Preferred Citation: Murphy, Timothy S. Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft0580030m/


 
Chapter Three— "All Agents Defect and All Resisters Sell Out": The Negative Dialectics of Naked Lunch

Chapter Three—
"All Agents Defect and All Resisters Sell Out":
The Negative Dialectics of Naked Lunch

Despite his immense productivity in the interim, Burroughs's literary notoriety is still based almost exclusively on the underground reputation of his controversial 1959 novel, Naked Lunch . The book was initially banned in Los Angeles and Boston on charges of obscenity, and was subsequently cleared of those charges in trials that constituted, some historians claim, the final efforts undertaken by the government (specifically, the California and Massachusetts State Attorneys General) to censor literature in the United States.[1] This notoriety has not led to the academic canonization of Burroughs's novel, however, as it did in a case to which the Naked Lunch trial is often compared: that of Joyce's Ulysses , cleared of obscenity charges in 1933.[2] Indeed, despite the favorable verdict, Burroughs's novel has remained on the fringes of American literary culture—as a result not so much of its notorious scatology as of its fragmentary structure and the apparently contradictory results of its implicit critiques. This marginalization appears all the more paradoxical in the aftermath of the film of Naked Lunch , a linear, neutralized, star-studded "adaptation" of the novel that could still prompt Peter Chernin, the new chairman of Twentieth-Century Fox, the studio that produced the film, to rebuke his predecessors who were responsible for it and vow never to make that sort of film again.[3]

What sort of film is it that can inspire such antipathy? Like any cinematic adaptation of a literary work, David Cronenberg's film of Naked Lunch, released in the U.S. in December 1991, is an enterprise of selection and thus of reduction. In this instance the reduction takes a form


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that is indicative of critical tendencies that have been gaining influence in Anglo-American circles for a number of years, and that are also at the root of the abrupt and strained attempt by the Anglo-American critical academy to accept and assess Burroughs's work. These tendencies go by the collective name of postmodernism, and the convergence of both academic and pop culture standards under its banner (that is, both critical and consumer acceptance of it) has led some critics (such as Jean Baudrillard) to proclaim the end of critique and of the social. This "nihilist," or reflexive, postmodernism operates through a process of aestheticization whereby the unassimilable fragments of contemporary social life, having lost the mythic totality of history or religion that bound them together under modernism, become the objects of the only gesture left to the nihilist subject: an abstract and totalizing aesthetic affirmation. That is, having no real understanding of, let alone control over, the movement and representation of events, the subject can only treat the discontinuous series of moments that confront her/him as an aesthetic object whose ends are beyond her/him, and perhaps beyond capital itself. The only judgment left, in this context, is an anemic version of aesthetic judgment that Baudrillard calls "seduction"; pure and practical reason have no material left on which to operate, no adequate schemata or projections of purposiveness, so neither rationality nor ethics can be grounded. Let us call this process of seduction (or, more accurately, reduction) post-modernization since, like modernization or rationalization, it is a method of abstraction by which capital integrates antagonism into the process of production.

In Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, this postmodernization acts both thematically and formally; indeed, the theme determines the form. Faced with the impossibility of filming the novel literally, due (again) in part to its insistent scatology but mostly to its resistance to linear narrative, Cronenberg decided to move "back from the page itself to include the process of writing the book."[4] Thus the character William Lee, whose narratives begin and end Burroughs's novel but do not provide it with a unifying thread, becomes the central figure in a surrealist film allegory of the apprenticeship of the writer, scripted and directed by David Cronenberg alone.[5] Lee (played by Peter Weller) is presented as a Burroughs surrogate—complete with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac look-alike friends, an addict wife named Joan (played by Judy Davis), and a paralyzing case of writer's block—who must approach his literary task as if he were a secret agent working for unknown powers. Like Burroughs, Lee must kill his wife to become able to write; Cronenberg dramatizes


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this by suspending virtually the entire narrative between the shooting of Lee's wife, Joan—which sends him on the run to the exotic medina of Interzone, where he finds the unintelligible warring forces that will provide him with material—and the shooting of Joan Lee's double, Joan Frost (an expatriate writer distantly based on Burroughs's Tangier acquaintance Jane Bowles, also played by Judy Davis), whom Lee attempts to seduce in order to solve the riddle of the forces at work in Interzone and in his own literary life.

None of this narrative material appears in Burroughs's Naked Lunch, beyond the frame character William Lee; conversely, only short fragments of Burroughs's writing appear in the film, generally as direct citation, as when Lee recites the famous Talking Asshole sequence (NL 131–33)[6] in an attempt to seduce an important contact. Cronenberg's "move back" from the discontinuity of Naked Lunch, which might have established its connections with its politico-historical situation, instead reduces the text to a hermetically self-reflexive abstraction: the narrative discontinuities and politically charged "routines" are naturalized (according to the model Burroughs himself provides in Junky ) as the hallucinatory experiences of a drug-addicted writer, at the same time as they are drained of whatever extratextual significance they might have. This is particularly true of Cronenberg's treatment of homosexuality, which is labeled "the best all-around cover story an agent could have" (a cover story for heterosexuality, apparently, since the film's central relationship is Lee's affair with the two Joans)[7] and thus denied the critical force with which Burroughs endows it. It is also true of Cronenberg's views on addiction and on the control of drugs by state institutions, which are rendered merely aesthetic through the omission of Burroughs's reflections on actual drugs (and the police-state suppression of them), which ground the metaphorical economy of imagined drugs like black centipede meat and "Mugwump jissom" in the novel. Cronenberg uses the theme of writing and the figure of the writer—which are clearly present though hardly determining in the novel—as expedients both to impose linear form on the recalcitrant text and to render all of Burroughs's political interventions aesthetic, by taking them for metaphors of the writing process as it is lived by the writer.

For example, near the end of the film the Clark-Nova (a typewriter that transforms itself into an insect and serves as Lee's contact with the unknown powers for which he writes—Cronenberg's invention rather than Burroughs's) gives Lee a warning which quotes a well-known passage from the novel's antepenultimate chapter: "all Agents defect and all


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Resisters sell out" (NL 205). In the course of the novel the reader has been introduced to a number of organizations and institutions competing for power over various markets and subjects, including "Islam Inc.," a group of capitalists who work to destabilize developing nations, and the four "Parties of Interzone" that broadly symbolize the political spectrum: the Liquefactionists, who try to dissolve all differences into their own identity and eliminate dissent; the Divisionists, who flood the world with identical replicas of themselves to the same end as the Liquefactionists; the Senders, who seek to perfect ever-more-certain methods of control, ultimately including telepathic control of all subjects; and the Factualists, who resist the reductive operations of the others in favor of an uncontrolled, multiple society (NL 162–69). The machinations of these organizations and their agents, as well as others, throughout the text give sense to the famous warning: one can never be sure what cause or organization one is serving, since one's own subjectivity is only a relatively autonomous product of conflicts between them. There is a dialectic of (conscious or unconscious) treason that constantly threatens to reverse oppositional social relations, a dialectic that was being manipulated with great skill by the twin Josephs, the Soviet Stalin and the American McCarthy, even as Burroughs was serving his literary apprenticeship. In the film, conversely, the warning is detached from its admittedly symbolic political context and coupled with an assertion of the writer's importance that leaves the warning almost completely without content: "all Agents defect and all Resisters sell out. That's the sad truth, Bill. And a writer lives this sad truth just like everybody else. The only difference is . . . he files a report on it."[8] The film ignores the text's implicit desire for collectivity—which must remain ambiguous given Burroughs's refusal to resolve the social antagonisms he identifies—and offers instead an abstract homage to the mediation of the writer. For Burroughs, "this is a Manichean conflict . . . [whose] outcome is in doubt" (Burroughs, Adding Machine 83), but the film presents his warning as a truism, a "sad truth," a defeatist statement on the ultimate indifference of resistance, except as an aesthetic vehicle.

The result of this series of reductions and substitutions is the almost total aestheticization of Burroughs's novel, the postmodernization of it. The structure of Burroughs's Naked Lunch is discontinuous since it is based on the formal unit of the routine, and unlike those in Junky and Queer, these routines are not attributed to a single hallucinating consciousness which naturalizes them; one would have to exercise great caution in extracting any simple generic or genetic element from the book.


