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GHOST OF CHANCE by William S. Burroughs Kirkus Star


by William S. Burroughs

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-85242-406-0
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

From the strange and venerable Burroughs, a tiny slip of a book (to include 17 illustrations by the author) that becomes a cri de coeur for ecological sanity. In his spare, comic-hook style, Burroughs opens by telling--or telegraphing--the story of one Captain Mission who, in the 18th century, founded a "free pirate settlement, Libertatia, on the west coast of Madagascar." The settlement's self-imposed laws forbade harming the lemurs that dwelled on the island--although these kind and sensitive creatures ("lemur" meant "ghost" in the native tongue), needless to say, were to face calamitous treatment anyhow, by marauders from within and without--as was the mysterious stone temple that Captain Mission had discovered, known by him to be "the entrance to the biological Garden of lost Chances." When the temple is destroyed, and with it the lemurs' opportunity of developing into a yet more sensitive and wondrous species, "Mission knows that a chance that occurs only once in a hundred sixty million years has been lost forever." "Beauty is always doomed," writes Burroughs, placing the blame flatly on "Homo Sap with his weapons,...his insatiable greed, and ignorance so hideous it can never see its own face." And thus--for the balance of the book--is unleashed the formidable power of Burroughs the essayist of conscience, agony, and vitriol: chronicling Homo Sap's ravaging of other species ("The humans belch out the last passenger pigeon"), self-deluding opportunism and greed (including "the Christ Sickness" and the "war against drugs"), and the species' folly-laden susceptibility to certain revenge through increasingly vile, unimaginable new diseases and viruses, their effects described in ways calculated to chill the very blood of "Homo Sap, the Ugly Animal." Burroughs, in all, as the high lyric poet of wretched lost hopes. Or maybe not wholly lost: At book's end is an address, with an appeal for funds to help save the lemurs.