Thursday, September 20, 2007

Norman Mailer and William S. Burroughs Talking Endlessly

I got a book of interviews with William S. Burroughs called The Job and Advertisements for Myself and Existential Errands by Norman Mailer.

Those books together kind of show where all this modern day liberalism comes from:

It is really strange reading them, there is such hope.


Burroughs even has hope.

What I mean by hope is that they have a million opinions on everything and both of them have a million ideas on how to make the world a better place.

To have an opinion means you think your opinion matters, which is a form of hope.

There was a lot of that in the fifties and sixties, everyone running around giving a million opinions on human life.

The opinions, articles and interviews have this sense though, that bread no longer matters. And now that bread does not matter we can start looking at our souls or something, to make us into super humans.

Now so people understand what I mean when I say bread, most of our great grandparents are dead but if they were alive they would probably be able to tell a couple, "And we didn't have much food" stories.

Now this hope, this limitless bread world corresponds with something these two writers and no writers of their time took any real notice of, the amount of oil and natural gas that was starting to be used, that resources from the ground that one day would run out was creating this new world, that it was not philosophy or soul searching. Oil gave people time to dwell on shit that didn't matter, and it gave mankind an abundance of boredom.

examples of things we made from this boredom:

organized children's sports
the computer
conceptual art
Roll Playing Games
video games
an excessive amount of porn
in line skates
cell phones
DVD players
The New World Order
New Age Religion
Most Conspiracy Theories
Dungeon and Dragons
Martha Stewart crafts
fantasy sports


Another part to these books is who they thought would be read in fifty years, they thought it would be Mailer, Burroughs, Capote and Bellow.

Yates and Bukowski writing at the time are mentioned nowhere.


adam said...

Your idea of hope in a post-oil w a more relaxed way of writing specifically, maybe creating art in general, does have one source of realistic hope (at least within some contexts).

I think you've said this before, but when oil's no longer available, and most of the people who are alive because of the ways in which oil makes it possible for six billion plus people to be alive aren't alive anymore, people are going to have to amuse themselves.

And when most people have to spend a lot of their waking time (not necessarily most, given the right environment) gathering their bare essentials, they won't have the time to sit in front of a keyboard (much less the electricity) and type up a silly and pharmacologically inaccurate story about a girl who gets bored and tries to get a caffeine high.

I've got to get back to making out with Catherine. She thinks I'm using too many words, like Tom Wolfe. She's right.

Anonymous said...

What I think this comes down to, is that Art is unimportant next to Life.

I don't know much about Mailer, but I've read numerous interviews with Burroughs, and I think he makes very perceptive and fascinating points about the world we live in. He might not have had to worry too much about food and shelter (he could always rely on his family for handouts), but I don't feel that this makes his statements any less valid.

Who perceives the world more clearly - the person who has free time to think from a broader perspective, or the person who is just concerned with immediate survival? I think both types of people can have equally valid viewpoints, it's just that the person who doesn't have to worry about immediate survival has the luxury and advantage of seeing things from a more detached point of view. What viewpoint is useful depends on what kind of world one happens to be living in.

There have been people who have used from their surroundings only what they needed, living with minimal waste and more or less in harmony with the ecosystem. Most of these people were either colonized or wiped out by people who came from civilizations with an abundance of food supplies.

I would say that the most natural way of living on this earth is to survive well while living in harmony with the ecosystem. This requires one type of skill-set.

The alternative way of living - modern civilization - requires a different skill-set. Burroughs points out things that can help one add to their skill-set for surviving in our artificially-created world.

The arguably most important concept to come out of modern western civilization is probably 'human rights'. Will this concept disappear if abundance is gone and people have to do whatever they have to do to survive?

I feel that Bukowski definitely has a better handle on what life is really about. He has a sense of the deeper truth of things. He sees through the thin veneer of modern civilization, and is able to express complex things in a simple way. Reading Burroughs may be instructive and stimulating at times, but reading Bukowski is always comforting.

Unless you happen to be cold and starving, in which case you might have no choice but to burn the books for warmth and cook something over the fire.

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