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The structure of Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, on the other hand, is one of the simplest and most linear imaginable: the quest of an exceptional individual to become an artist, the bildungsroman. The fact that this structure is masked in surrealist imagery should fool no one: the film is a celebration of the artist as creator and the dangers he must face in order to create, and as such the film is closer to Goethe's Faust, Byron's Manfred or even Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man than to Burroughs's novel. Indeed, Cronenberg's film is replete with Romantic references, from the imperative to "Exterminate all rational thought,"[9] a sentiment about which Burroughs is ambivalent, to the refiguration of the feminine Muse (Joan Lee/Frost), a figure that is totally alien to all of Burroughs's work. By framing the novel with the scene of its writing, fictionalized or not, Cronenberg has transformed Burroughs's relentlessly unromantic and resolutely fragmented text into a whole, a totality encompassed and unified by its author's experience and simultaneously sealed off from the rest of the world.

This transformation is confirmed by the almost total absence of scenes actually based on Naked Lunch texts: the object of the film is the novel as artifact or hermetic thing, not as readable matter that can enter into relations with readers or become a meaningful part of social situations. Cronenberg's procedure is particularly reductive given Burroughs's stated intention to "rub out the word" and his imperative to plagiarize: "steal freely. . . . Words, colors, light, sounds, stone, wood, bronze . . . belong to anyone who can use them" (Burroughs, Adding Machine 20–21). Cronenberg has "rubbed out the word" of Naked Lunch by reifying it; thus his film of the novel is a fulfillment of Deleuze and Guattari's warning, cited earlier, against uncritical reliance on the disruptive effect of fragmentation or the disappearance of the author-function: "Take William Burroughs's cut-up method: the folding of one text onto another, which constitutes multiple and even adventitious roots (like a cutting), implies a supplementary dimension to that of the texts under consideration. In this supplementary dimension of folding, unity continues its spiritual labor. That is why the most resolutely fragmented work can also be presented as the Total Work or Magnum Opus" (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 6). Naked Lunch is not a cut-up text, but its "mosaic" structure of routines anticipates many of the disjunctive effects of the cut-ups.[10] Cronenberg has constructed his film entirely within this dialectical "supplementary dimension" of the act of writing, and he has given it the name of Burroughs's novel, despite the fact that the novel lies almost entirely outside that dimension. In


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becoming the "Total Work" that provides the occasion for the pseudo-Romantic, postmodernized film but not (much of) the film's material, Naked Lunch is drained of its politics—that is, its specific form, content, and sociohistorical trajectory. It is also drained of a good deal of its intrinsic interest. Despite sacrificing the novel's disjunct "obscurity" in favor of linear metaphorical simplicity, the film neither evoked uniformly positive reviews nor found a wide popular audience; hence the hostile vows of Twentieth-Century Fox's new chairman, on the one hand, and on the other Burroughs's damnation of the film with the faintest of praise (in his introduction to a book on the making of the film).

The film, however, only repeats in a condensed fashion the aestheticized reading of Burroughs that has been the source of whatever academic visibility and critical acceptance he now seems to have. After having been banned in the fifties, crowned by the counterculture of the sixties, and denounced as redundant in the seventies, Burroughs was elected, in the eighties, to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, on the basis of his influence as a "writer's writer," totally obsessed with technique. During this same period, academic attention began to turn his way as well, largely because of the revival of formalist study that accompanied and displaced the Anglo-American reception of structuralism and its variants and sequels: special issues of magazines and a few book-length studies of his novels appeared, generally concerned with textual innovations like the cut-ups or Burroughs's relation to one or another tradition in Western literature.[11] Though these analyses represented a real advance over earlier criticism, which focused almost exclusively on the content of Burroughs's works and judged it in almost exclusively moral terms, the recent postmodernist trend in analyses of Burroughs's texts has only corrected one reductive reading by falling into another, symmetrically opposite one.

Robin Lydenberg's study Word Cultures: Radical Theory and Practice in William S. Burroughs's Fiction is a paradigmatic case. She provides detailed formal and conceptual explications of Naked Lunch and the Nova trilogy that Burroughs wrote after it, and in the final sections of her book she attempts to cut Burroughs's texts into those of a number of French critics and philosophers, including Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and Deleuze and Guattari (without making any attempt to clarify the enormous distances that separate these thinkers' projects), in order to demonstrate the force of Burroughs's critique of logocentrism and representation. Despite the im-


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mense local value of her explications, her enterprise remains stalled at the level of abstract textuality (the "practice" of her title) and can only equate avant-garde literature with political revolution according to the Tel Quel model of the seventies.[12] As such, her analysis of Burroughs accounts reasonably well for the dialectical undecidability of the earlier works, but not so well for the irreducibly distinct social issues Burroughs addresses or for the formal shift in his writing beginning in the late sixties. Despite its greater sensitivity, Lydenberg's version of Burroughs performs reductive gestures of postmodernization quite similar to those of Cronenberg's film.

In his introduction to Everything is Permitted: The Making of "Naked Lunch, " Burroughs cites the following anecdote at the conclusion of a carefully lukewarm endorsement: "Raymond Chandler was once asked, 'How do you feel about what Hollywood has done to your novels?' He reportedly answered, 'My novels? Why, Hollywood hasn't done anything to them. They're still right there, on the shelf.' "[13] Burroughs's books, too, are still on the shelf, and there they remain because postmodernism hasn't been able to do anything to them, either. This critique of postmodernization is not meant to suggest that Burroughs's work is strictly modernist, that its superficial fragmentation conceals a deeper formal unity of myth which it asserts as a negative critique of the disorientation and alienation of rationalized modern existence (as, for example, in Adorno's defense of modernism in Aesthetic Theory ); despite his use of some modernist techniques, Burroughs is not Joyce or Picasso. To understand Cronenberg's and Lydenberg's abstractions of Burroughs, we do not need a dialectic of "critical" modernism (a formulation that would no longer be tenable in any case, given the reactionary nostalgia and arrogant asymmetry on which all modernist visions of mythical unity are founded) against "nihilist" postmodernism that would simply be sublated into contemporary marketing and canon-construction strategies, nor the seductive aesthetic dialectic that is at work within postmodernization. Both of these models foreclose the possibility of critique as they enclose antagonism within capitalist production and its handmaiden, abstract representation or textuality. We need, rather, a critical strategy beyond the mythic dialectic itself, beyond its ability to resolve the "most resolutely fragmented work" into a unity that can only be contemplated as an artwork and consumed as a commodity. We need, therefore, an amodernist strategy, a modernism shorn of myth, if we are going to get Burroughs's books off the shelf and back onto the streets.


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Our amodernist thesis, implicit in the previous chapter, is deceptively simple: Burroughs's work, including Naked Lunch, constitutes an exacting critique both of the social organization of late capital and of the logic of representation or textuality that abets it. This is not to suggest that Burroughs is a Marxist; he sometimes talks like one ("Intellectual uniformity is more and more necessary as the contradictions and failures of the society become more and more apparent"), but at other times he flatly, if reductively, rejects materialism ("much worse than the false promise of Christianity is the denial of any spiritual potentials, as exemplified in the dreary doctrine of Communism").[14] Burroughs's critique does, however, consistently maintain a relationship to Marxism, one that is best summed up in Louis Althusser's description of the relation of art to knowledge: "This relationship is not one of identity but one of difference" (Althusser 222). Difference is not nonrelation, nor is it contradiction or binary opposition; the opposite of knowledge is ideology rather than art, while the (traditional) opposite of Marxism is fascism rather than Burroughs's libertarian-anarchist politics.

The polemical introduction to Naked Lunch, "Testimony Concerning a Sickness," proposes the medical metaphor that recurs throughout the book: Burroughs and his narrators often appear as biomedical researchers, a role that succeeds that of the sociologist, whose science provides the narrative perspective in Junky . A brief passage from this introduction dramatizes the nondialectical difference that relates Burroughs's work to Marxism. In a lengthy diatribe against "the Algebra of Need" (NL xxxix), the parasitic social economy of addiction in all its forms, Burroughs cites Occam's Razor and "Ludwig Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: 'If a proposition is NOT NECESSARY it is MEANINGLESS and approaching MEANING ZERO'" (NL xlvi).[15] Following a brief digression on junky self-righteousness, he returns to this logical condition at the conclusion of the introduction, but complicates it: "Paregoric Babies of the World Unite. We have nothing to lose but Our Pushers. And THEY are NOT NECESSARY" (NL xlviii). This allusion to and displacement of the similarly hortatory conclusion of Marx and Engels's Manifesto of the Communist Party (even down to the emphatic capitalization: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!" [Marx and Engels 65]) considerably broadens the social and political stakes involved in Burroughs's logical


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critique. These are the stakes that we must specify in the course of this analysis of Naked Lunch .

