Burroughs Hangs with Kerouac Again

An exegesis of Burroughs’ novel The Soft Machine, a calligraphic painting of his used for the novel’s dust jacket, and a photograph of his typewriter. The William S. Burroughs Archive, The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library. Photo: The New York Public Library

from the NY Public Library site:

The New York Public Library Acquires Archive of Avant-Garde Beat Writer William S. Burroughs

Collection Joins the Archives of Jack Kerouac and Other Beat-Related Materials in the Library’s Berg Collection, the Leading Center for Study of Beat Literature

The New York Public Library’s Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature has acquired the archive of the avant-garde Beat writer William S. Burroughs (1914-1997). Containing Burroughs’ manuscripts and correspondence from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, the richest portion of his writing career, and including items such as the typescript and draft versions of his seminal novel The Naked Lunch, the archive previously had only two private owners aside from Burroughs himself and has never been publicly accessible.

“Burroughs’ archive is a fantastic addition to the Berg Collection and solidifies The New York Public Library’s position as the world’s leading center for the study of Beat literature,” said Dr. Paul LeClerc, President and Chief Executive Officer of The New York Public Library. “The Burroughs Archive joins the Jack Kerouac Archive, as well as manuscripts, letters, and other items created by and related to Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, and a very large collection of Beat and Beat-related books, pamphlets, broadsides, and photographs.”

The papers were originally assembled and organized in 1972 by Burroughs and his friend and occasional collaborator, the avant-garde Swiss-Canadian painter Brion Gysin. It was catalogued by renowned Beat historian and author Barry Miles and originally sold to Roberto Altmann of Liechtenstein. This effort resulted in the publication of The Descriptive Catalogue of the William S. Burroughs Archive (1973). The Library acquired the archive from noted book collector and attorney Robert H. and his wife Donna L. Jackson, of Shaker Heights, Ohio. The agent for the sale was Ken Lopez of Massachusetts, a noted rare book and manuscript dealer specializing in modern American and British literature.

The archive’s correspondence includes hundreds of unpublished letters to Burroughs, often accompanied by carbon copies of Burroughs’ replies, from scores of writers and artists, including Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Terry Southern, Timothy Leary, J.G. Ballard, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), the French sound poet Henri Chopin, and especially numerous examples from Allen Ginsberg and Paul Bowles. Unpublished letters to Burroughs include letters from Kerouac, Leary, Ginsberg, Leroi Jones, Chopin, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Bowles, and Southern.

“Not only was Burroughs one of the three progenitors of the Beat movement and an avant-garde writer who influenced and was influenced by such movements as Surrealism, Fluxus, British ‘New Wave’ Science Fiction, the Post-Beat, and Concrete Poetry, but he may also be regarded as one of twentieth-century America’s great satirists, fiercely sinister and corrosive,” said Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of the Berg Collection. “This aspect of his work complements the archives of Terry Southern and Bruce Jay Friedman, which are also in the Berg. The addition of Burroughs’ papers has created a particularly rich resource for the study of alternative versions of the post-War myth of the American dream. The archive is particularly interesting because Burroughs clearly intended it, primarily through its organization and the art/word illustrations on its folders, to be read and absorbed as a work of art in itself.”

“Preserving archives that show the development of an artist’s work from ideas to final form is invaluable to researchers,” said David S. Ferriero, Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of the Research Libraries. “In other divisions of The New York Public Library’s Research Libraries, scholars have access to books, essays, articles, screenplays, photos, and numerous additional materials that reflect the broad impact of these works once they enter the culture at large. The Library offers researchers the opportunity to trace a work’s life from artistic impulse to its ongoing influence in today’s culture.”

“Donna and I are most pleased that this important material by one of America’s greatest creative talents will have a good home at The New York Public Library, making it available to scholars, students, and anyone interested in the origins of the Beat Generation,” said Robert Jackson.

(Visited 67 times, 1 visits today)

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *