NONFICTION

Don't Hide the Madness: William S. Burroughs in Conversation with Allen Ginsberg

Three Rooms. Oct. 2018. 364p. ed. by Steven Taylor. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781941110706. $26. LIT
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Prompted by a request from London's Observer Magazine to interview writer William S. Burroughs (1914–97) in connection with the release of David Cronenberg's film Naked Lunch, poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–97) visited with him in Lawrence, KS, recording 16 hours of conversation between March 17–22, 1992. Taylor (False Prophet), Ginsberg's longtime musical accompanist, agreed to transcribe the tapes as the basis for the magazine article. The complete transcripts with notes are published for the first time in this volume, which takes its title from Ginsberg's poem "On Burroughs' Work." Topics discussed include literary history and influences, demonic possession and exorcism, drug and gun laws, psychiatry, and, of course, Cronenberg's film. Burroughs returns several times to the "Ugly Spirit," an entity he believed possessed him and prompted his accidental shooting of wife Joan. There's also much on personal subjects such as illness, diet, and Burroughs's many cats. Includes a generous selection of Ginsberg's photos taken during the visit.
VERDICT Devotees of these Beat Generation icons will find these conversations between longtime friends both entertaining and revealing.

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