Such a critique implies a position from which it is articulated, a position which has been foreclosed in the dominant theories of postmodernism, but which Burroughs reopens tentatively in Junky and Queer and decisively in his later works: the position of the fugitive. We have seen that Burroughs's consciousness, in both its political and aesthetic aspects, was forged in the crucibles of drug addiction and oppressed (but not repressed) homosexuality, and that, thanks to the demonization of addiction, many Americans seriously believed that traffic in "narcotics ties right in with Communism. . . . Because the union controls shipping, and the Communists control the union" (J 70–71). As an addict, Burroughs was thus assumed to be a subversive, an assumption that was confirmed by his homosexual "deviance." The exclusionary logic of social control—specifically, the assumption of a general equivalence uniting all forms of deviance—transforms Burroughs into an imaginary Communist. The real double marginalization that Burroughs lived and chronicled within these overlapping subcultures radicalized him, however, without benefit of orthodoxy (at that time, the dogma of the declining American Communist Party or of the flourishing American labor unions); thus the disaffection that struck the orthodox, unionist Left as a result of its vanguard claims and coalitionist strategies in the seventies and eighties did not significantly undermine his critique.

The necessarily clandestine activity of the addict and of the contemporary homosexual lies at the base of Burroughs's controlling metaphors in this period—organized crime and the secret agent—which feed off each other dialectically. It is true that capital has managed to incorporate both the addict and the homosexual subcultures into production, the first by the expansion and reconquest of the bourgeois drug market through cocaine and its derivatives, which reestablished class divisions within the black-market drug economy as well as in the judicial system that policed it, and the second by the more recent invention of a specifically "gay" market sector and consumer identity to sublate the antagonism expressed by "queers" like Burroughs. In fact, he anticipates this axiomatic operation, the indifference that results from subsumption, in Naked Lunch: "Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. . . . The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff


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in junk" (NL xxxix).[16] As Burroughs implicitly reasoned in Junky , just as the addict is not the negation of the capitalist but his half-parodic double, so commerce in junk, the "ultimate merchandise," is the purest form of the fetishized capitalist "free market." Similarly, Burroughs parodies the commodification of homosexuality in "Hassan's Rumpus Room" (NL 74–83), a routine concerning a night club where the patrons, "Mr. Rich-and-Vulgar" and the "Queen Bees[ . . . ]([ . . . ]old women who surround themselves with fairies[ . . . ])" (NL 79, 80), are entertained by the hangings and subsequent ejaculations of attractive young men.

To suggest that Burroughs was radicalized as a result of experiences that were not strictly class-based and that he maintains a "differential relationship" to Marxism begs the question of his specific relation to specific issues and developments in Marxist analysis and organization. The answer is by no means simple or static; Burroughs's relation to Marxism is itself a historical aspect of his literary practice. If Burroughs's political commitments in the late forties and early fifties amounted to a kind of extreme modernist liberalism or libertarianism—dramatized in his opposition, ultimately in exile, to police-state drug hysteria and the oppression of homosexuals like himself[17] —then by the time he assembled Naked Lunch (between 1953 and 1959), his position had begun to take a form that resembled in several important ways the generalized critique of Anglo-European culture undertaken by the similarly exiled members the Frankfurt School of Social Research. In brief, this critique sought to expose the novel constraints on and forms of exploitation of the productive populace that had arisen in both fascist dictatorships (like Nazi Germany) and mass republics (like the U.S.) as a result of their common reliance on the rationalist heritage of the Enlightenment. The central document of this Frankfurt School critique, at least as it concerns us here, is Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (DE), written in Los Angeles in 1944 during their American exile—while Burroughs, not yet a junky, was acting as a literary agent provocateur to Ginsberg and Kerouac in New York.

Exile is perhaps the most crucial contextual factor linking these two critiques, because both for Horkheimer and Adorno and for Burroughs, exile was not chosen as a means of avoiding the deadening effects of social and cultural stasis, of escaping the conservatism that drove Joyce from Ireland and the Lost Generation from the U.S. Like Salman Rushdie, both Burroughs and the Frankfurt School Marxists fled their native countries because their. freedom and even their very lives were immediately, overtly, and materially threatened by the transformation of


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the state apparatus of domination. Horkheimer and Adorno, like Thomas Mann and Arnold Schönberg, moved to Los Angeles to escape the repressive forces mobilized in Germany by Hitler and the Nationalist Socialists, while Burroughs jumped bail in Texas to avoid the American "anti-junk feeling [that] mounted to a paranoid obsession, like anti-Semitism under the Nazis" and that resulted in "police-state legislation penalizing a state of being" (J 142). Their punishments would not have been the narrow-minded censure of their neighbors, nor even the civil lawsuits that threatened Joyce whenever he considered a return to Ireland, but imprisonment at the least and perhaps, for Horkheimer and Adorno, death. Their surveys from exile, then, manifest the urgency, the timeliness, and the focus that only a temporary stay of execution can grant to a condemned prisoner. Exile also helps to explain the shift in Burroughs's concerns from his early novels: the constantly shifting American social geography of Junky cannot easily be investigated from Middle Eastern exile, and if that ideological landscape is to be criticized and transformed, the schizophrenic authorial self-doubt of Queer must give way to a paradoxically fluid rigor in the dissection of the subjective structures formed by and in the mechanisms of control.

As we explicate this common critical program, we must constantly bear in mind the fact that Burroughs's relation to the Frankfurt School's Marx-ist project is differential in Althusser's sense. Burroughs does not refer to Horkheimer or Adorno, or even to figures like Herbert Marcuse, who would come closer to Burroughs's own position in the late sixties; nor do they refer to him. There is no evidence that Burroughs has ever read any of the writings of these Frankfurt School critics. How, then, can he have a relation of any kind to them? The differential relation consists, essentially, in this: in response to similar novel features of modern society, Burroughs articulates a critique that is structurally and thematically similar to the critique articulated by Horkheimer and Adorno. The novel features to which both critiques respond are the reversible symmetry of antagonistic social positions like those of the police and criminals; the serene coercive power of mass-produced artistic and political culture, embodied in the Culture Industry; the purgative logic of social purity, which finds its fullest expressions in institutionalized Nazi anti-Semitism and American racism; and the reductive strictures of capitalist control and instrumental reason that underpin the other features.

First and foremost, we must recognize that while trying to place Naked Lunch in the venerable literary tradition of political satire, Burroughs actually places it in the theoretical tradition of ideology critique:


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The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch—a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork[. . . . ]Certain passages in the book that have been called pornographic were written as a tract against Capital Punishment in the manner of Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal . These sections are intended to reveal capital punishment as the obscene, barbaric and disgusting anachronism that it is. As always the lunch is naked. If civilized countries want to return to Druid Hanging Rites in the Sacred Grove or to drink blood with the Aztecs and feed their Gods with blood of human sacrifice, let them see what they actually eat and drink. Let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon. (NL xxxvii, xliv)

On the witness stand in the Superior Court of Boston, Allen Ginsberg offered the following interpretation of this passage: "It relates to nakedness of seeing, to being able to see clearly without any confusing disguises, to see through the disguise . . . a complete banquet of all this naked awareness" (NL xxii). Likewise, Horkheimer and Adorno insist that "When public opinion has reached a state in which thought inevitably becomes a commodity, and language the means of promoting that commodity, then the attempt to trace the course of such depravation [sic ] has to deny any allegiance to current linguistic and conceptual conventions, lest their world-historical connections thwart it entirely" (DE xi-xii). To "trace the course of depravation" or to "reveal what is on the end of the long newspaper spoon" is to criticize the established order of production and to demystify the rapacious violence of consumption; this task necessitates, on the part of the critic, a fundamental estrangement from the language and forms constitutive of the object of criticism. That these parallel critiques of ideology also share a certain discontinuity of expression should surprise no one: this formal discontinuity, as a response to the seamless "world of the administered life" (DE ix), is the last desperate tactic of an increasingly commodified cultural modernism that must ultimately give way either to the complicit vertigo of reflexive postmodernism or to the mythless struggle of an amodernist critical practice.[18]

In both Naked Lunch and Dialectic of Enlightenment, this estrangement is conceived in essentially modern terms as the determinate negation of the logic by which the integrated apparatus of domination operates. For Burroughs, this apparatus is ultimately based in language, in "the Word," whose control, though dissimulated, is total and which therefore can be attacked only by totalizing it: "The Word is divided into units which be all in one piece and should be so taken, but the pieces can be had in any order being tied up back and forth, in and out fore and aft like an innaresting sex arrangement" (NL 229). This totality of the Word


