THE WILD BOYS
William S. Burroughs
Burroughs has always had an avidity for freaks and circuses, show biz types and Hollywood, so it is no surprise that in his latest work "the camera is the eye of a cruising vulture flying over an area of scrub, rubble and unfinished buildings on the outskirts of a Mexican city," or that a number of scenes take place in a Penny Arcade Show where the fevered teenagers are "naked except for blue steel helmets" and are being buggered left and right, or that among the perennial grotesques scrambling across North Africa or the American suburbs we should meet CIA men with tape recorders or loony generals howling about "anarchy, vice, and foul corruption," or that, finally, with the Chinese and Russians nibbling away at the edges of consciousness, the excremental vision swallows the unwary: "Quite suddenly they were silent looking at each other and with one accord seized by uncontrollable diarrhea." This, of course, is Burroughs' familiar metaphor for the violence and aridity, the totalitarian farce of the modern world, done up in his usual deadpan hallucinatory crypto-realist style, full of "alien forces" and "random events," control systems and auras of intergalactic slaughter, where we are always in the future or the past, 1988 or 1989, the 1890's or a sentimental memory of something or other from the silent screen. All pleasantly perverse, no doubt, but it does go on rather too nuttily, or not nuttily enough. Burroughs simply doesn't have the sustaining force of the great maniacs of literature: the passionate hatreds of Celine or the pulsating philosophical sexology of Sade. In The Wild Boys he is weird and he is comic, but the pornography isn't at all inventive; there are abrupt successes, a few interesting failures, and a great deal of waste motion we used to call masturbatory in between.