William S. Burroughs’ ‘The Revised Boy Scout Manual’: An Electronic Revolution

Edited by Geoffrey D. Smith and John M. Bennett. Ohio State Univ., $17.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5489-9
Burroughs’s jarringly piecemeal satire on how to prepare for a revolution against powerful, oppressive institutions is strikingly timely, albeit difficult to follow. The text, assembled from multiple sources including recordings of Burroughs’s readings, leaps about, including bizarre fantasies such as a Night of the Living Dead–inspired scenario and a testy conversation between Watson and Holmes about the latter’s excessive drug use. Credited for creating terms such as “heavy metal” and the now ubiquitous “fake news,” Burroughs was a talented wordsmith; readers who persist will find delicious phrasing here such as ”the vote is a weapon” and “the weapons of illusion.” Burroughs’s sharp observations on the shaping of media narratives are particularly worth seeking out. This slender offering serves best as an opportunity to appreciate Burroughs’s dark humor and insights into human nature—“Can any human being live without enemies? No human being has ever done so yet”—rather than as a lost classic. V. Vale’s observation in an afterword that “if your language lives on, in a way, you live on” sums up what there is to admire here: Burroughs’s gift for creating phrases that remain relevant. Agent: Jeffrey Posternak, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/03/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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