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cannot be attacked directly, for that would be to play into its own nominalist logic. "The word cannot be expressed direct. . . . It can perhaps be indicated by mosaic of juxtaposition like articles abandoned in a hotel drawer, defined by negatives and absence . . ." (NL 116). This explains, in part, the discontinuous structure of Naked Lunch, which acquires its critical force primarily through its paratactic juxtaposition of scenes and routines. In the "Atrophied Preface" that, in a parody of Hegelian logic, actually concludes the book, the narrator claims that "you can cut into Naked Lunch at any intersection point. . . . I have written many prefaces. They atrophy and amputate spontaneous[. . . . ]This book spill off the page in all directions, kaleidoscope of vistas, medley of tunes and street noises, farts and riot yipes and the slamming steel shutters of commerce, screams of pain and pathos and screams plain pathic" (NL 224, 229). The Hegelian and later Marxist distinction between the Forschung and the Darstellung, the untidy labor of criticism and its finished product presented for use, has been abandoned here as it has in Dialectic of Enlightenment, itself constructed of fragments, "sketches and drafts which belong in part to the area of thought of the foregoing essays without being precisely locatable there, and in part offer advance summaries of problems to be treated in forthcoming works" (DE xvii). The work of critique cannot be made tidy and linear, cannot be given either a precise conclusion or the point of departure that paradoxically follows the conclusion, without being unmade as critique in equal measure. "You were not there for The Beginning . You will not be there for The End " (NL 220). Critique of ideology works, in the shadow of integrated capitalism, by way of the middle, the Forschung, whose open-ended anti-form may always be distinguished even under the smooth contours of an ideological Darstellung . As Deleuze puts it, "In a multiplicity what counts are not the terms or the elements, but what there is 'between,' the between, a set of relations which are not separable from each other. Every multiplicity grows from the middle, like the blade of grass or the rhizome" (Deleuze and Parnet viii).

In this sense, the central strategy of ideology critique from Marx and Nietzsche to the present is organized around the excavation of the operant Forschung, the labor of specific practices of domination, from the Darstellung, the orderly façade of Nature, Reason, or Universality. Critique is reason's attack on Reason, which does not make it an abstract or Romantic negation of Reason in favor of affect, but a specific, detailed, and determinate activity, the negation of Reason as rationalization. Here rationalization must be understood in both its senses, economic as well


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as psychological: as the rational division of labor that grounds capitalist society, and as the alibi that society gives itself to excuse its own activity. In Naked Lunch and Dialectic of Enlightenment, both aspects are the objects of a critique that refuses to separate the form of logical or narrative closure from the content of exploitation and control.

Control is based on knowledge, on the accumulation and manipulation of knowledge of a certain kind: Horkheimer and Adorno call this "instrumental" knowledge, reason that is subordinated like a tool to whatever end it is expected to serve. This definition suggests that reason has not always been, nor need always be, so subordinated; the Renaissance marks the beginning of the emancipation of thought from its subordination to theology, a change that reaches its climax in the Enlightenment and then declines to the contemporary reconquest of thought by the irrationality of capitalist production. The body, on the other hand, has a much longer history of subordination (DE 231–34) that hardly reaches a climax in Burroughs's claim that "The addict regards his body impersonally as an instrument to absorb the medium in which he lives, evaluates his tissue with the cold hands of a horse trader" (NL 67). The body has been subjected to many forms of domestication and discipline in the interests of productivity for almost all of recorded history, and from the point of view of capital its current organization—into the socially exploitable polarity of oral and anal drives consecrated by psychoanalysis—could hardly be improved. The productive subject produces surplus value not only by laboring, but also by consuming, to appease the negative "desires" of which it is made.[19] The addict does not necessarily escape this: even though he does not work, he does consume, and when he stops taking his drug, his body goes through a painful and disorienting period of transformation from antiproductive absorption instrument back into the (potential) instrument of production it was before (unless the withdrawal fails, in which case the instrumental addict structure returns).[20]

Instrumental rationality represents simultaneously the apotheosis of thought and thought's abolition, in its reduction of the world to "raw material" for production and its reduction of the self to the slave of that process. Thus thought is disciplined and controlled just as the productive body is:

What appears to be the triumph of subjective rationality, the subjection of all reality to logical formalism, is paid for by the obedient subjection of reason to what is directly given. What is abandoned is the whole claim and approach of knowledge: to comprehend the given as such; not merely to determine the


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abstract spatiotemporal relations of the facts which allow them just to be grasped, but on the contrary to conceive them as the superficies, as mediated conceptual moments which come to fulfillment only in the development of their social, historical and human significance. The task of cognition does not consist in mere apprehension, classification and calculation, but in the determinate negation of each im-mediacy. (DE 26–27)

Rather than being determined in its operation by the shifting totality of historical mediations binding it to and at the same time differentiating it from the world, thought is determined repetitively and automatically by the restrictive ends of exploitation and profit. Instead of working through the relations of its means and ends, thought labors as a means in the service of a preestablished end.

The technical process [of production], into which the subject has objectified itself after being removed from the consciousness, is free of the ambiguity of mythic thought as of all meaning altogether, because reason itself has become the mere instrument of the all-inclusive economic apparatus. It serves as a general tool, useful for the manufacture of all other tools, firmly directed towards its end, as fateful as the precisely calculated movement of material production. . . . At last its old ambition, to be a pure organ of ends, has been realized. (DE 30)

Reason, which formerly claimed to pass judgment on means from the point of view of ends, prostitutes itself by giving up, not some illusory autonomy it never really possessed, but rather its multiplicity of other mediations in order to focus on exploitation and profit. Instrumental rationality is the philosophy of the assembly line, "mass" consciousness in the sense of identical mass production, rather than the mass consciousness of the self-emancipating proletariat à la Georg Lukács.[21]

Burroughs formulates his version of this critique of instrumentalism in parodic terms, through the recurrent figure of Doctor Benway, the "pure scientist" and surgeon (NL 33, 131) whose work is constantly focused on the technology, the means, of control without apparent regard for the ends his work serves. Medical doctors are important "points of intersection" in Naked Lunch, as they were in Junky, because they are in a paradoxical position: like the police, they are trained to treat the "Human Virus" of control, to eradicate its symptoms, but they also earn their living off it and thus have an interest in preserving the virus. Benway first appears in the novel's second routine, which bears his name and sets up the paradigm most of the succeeding routines will follow; this routine follows the semi-autobiographical frame story of Lee the addict's


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flight from the New York City police across the continent to Mexico and ultimately to Tangier. Benway is described as a "manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing and control" (NL 21); he claims that "The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets" (NL 24). The operational logic of the thinking machine or computer, rudimentary as it was in the fifties, implies an entire metaphysics and epistemology that Horkheimer and Adorno summarize in terms quite similar to Burroughs's: "Thinking objectifies itself to become an automatic, self-activating process; an impersonation of the machine that it produces itself so that ultimately the machine can replace it" (DE 25). The digital method of the computer, originally designed to free human minds from exhausting and repetitive computation, folds back on its users and remakes them in the machine's image. This image is a fundamentally behaviorist one: to control the output of the producer, be it human or machine, one must control both the input and the programming.

Benway claims to "deplore brutality" because "It's not efficient" (NL 21). He prefers to use less ostentatious methods when "somebody wants homogeneity at this juncture. Can do, but it costs" (NL 32). What is the cost? Total behavior modification:

prolonged mistreatment, short of physical violence, gives rise, when skillfully applied, to anxiety and a feeling of special guilt. A few rules or rather guiding principles are to be borne in mind. The subject must not realize that the mistreatment is a deliberate attack of an anti-human enemy on his personal identity. He must be made to feel that he deserves any treatment he receives because there is something (never specified) horribly wrong with him. The naked need of the control addicts must be decently covered by an arbitrary and intricate bureaucracy so that the subject cannot contact his enemy direct. (NL 21)

This "need of the control addicts," which Burroughs analyzes by means of "The Algebra of Need" (NL xxxix, 206–9), is what Horkheimer and Adorno call the "administered life," which "dissolves the old inequality—unmediated lordship and mastery—but at the same time perpetuates it in universal mediation" (DE 12) by market and exchange-value. The threatening face of the feudal despot gives way to the invisible hand of the labor market, and the misery of the slave is concealed in the affectless machine. This is why Benway, anticipating Foucault's distinction between feudal "punishment" and modern "discipline,"[22] avoids outright torture: "torture locates the opponent and mobilizes resistance"


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(NL 23–24). Instead, behavior modification, under the guise of science—the ultimate ideology of Reason—enrolls the subjects in their own control program. As Benway says, "A functioning police state needs no police" (NL 36) because the citizens police themselves in advance; they internalize the police function as discipline and respect for public order (the internalization Lee fails to complete in Junky ).

