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By that definition, the misanthropic Burroughs, who aspired to a reptilian cool, was no more a Beat than Marcel Duchamp was a surrealist.In (to whom his social satire owes a debt), darker even than Céline or Bierce or Mencken, whose affectionate contempt for the “booboisie” and flat-Earth fundamentalists Burroughs shares.Even the hardboiled narrator is depthless, a pulp archetype familiar from noir-movie voice-overs and tough-guy detective stories. is a record of the restless, peripatetic consciousness of a writer who defiantly announced, in the book itself, “I am a recording instrument ...I do not presume to impose ‘story’ ‘plot’ ‘continuity’ ...
It was these gore-nographic sequences, which Burroughs insisted were a sardonic critique of capital punishment, that resulted in the book’s landmark obscenity trial in 1965.
To that end, he remixes archetypal American genres, cross-fading from true crime (, the 1926 autobiography of the opium addict and petty criminal Jack Black, was a seminal influence on Burroughs’ writing) to advertising, with its housewives climaxing in consumer ecstasy over gleaming new appliances; from Hugo Gernsback-era sci-fi, with its subhuman mutants and telepathic Mayan priests and insect overlords from Aldebaran, to the bloodless jargon of Pentagon technocrats; from the fastidious descriptions of unimaginably repulsive diseases in medical textbooks (Burroughs spent a semester at the University of Vienna, studying medicine) to the spiritualist mumbo-jumbo of the mail-order New Age.