A Book of Dreams
William S. Burroughs
As Burroughs's last book of prose (The Cat Inside, 1992) demonstrated, his publishers will print anything by the octogenarian hipster, even a silly cat book. This latest purports to be a novel, but it's really more random scribbling by the Nike sneaker shill, whose media image far exceeds his achievement as a writer. These ragged, disjointed paragraphs chronicle a year or so of Burroughs's dream life, which is much less lurid than one would expect. Sure, there are drugs (hash, heroin, morphine, laudanum, etc.) and cameos by all his friends living and dead (Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, Ian Somerville, etc.). But the sex is nondescript ("sex with James" or "made it with Ian"); the places all familiar to Beat groupies (Tangier, Paris, London, and Lawrence, Kans.); and the familial stuff, which has passed into legend, is just alluded to (shot wife playing Wm. Tell; son dead at an early age). Burroughs likes to show his knowledge of guns (".45 Ruger APC and Long Colt Cylinder") and frequently expresses his preference for cats over dogs and people. Some vintage moments include a dream of a cockroach stuck in his ear and of a man scooping his brains from his skull to eat. Burroughs really comes alive, though, when he leaves his dreamscapes to explicate. A dream of a "shitting woman" leads to a long and sordid anecdote about a "queen" friend married to a wealthy woman with a severe colon problem. Burroughs's political commentary amounts to some dated rants about Anita Bryant, Ronald Reagan, and the CIA. His claim to total honesty and authenticity leads him to debunk Ted Morgan's view of him as a "literary outlaw." His waking thoughts dwell sentimentally on cats, with occasional riffs that remind one of the old Burroughs. Die-hard fans will no doubt scoop this up, others need not go beyond Naked Lunch, preferably in David Cronenberg's movie version.