The machine model does not lead, in Burroughs's hands, to the colorless technocracy of Huxley's Brave New World, however, because the benevolent technocracy has been Burroughs's point of departure: Benway has been working in the Freeland Republic, a parody of Scandinavian socialism "given over to free love and continual bathing" (NL 21). Instead, the machines, in becoming the goal of human control strategies, also become symmetrically susceptible to human mental disorders. In the "Benway" routine, the working people, whose brains resemble thinking machines, are the inmates of a vast and decrepit asylum or "Reconditioning Center" where they undergo Benway's sadistic control experiments. Benway and the narrator are forced to depart quickly when they learn that the asylum's "electronic brain went berserk playing six-dimensional chess with the Technician and released every subject in the R.C." (NL 37). The freed patients run amok, forming a tableau of insanity reminiscent of Bosch's and Breughel's allegorical paintings: "Junkies have looted the drugstores and fix on every street corner. . . . Catatonics decorate the parks. . . . Agitated schizophrenics rush through the streets with mangled, inhuman cries[. . . . ] A coprophage calls for a plate, shits on it and eats the shit." Little by little, however, the patients are revealed to be something other than simply the mentally ill; they are also foreigners, members of noncapitalist cultures that have been both colonized and studied, anthropologically, by the West: "Amoks trot along cutting off heads, faces sweet and remote with a dreamy half-smile[. . . . ]Arab rioters yipe and howl[. . . . ]Religious fanatics harangue the crowd from helicopters[. . . . ]Kwakiutl Cannibal Society initiates bite off noses and ears" (NL 37–38). These figures spring in part from Burroughs's study of anthropology, but also no doubt from his impressions of the Arab world surrounding him in cosmopolitan Tangier.[23] The last patients described are merely bores and hypochondriacs, yet still "the ugliness of that spectacle buggers description" (NL 39). The spectacle represents not the failure of Benway's control techniques, but rather their complete success and reproduction: "the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant" (DE 3).


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This success is not limited to cases of explicit behavior modification, propaganda, and totalitarianism. We have already cited Burroughs's claim that "Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise" (NL xxxix). This means that the logic of addiction is generalizable: "Because there are many forms of addiction I think that they all obey basic laws" (NL xliv). He also recognizes that the organization of the narcotics industry, which includes the police institutions charged with its eradication, stands as the model of all capitalist organization.

The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below (it is no accident that junk higher-ups are always fat and the addict in the street is always thin) right up to the top or tops since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principle of monopoly:

1—Never give anything away for nothing.

2—Never give more than you have to give (always catch the buyer hungry and always make him wait).

3—Always take everything back if you possibly can.

The Pusher always gets it all back. The addict needs more and more junk to maintain a human form. (NL xxxviii)

Neither the pusher nor the police agent is immune to this pyramidal relation. The paradigmatic commercial relationship, of pusher to junky or, more generally, seller to buyer, is dialectically reversible: "'Selling is more of a habit than using,' Lupita says. Nonusing pushers have a contact habit, and that's one you can't kick. Agents get it too" (NL 15). This reversibility is dramatized in the narrator's routine concerning Bradley the Buyer, a narcotics agent who becomes addicted to physical contact with junkies, and is ultimately driven to "assimilate" them—and later his superiors in the Narcotics Bureau—into his own body (NL 15–18). The logic also surfaces in the brief routine concerning the U.S. president's "Oblique Habit" which "might precipitate an atomic shambles" and for which he has "sacrificed all control, and is dependent as an unborn child" (NL 67). As Burroughs will put it later, the people in control are controlled by their need to control, their addiction to control.

The instrumentalization or mechanization of thought is a useful control strategy, a way to subordinate independent thought to existing, predominantly economic ends determined by the repetitive logic of capital, just as the division of labor subordinates the body. Within such a rigidly limited horizon of "rational" behavior, crime becomes simply a form of irrationality reflecting and indeed duplicating the prevailing structure of Reason, as shown by Burroughs's criminals (in the manner of the Marquis de Sade's Jutiette).[24] This duplication was already at work in the


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liminal spaces of Junky, which provided a stage for the transition from illegitimate commerce to legitimate business. Such irrationality can quite easily out-reason the rational bourgeoisie, since "The criminal has always been bourgeois—like the retribution which consists in robbing him of his freedom" (DE 225). The individual's measure of value under capitalism is "self-preservation, successful or unsuccessful approximation to the objectivity of his function [in the process of production] and the models established for it. Everything else, idea and crime, suffers the force of the collective [norm], which monitors it from the classroom to the trade union" (DE 28). In spite of Kant's strenuous attempts to provide one, this collective norm of rationality or self-preservation does not contain a consistent ethics or morality in the necessary form of a "reason for persisting in society when interest is absent" (DE 85). Sade reveals the complicity between Reason and domination: the necessity of enforcing, by means of formal law, an unequal division of labor on the workers in order for the bourgeoisie to profit. "Whereas the optimistic writers [like Kant] merely disavowed and denied in order to protect the indissoluble union of reason and crime, civil society and domination" (DE 118), Sade and Friedrich Nietzsche reveal this union to be constitutive of rational society. The same is true for Burroughs.

The narrator of Naked Lunch is a junky who, by the conclusion of the novel, becomes a cop killer as well. The blatant criminality of these actions—along with his writing activity—separates the narrator from the more liminal criminals who populate the book. Benway himself is a fraudulent medical practitioner who is occasionally reduced to "hustling pregnant women in the public streets" so he can perform "cut-rate abortions in subway toilets" (NL 31). Salvador Hassan O'Leary, the "After Birth Tycoon," is another of Burroughs's demonic capitalist criminals, a trafficker in unsafe foods and medicines who wears a "well-cut suit made entirely from immature high denomination bank notes[. . . . ]His operations extend through the world in an inextricable, shifting web of subsidiaries, front companies and aliases" (NL 155–56). Despite the fact that "A squad of accountant investigators have made a life work" of investigating Hassan, "His dossier contains three pages of monikers indicating his proclivity for cooperating with the law, 'playing ball' the cops call it. Others call it something else" (NL 156–57). Hassan moves freely between the police and the criminal worlds, playing them against each other for his own profit. Like A. J., Clem, Jody, and the others members of Islam Inc., Hassan confirms the fact that "Today the boundary line between respectable and illegal rackets has become objectively blurred


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and in psychological terms the different forms [of criminal] merge" (DE 227). The modern corporate state itself often operates by means of these ambiguous and liminal characters, as Junky demonstrates.

Islam Inc. is the organization for which all the ambiguous characters in the novel work, but "The exact objectives of Islam Inc. are obscure. Needless to say everyone involved has a different angle, and they all intend to cross each other up somewhere along the line" (NL 160). At the outset of the "Benway" routine, the narrator is "assigned to engage the services of Doctor Benway for Islam Inc." (NL 21). The later routine "Islam Inc. and the Parties of Interzone" (NL 144–69) is concerned with its machinations, but offers no reliable account of the organization. Instead, we are introduced separately to several of its leading figures, including Hassan, A. J., Clem, and Jody. If Hassan is the capitalist criminal figure who embodies the instrumentalization of reason, then A. J. is one possible version of a critical subversive; the narrator (whose own reliability is open to question) believes that A. J. "is on the Factualist side (which I also represent)," or the libertarian-anarchist side, even though A. J.'s "English accent waned with the British Empire, and after World War II he became an American by Act of Congress" (NL 146). A. J. is nominally a pornographer who produces and screens blue movies at his "Annual Party"; his primary function in the novel, however, is that of a practical joker who unmasks and undermines the pretensions of bourgeois culture:

It was A. J. who[. . . . ]dosed the punch with a mixture of Yage, Hashish and Yohimbine during a Fourth of July reception at the U.S. Embassy, precipitating an orgy. Ten prominent citizens—American of course—subsequently died of shame[. . . . ]A. J. once reserved a table a year in advance Chez Robert where a huge, icy gourmet broods over the greatest cuisine in the world[. . . . A. J.] throws back his head and lets out a hog call; and a hundred famished hogs he had stationed nearby rush into the restaurant, slopping the haute cuisine. Like a great tree Robert falls to the floor in a stroke where he is eaten by the hogs. (NL 146, 148–49)

A. J. starts a similar orgy at the Metropolitan Opera, spikes the drinks of the Anti-Fluoride Society with a drug that destroys the gums, promotes homosexual intercourse at a religious boys' school, and lays waste to a trendy night club. To complicate matters, A. J. also disrupts the homosexual torture party in "Hassan's Rumpus Room" by screening a film of "the copulating rhythm of the universe[. . .]a great blue tide of life" (NL 81).

