William S. Burroughs - Soft Machine

Soft Machine (Paladin Books) - William Burroughs


I know it is experimental. It reminds me of those alchemists' experiments when they tried to produce gold from excrements. And failed. Ultimately they were just dabbling in shit.

This book reads as if Burroughs swallowed words like rectal mucous, compost heap, jissom, masturbate, cock, dropped his pants. And just threw them up on the page. 

This is not even a stream of consciousness, or unconsciousness for that matter. When I am completely off my face, haven’t had any sleep for 30 hours, and I’m thinking things just before passing out, I STILL make more sense. There is this piece of advice W.G. Sebald supposedly used to give: "By all means be experimental, but let the reader be part of the experiment." That's where Burroughs fails miserably.

Here is a random quote from a random page:

"Corpses hang pants open on the road to Monterrey - clear and loud ahead naked post cards and baby shoes - A man comes back to something he left in underwear peeled the boy warm in 1929 - Thighs slapped the bed jumped ass up - 'Johnny screw' - Cup is split - wastings - Thermodynamics crawls home - game of empty hands - bed pictures post dead question - carrion smell sharp. open in"

It goes like this for six chapters. Nonsense in its purest form. So when chapter seven comes, and all of a sudden paragraphs seem to be organized in an almost coherent manner, you get all excited, even though the plot is still completely bonkers, but alleluia, there IS a plot. Or at least in comparison to the previous six chapters which were written by someone with a serious case of anterograde amnesia, who can only remember the last five words he has written.
But then chapter seven ends and it goes right back to gibberish.

What am I supposed to get out of this book? There were two sentences I liked (and I used the word ‘sentence’ loosely as obviously Burroughs has a very particular approach to punctuation). 

"Jungle invades the weed grown parks where armadillos infected with the earth eating disease gambol through deserted kiosks and Bolivar in catatonic limestone liberated the area."

and

"The name is Clem Snide - I am a Private Ass Hole - I will take on any job any identity any body - I will do anything difficult dangerous or downright dirty for a price -" 

And the shock factor is non-existent. It’s 2013, you can write all you want about cocks in rectums, on every page even (as Burroughs laboriously did) and I won’t even bat an eye. 

"Evening touched our rectums."

Thank you and goodbye.