Jesus sandals and William S. Burroughs

You know, on hindsight my last post was a bit goody goody two shoes. In fact, you could say it was patronising. Or even downright arrogant. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, strutting in on my Jesus sandals and waving around my righteous goody-goody stick? It’s enough to turn your stomach.

In a half-arsed attempt to make some sort of amends, here’s something a little more subversive, courtesy of William S. Burroughs. It’s one of my favourite pieces of his writing (and I have many), and it never fails to make me grin.

So here’s Lee – who’s pretty much Burroughs: a expatriate barely off heroin, struggling with loneliness and homosexuality, among other things. He’s developed a bit of a liking for a young heterosexual by the name of Allerton.

Lee walked directly into the bar and ordered a drink. He drank it and ordered a second one before looking around the room to see if Allerton was there. Allerton was alone at a table, tipped back in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, holding a bottle of beer on his knee. He nodded to Lee. Lee tried to achieve a greeting at once friendly and casual, designed to show interest without pushing their short acquaintance. The result was ghastly.

As Lee stood aside to bow in his dignified old-world greeting, there emerged instead a leer of naked lust, wrenched in the pain and hate of his deprived body and, in simultaneous double exposure, a sweet child’s smile of liking and trust, shockingly out of time and out of place, mutilated and hopeless.

Allerton was appalled. “Perhaps he has some sort of tic,” he thought. He decided to remove himself from contact with Lee before the man did something even more distasteful. The effect was like a broken connection. Allerton was not cold or hostile; Lee simply wasn’t there so far as he was concerned. Lee looked at him helplessly for a moment, then turned back to the bar, defeated and shaken.

Brilliant. I love it. It’s so grotesque, funny and sad, all at once. He really hits the sweet spot. And – like the rest of Queer – it doesn’t have that acidic, warped, satirical, insectoid sci-fi element more associated with his later stuff; it’s very frank and painful, undisguised.

Just thought I’d share that with you. A little less waving around of the goody-goody stick.

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