"A. J. claims to be an 'independent', which is to say, 'Mind your own business.' There are no independents anymore. . . . The Zone swarms


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with every variety of dupe but there are no neutrals there. A neutral at A. J.'s level is of course unthinkable" (NL 15 5). Though A. J. may not be an independent, it is still difficult to determine his actual allegiance with any certainty. Other members of Islam Inc. seem to be easier to peg, though the narrator's doubts, like the reader's, remain. Hassan presents a relatively clear picture of the opportunist stoolie, and Clem and Jody are grotesque incarnations of the Ugly American, "dressed like The Capitalist in a communist mural" (NL 142), who claim to be "Russian agents whose sole function is to represent the U.S. in an unpopular light" (NL 15 8) by ridiculing the Islamic faith, baiting native nationalists, and selling contaminated food. Since Burroughs wrote these sections while living in colonial Tangier at the time of the Moroccan independence movement, they probably have some basis in his experience, yet these characters remain explicitly ambiguous. They are simultaneously opportunistic and committed, serious and ironic, critical and ideological. Islam Inc. reveals, in mercilessly grotesque but hardly exaggerated terms, the collaboration between business, organized crime, and the state upon which capitalist rationality is based. Burroughs's practice certainly agrees with Horkheimer and Adorno's insistence that "Inasmuch as the merciless doctrines proclaim the identity of domination and reason, they are more merciful than those of the moralistic lackeys of the bourgeoisie" (DE 119).

This collaboration between business, crime, and state, which is obvious enough in the case of individuals, is even more apparent in the establishment of the "Parties of Interzone." There are three oppressive or despotic parties, the Liquefactionists, the Divisionists, and the Senders; and there is one subversive or libertarian party, the Factualists, which offers some possibility of resistance. Hassan is a member of the Liquefaction Party, which is committed to the conquest of control by eliminating the opposition through "protein cleavage and reduction to a liquid which is absorbed into someone else's protoplasmic being" (NL 82). The narrator later points out that "It will be immediately clear that the Liquefaction Party is, except for one man, entirely composed of dupes, it not being clear until the final absorption who is whose dupe" (NL 162). In their desire to eliminate rather than enslave their opponents, the Liquefactionists resemble the Fascists, as Ginsberg notes (NL xxvi). The "moderate" Divisionists seek the same result using opposite means—cloning—and would seem to embody the imperialist ambitions of both American market capitalism and Soviet state capitalism during this period: "They cut off tiny bits of their flesh and grow exact replicas of


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themselves in embryo jelly. It seems probable, unless the process of division is halted, that eventually there will be only one replica of one sex on the planet: that is one person in the world with millions of separate bodies" (NL 164). Too perfect a reproduction reveals the Divisionists' work, so "To avoid extermination of their replicas, citizens dye, distort and alter them with face and body molds" (NL 164) so that the replicas may pass as separate, independent individuals. Because of this, each Divisionist is suspicious of everyone but his own recognized replicas, and should any stranger "express a liberal opinion, another citizen invariably snarls: 'What are you? Some stinking Nigger's bleached-out replica?'" (NL 166).

The Senders, on the other hand, want to preserve those who are not their members as slaves, to be controlled by the transmission of orders. Their techniques were initially primitive: "The logical extension of encephalographic research is bicontrol; that is control of physical movement, mental processes, emotional reactions and apparent sensory impressions by means of bioelectric signals injected into the nervous system of the subject[. . . . ]Shortly after birth a surgeon could install connections in the brain. A miniature radio receiver could be plugged in and the subject controlled from State-controlled transmitters" (NL 162–163). This crude mechanical apparatus would later be replaced by telepathic control, but in any case "The bicontrol apparatus is prototype of one-way telepathic control" (NL 163) of the sort that Lee denounces in the last chapters of Junky and Queer . Despite this superficial difference—enslavement instead of obliteration of others—this form of control, like the forms represented by the other two parties, has the same ultimate goal: the reduction of individual differences to a single despotic identity. "A telepathic sender has to send all the time. He can never receive, because if he receives that means someone else has feelings of his own could louse up his continuity. The sender has to send all the time, but he can't ever recharge himself by contact. Sooner or later he's got no feelings to send. You can't have feelings alone. Not alone like the Sender is alone—and you dig there can only be one Sender at one place-time . . ." (NL 163). The Senders initially appear neutral, and their apparatus seems just another technology that can be used for good or ill. "Artists will confuse sending with creation[. . . . ]Philosophers will bat around the ends and means hassle not knowing that sending can never be a means to anything but more sending, Like Junk " (NL 168). Sending is not creative art because such art is telepathy, and as Lee notes at the end of Junky, "telepathy is not in itself a one-way setup, or a setup


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of sender and receiver at all" (J 152). Sending is instrumental thought in its purest form, a means rigidly determined by its irrational end.

Sending considered as an artistic activity directs us to a key link in both Burroughs's and Horkheimer and Adorno's analyses of control: the centrally controlled mass media, or "Culture Industry," which claims to supply mass-produced commodities to meet the entertainment needs of its independent consumers.

The need which might resist central control has already been suppressed by the control of the individual consciousness. The step from the telephone to the radio has clearly distinguished the roles. The former still allowed the subscriber to play the role of subject, and was liberal. The latter is democratic: it turns all participants into listeners and authoritatively subjects them to broadcast programs which are all exactly the same. . . . The attitude of the public, which ostensibly and actually favors the system of the culture industry, is a part of the system and not an excuse for it. (DE 121–22)

Though Burroughs's early novels show occasional awareness of the increasingly pervasive one-way media (recall, for example, the "Dr. Kildare" reference in Queer ), nothing in the early texts prepares the reader for the barrage of mass-media control technology that fills many of the pages of Naked Lunch and the works that follow.

This barrage begins on page two of Naked Lunch, when the narrator, having escaped a narcotics agent with the inadvertent help of a "Young, good looking, crew cut, Ivy League, advertising exec type fruit," yells "So long flatfoot!" at the cop, thereby "giving the fruit his B production" (NL 2). Horkheimer and Adorno claim that "Marked differentiations such as those of A and B films . . . depend not so much on subject matter as on classifying, organizing and labeling consumers" (DE 123); likewise, Burroughs's narrator recognizes the "fruit" as a particular kind of consumer: "You know the type comes on with bartenders and cab drivers, talking about right hooks and the Dodgers, calls the counterman at Nedick's by his first name. A real asshole" (NL 1). Inasmuch as the "fruit" stands in the same relation to the narrator as the Wedding Guest does to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner,[25] and the reader by extension occupies the same position (that of addressee or audience), the narrator's assessment of the "fruit" applies also to the reader: she is defined, at least initially, by her logical and narrative expectations of the development of a recognizable and entertaining story. "No independent thinking must be expected from the audience: the product prescribes every reaction: not by its natural structure (which collapses under reflection), but by signals" that are at base clichés (DE 137). Thus Naked Lunch reveals


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itself to be a long and self-conscious manipulation of media-generated signals and expectations. Indeed, Benway dreams of studying primitive people in Bolivia who show no evidence of psychosis so that he can learn more about the basic functioning of the human mind "before it is loused up by literacy, advertising, TV and drive-ins" (NL 33–34).

As Horkheimer and Adorno point out, the function of the Culture Industry is to create "the false identity of the general and the particular" (DE 121). The discontinuous narrative of Naked Lunch attempts to fracture this identity, to show the multiplicity of particulars that are not subsumed under the dominant generality of the media. As he did in Junky, Burroughs tries to reveal the material reality of the addict's life that is concealed by the demonized images of addiction that fill the media. He cites an unattributed media description of a woman taking a shot of heroin with a pin and an eyedropper: "You know how this pin and dropper routine is put down: 'She seized a safety pin caked with blood and rust, gouged a great hole in her leg which seemed to hang open like an obscene, festering mouth waiting for unspeakable congress with the dropper which she now plunged out of sight into the gaping wound'" (NL 9). On the next page, he offers "The real scene you pinch up some leg flesh and make a quick stab hole with a pin. Then fit the dropper over, not in, the hole and feed the solution" (NL 10).

