cover image Don’t Hide the Madness: Williams S. Burroughs in Conversation with Allen Ginsberg

Don’t Hide the Madness: Williams S. Burroughs in Conversation with Allen Ginsberg

Edited by Steven Taylor. Three Rooms, $27 (364p) ISBN 978-1-941110-70-6

Poet and musician Taylor (False Prophet) shares a fascinating and heretofore unpublished transcription of two famous beat authors in conversation. On the occasion of the 1992 U.K. premiere of David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg spent several days with the novel’s inimitable author, William S. Burroughs, for a write-up in the London Observer Magazine. Their talk took place at Burroughs’s Lawrence, Kans., home and coincided with an exorcism conducted by Navajo shaman Melvin Betsellie to rid Burroughs of a lifelong demonic presence the writer called the Ugly Spirit. In addition to a detailed run-down of the exorcism, there’s banter about health, diet, and Burroughs’s many beloved cats; serious discussion of his literary influences and cut-up method of composition; and gossip about their eclectic social circles in London, Mexico City, and Tangier. The result is a relaxed, wide-ranging confab, by turns erudite and charmingly down-to-earth, and with plentiful contributions from others, including Betsellie and especially longtime Burroughs associate and bibliographer James Grauerholz. Lightly but helpfully annotated and peppered with Ginsberg’s own snapshots of Burroughs in repose, this must-have resource for beat aficionados will stimulate more casual readers as well with its sense of being in the same room, and thoroughly in tune, with two legendary literary iconoclasts. (Oct.)