whole organism in relationship to its total environment.”
“It’s an interesting drug, yage. It’s a blue drug; you take it only at night. Every medicine man has his own recipe. It was quite an experience. The first time I had a bad trip. I took too much. In two minutes a wave of dizziness swept over me, and the hut had began spinning. It was like going under ether, or when you are very drunk and lie down and the bed spins. Blue flashes passed in front of my eyes. The hut took on an archaic far-Pacific look with Easter Island heads carved into the support posts. The assistant was lurking outside with the obvious intent to kill me.”
“I didn’t want to write the script. I don’t find myself really confident to write movie scripts. Writers can write scripts that read beautifully but might not be worth putting on the screen because they’re too impractical; writers tend to write the script – rather than write it as a manual of instructions, which is what a script is. And in my case, I just don’t know enough about films to do that.”
“Norman Mailer said I might be possessed by genius. Well, that’s the point. You don’t possess it. You aren’t a genius, but you’re lucky when you’re possessed by it. The more you’re thinking about your individuality, or your me, the less you’re going to be contacting anything of the slightest bit of interest. You become the tool. Exactly. Henry Miller said, ‘Who writes the great books? Not we who have our names on the covers.’ The writer is simply someone who has an antenna of which he tunes into certain currents. Of times, when he is lucky. A medium, as it were.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘That’s typical of the Land of the Dead, no breakfast.’ – William S. Burroughs” quote=”‘I have one recurring dream, which I call the Land of the Dead dream, where I’m in the Land of the Dead and everyone I see is dead. The only thing that bothers me about the Land of the Dead dream is that I can never get any breakfast. I try to get breakfast and the restaurant is closed. That’s typical of the Land of the Dead, no breakfast.'” theme=”style6″]

Read the full interview here: WILLIAM BURROUGHS TARGET PRACTICE