Much later, in the set of routines significantly titled "Ordinary Men and Women," the narrator offers a cinematic treatment of gay romance concerning a jeweler who caters to wealthy women but steals their gems to support his gambling habit. He is sent to prison, where he meets a Mob hustler with whom he falls in love. "As continuity would have it, they are sprung at the same time" (NL 129) and are soon approached by their former employers, whom they refuse to appease. The final scene finds the lovers, in a dead-on parody of Hollywood romance clichés, overcoming all odds to stand iconically "at the tenement window, their arms around each other, looking at the Brooklyn Bridge. A warm spring wind ruffles Jim's black curls and the fine hennaed hair of Brad" (NL 130). Such a story would have been inconceivable for Hollywood in the fifties, and remains almost so today, but it does conform to the established conventions of romantic cinema: "As soon as the film begins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished or forgotten" (DE 125). It thereby reveals both the distance that separates those conventions from many parts of American life and the insidious effect those conventions have even on those who cannot possibly fit into them. A homosexual identifying with the protagonists of Hollywood ro-


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mances is like an African American identifying with the cowboys rather than the Indians in westerns, yet such identifications happen all the time, despite the fact that "Whenever the culture industry still issues an invitation naïvely to identify, it is immediately withdrawn" (DE 145).[26]

This impossible yet inevitable identification means that "Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies" because "The more intensely and flawlessly [the producer's] techniques duplicate empirical objects, the easier it is today for the illusion to prevail that the outside world is the straightforward continuation of that presented on the screen" (DE 126). The routine "A. J.'s Annual Party" dramatizes the intense effort that this illusive duplication requires, and its far-reaching effects. A. J. introduces "the Great Slashtubitch" (a pornographic parody of Ernst Lubitsch; see DE 154), who berates an actor, "'Get out of my studio, you cheap four-flushing ham! Did you think to pass a counterfeit orgasm on me! THE GREAT SLASHTUBITCH! I could tell if you come by regard the beeg toe[. . . . ]Go peddle thy ass and know that it takes sincerity and art, and devotion, to work for Slashtubitch. Not shoddy trickery, dubbed gasps, rubber turds and vials of milk concealed in the ear" (NL 89). For Burroughs, the pornographic film is the film par excellence, which reveals that as a whole "the culture industry is pornographic and prudish. . . . To offer and deprive [the audience] of something is one and the same." Horkheimer and Adorno note that in the romantic Hollywood films that audience members take as paradigms of their own lives, "Precisely because it must never take place, everything centers on copulation" (140–41); Burroughs, in contrast, brings that copulation out into the open and reveals it as a control process. The remainder of this routine (from the stage direction "On Screen " on page 89 to page 103) consists of blue movies (with a musical soundtrack of "metallic cocaine bebop" and Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodleoo," which would have struck Adorno as entirely appropriate) directed by the Great Slashtubitch; these depict sequences of both heterosexual and homosexual intercourse, each of which concludes with hanging, cannibalism, or surreal bodily metamorphoses, and which reach a logical, narrative, and erotic "climax" in the degrading display of the genitals of a prisoner condemned to hang by the sheriff assigned to execute him. After the final "Fadeout," the actors "take a bow with the ropes around their necks. They are not as young as they appear in the Blue Movies. . . . They look tired and petulant" (NL 103), despite the Great Slashtubitch's best efforts at "realism."

The narrator of Naked Lunch reflects explicitly on this paradoxical situation of indulgence and denial following what is perhaps the most


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famous and most analyzed routine in the novel, the "Talking Asshole" sequence (131–33). This routine, about a carnival performer who teaches his "asshole to talk" as a novelty act, but whose body is then taken over by the intelligent asshole, is not strictly pornographic—not in any obvious sense of appealing to "a prurient interest in sex"[27] —yet this kind of perverse transformation is precisely "the sex that passes the censor, squeezes through between bureaus, because there's always a space between, in popular songs and Grade B movies, giving away the basic American rottenness, spurting out like breaking boils, throwing out globs of that un-D.T. [undifferentiated tissue] to fall anywhere and grow into some degenerate cancerous life-form, reproducing a hideous random image" (NL 133). The undifferentiated tissue that covers the carny performer's mouth and blocks his speech enacts not only the inversion of the Western subjection of body to mind and materiality to representation, as Robin Lydenberg suggests,[28] but also the sham identity of the general and the particular in mass culture. This space between institutions, commodities, and subjects—the third term or mediate dimension in which the Forschung of domination is articulated—reveals the "basic American rottenness," the Darstellung of total integration and enforced indifference that is both the cause and the effect of the Culture Industry.

This fully integrated social organization, founded on the subordination of flesh and spirit to exploitation for profit, managed by means of ever more pervasive technologies of surveillance and propaganda, and functioning equally well on either side of the arbitrary line of legality, still requires one final component to ensure its exact reproduction: it needs an Other, one that is defined not by the society's own sham legality but by the Other's ethnically marked difference from the society's norm, in order to posit itself, negatively, as a complete (meta)subject. The "them" is the penultimate step on the road to the "us." This is the function that National Socialism thrust on the Jewish people and others, and that American society forced on natives, Asians, and freed slaves and their descendants. After World War II, this group grew to include communists and homosexuals as well; the logic of "racism" has grown flexible enough to exclude non-ethnic others. At base, this "racism" that is constitutive of rational society conforms to the dialectical logic of the police-criminal opposition explored in Junky, but racism displaces that internal opposition outside of the imaginary bounds of society itself, into a limbo beyond the responsibilities of legality and even of humanity. The "hog-balled, black-assed Communist Jew Nigger" (NL 123) of the racists' paranoid control hallucinations bears the stigma of society's dis-


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avowal of its own determining characteristics. If, as Horkheimer and Adorno claim, the "Jews constituted the trauma of the knights of industry who had to pretend to be creative," and thus "their anti-Semitism is self-hatred, the bad conscience of the parasite" (DE 175–76), then natives, African Americans, and communists constituted the trauma of bourgeois Americans who had to pretend to deserve their property.

The hallucinatory travels undertaken by the characters in Naked Lunch to locales both fictional and exotic do not obscure the book's fundamental concern with the United States of America, as the frame tale of Lee's flight demonstrates:

Into the Interior: a vast subdivision, antennae of television to the meaningless sky. In lifeproof houses they hover over the young, sop up a little of what they shut out. Only the young bring anything in, and they are not young very long[. . . . ]Illinois and Missouri, miasma of mound-building peoples, groveling worship of the Food Source, cruel and ugly festivals[. . . . ]

America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil, before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil is there waiting. (NL 11)

The evil of America, the "U.S. drag[. . .]like no other drag in the world" (NL 12), is the idea of a place without inhabitants, or at least without inhabitants who are human: the idea of a place where the land and the labor are free for the taking, but only for the first white man on the scene. There are many routines parodying anti-Arab rhetoric (for example, Clem and Jody's antics, NL 111–12, 158–60), but Burroughs's Orientalism does not appear in mature form until the Nova trilogy; the primary forms of racism analyzed in Naked Lunch are American anti-Semitism and anti-black racism.

Anti-Semitism, Horkheimer and Adorno claim, is in part the displacement of a reasonable aggression of the exploited workers against their exploiters. Jews "are the scapegoats not only for individual maneuvers and machinations but in a broader sense, inasmuch as the economic injustice of the whole class [of exploiters] is attributed to them" (DE 174). Though they are rigorously excluded from power in almost every field, Jews are still accused of conspiracy and cabal, usually in league with international communism against the Christian, capitalist U.S. In a symmetrically opposite position, African Americans and native Americans represent the "subhuman" classes upon whose hyper-exploitation (the slavery and systematic discrimination that allowed American whites to amass more wealth in a shorter time than Europeans, with more limited systems, could match) and extermination (the genocide that opened up the frontiers and made available for exploitation land


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that had never been owned and thus did not need to be purchased) the present commercial order is based. The two groups—imaginary exploiters and real exploited—are united in the racist conception of them as inhuman. That which is not human is, by definition, animal or natural and thus at war with the human, so for capital, "Civilization is the victory of society over nature which changes everything into pure nature" (DE 186).

The central passage involving racism and anti-Semitism appears late in the novel, in the routine called "The County Clerk." The title character is, significantly, a bureaucrat in charge of supplying government records for use in civil lawsuits; he is so intentionally inept that the cases drag on "until the contestants die or abandon litigation[. . . ]the only cases that actually go to trial in the Old Court House are those instigated by eccentrics and paranoids who 'want a public hearing'" (NL 169). Lee must get an affidavit of illness to avoid eviction from the house where he is squatting, and to do so he must appease the Clerk, who wastes his clients' time with relentlessly digressive racist anecdotes of his youth in the American South:

"[. . . ]the bog makes a bend, used to be nigger shack there. . . . They burned that ol' Nigger over in Cunt Lick. Nigger had the aftosa and it left him stone blind. . . . So this white girl down from Texarkana screeches out:

"'Roy, that ol' nigger is looking at me so nasty. Land's sake I feel just dirty all over.'

"'Now Sweet Thing, don't you fret yourself. Me an' the boys will burn him.'

"'Do it slow, Honey Face. Do it slow. He's give me a sick headache.'

"So they burned the nigger and that ol' boy took his wife and went back up to Texarkana without paying for the gasoline and old Whispering Lou runs the service station couldn't talk about nothing else all Fall: 'These city fellers come down here and burn a nigger and don't even settle up for the gasoline.'" (NL 175–76)

As befits an official of the judicial system, the Clerk's anecdote is concerned with justice, but it is "justice" for the white entrepreneur and not for the black victim, whose innocence is so obvious that the tale becomes absurd.

At the end of this anecdote, the Clerk announces that he is going into the "privy" where he "often spent weeks[. . .]living on scorpions and Montgomery Ward catalogues," so Lee must make a personal request that the Clerk will accept: using a stolen university alumni card, he appeals to the Clerk "as one Razor Back to another." The Clerk remains suspicious because Lee doesn't "look like a bone feed mast-fed Razor Back to me. . . . What you think about the Jeeeeews. . . . ?" The Razor


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Back is a breed of hog, of course, and therefore a source of pork, which Jews, according to the rules of Kasruth but more importantly according to stereotype, are not allowed to eat. Lee answers by rote, as if to some perverse catechism, "you know yourself all a Jew wants to do is doodle a Christian girl. . . . One of these days we'll cut the rest of it off." This, of course, is the correct response: the Clerk admits that "you talk right sensible for a city feller. . . . Find out what he wants and take care of him. . . . He's a good ol' boy" (NL 177). The face of the state, or at least of the bureaucracy that is the state's most tangible avatar, is the face of appalling racist violence presented in the guise of folksy humor. The very language of this bureaucracy is a racist and anti-Semitic code, and only those with the right credentials (and, it goes without saying, appearance) can negotiate its convolutions.

With the successful positing of an Other to define, negatively, the limits of the social order, the labor of the production of control reaches its end, but this does not mean that the labor of control also ends. An amount of labor equivalent to that necessary for production must be expended regularly to reproduce control, and to improve the always already outmoded technology of control. Thus the "Atrophied Preface" at the end of Naked Lunch concludes with a resigned admission of this interminable process:

A heaving sea of air hammers in the purple brown dusk tainted with rotten metal smell of sewer gas. . . . young worker faces vibrating out of focus in yellow halos of carbide lanterns. . . . broken pipes exposed. . . .

"They are rebuilding the City."

Lee nodded absently. . . . "Yes Always. . . ." (NL 235)

The City of capitalist control is always being rebuilt because it is always being torn down. Both tasks are undertaken simultaneously by its exploited classes, on behalf not of its revolutionary foes but of its most dedicated defenders.

The differential relationship between Burroughs's critique of the postwar world and that of Horkheimer and Adorno extends not only to these substantive analyses of new forms of domination, but also to the significant lacuna the two critiques share. This lacuna can best be understood in light of the development of Marxist thought in the twentieth century, a line of development from which Horkheimer and Adorno mark their own difference. Until recently, the history of Marxism followed a


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dialectical pattern of development, carried along on the antithetical horns of the method that was also its constitutive dilemma: investigation of the mechanisms of capitalist domination, on the one hand, and the constitution of a revolutionary subject position, on the other. This pattern found its model in Marx himself, in the formal and substantial antithesis of Capital, the objective treatise on capitalist domination, to the earlier Grundrisse, the subjective account of insurrectionary organization. This dialectic may be found also in Lenin's thought, where it has had the most far-reaching practical consequences, as well as in Lukács's History and Class Consciousness and in the writings of Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci. In the work of the Frankfurt School and its descendants, however, one of the terms of this dialectic falls away: the constitution of the revolutionary subject all but disappears, leaving only the critique of mechanisms of domination. Revolutionary subjectivity is no longer possible in light of contemporary techniques of domination like the Culture Industry. This is the source both of Horkheimer and Adorno's pathos and of their "negative dialectic," which—like Herbert Marcuse's one-dimensionality—bear witness to the expansion of capitalist contradiction beyond the ability of the dialectic to resolve it. The influence of this monological version of Marxism has been tremendous, especially on those who seem to have taken it a step further, like Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard (who seem to have learned a few tricks from Dialectic of Enlightenment, particularly with regard to the media).

Throughout Dialectic of Enlightenment, Horkheimer and Adorno allude to the prospect of revolution and the historical subject who would carry out that task, but these allusions are either devoid of specific content or are restricted to an almost Althusserian advocacy of "class struggle in theory" itself. Consider this point, which intervenes in the summing up of "The Concept of Enlightenment": "true revolutionary practice depends on the intransigence of theory in the face of the insensibility with which society allows thought to ossify" (41) and not on the working class because the "reduction [of the working masses] to mere objects of the administered life, which preforms every sector of modern existence including language and perception, represents objective necessity, against which they believe there is nothing they can do" (38). Since all the forms of Enlightenment, from formal education to film production, are actually successful forms of mass deception, the only revolutionary gesture that remains is the negation of Enlightenment, the determinate negation of sovereign instrumental Reason by critical reason. There seems to be no possibility of any radical action arising from those


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who are directly exploited, and all that can be expected is radical thought from the philosophers, for whom, as for the capitalist himself, "exemption from work—not only among the unemployed but even at the other end of the social scale—also means disablement" (DE 35).

Burroughs, too, in the wake of his failure to complete and publish Queer —the abortive groundwork of his own metaphysics of community-largely succumbs to pessimism in the face of the integrated totality of capitalist control. In Naked Lunch, his only statements on the possibility of revolution, while provocative, are made in parenthetical asides like the following passage from "Ordinary Men and Women":

Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotics Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. (A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet the needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on the opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.) (NL 134)

The novel contains no clear-cut examples of what such a cooperative would look like under the conditions of late capitalism, however, to counter the demonic cartels, corporations, and bureaus that surround the narrator and reader.

Some of the most disturbing and apparently pessimistic passages in Naked Lunch may actually offer points of departure for radical social change. We have seen how the disciplined body, like thought, is domesticated and subordinated to the process of production as an instrument—how the body's very organization abets capitalist control. This does not mean that other forms of bodily organization are not conceivable, some of which could effectively resist capitalist exploitation. In Anti-Oedipus and elsewhere, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari define the "body without organs" as "the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable," the "imageless, organless body" that stands as the degree zero of desire and subjective organization and as a result cannot be inserted into a process of production without being transformed into an organism wholly defined by its productive functions (Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus 8). The body without organs—which is not an object or a state but a "becoming" or process —is revealed with particular clarity in the surreal hallucinations of narcotic withdrawal in Junky; freed from that naturalized narrative context, in Naked Lunch these visions serve as object lessons in the construction of the body without organs.


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Consider this early passage, which describes the transformation of a kicking junky: "no organ is constant as regards either function or position . . . sex organs sprout anywhere . . . rectums open, defecate and close . . . the entire organism changes color and consistency in split-second adjustments" (NL 9). Later in the novel, Drs. Benway and Schafer discuss the (mis) organization of the human body immediately before the "Talking Asshole" routine: "Instead of a mouth and an anus to get out of order why not have one all-purpose hole to eat and eliminate? We could seal up nose and mouth, fill in the stomach, make an air hole direct into the lungs where it should have been in the first place . . ." (NL 131). Deleuze cites these passages from Naked Lunch later when he insists that "In fact, the body without organs does not lack organs, it simply lacks the organism, that is, this particular organization of organs" upon which exploitation is based.[29] It is this "lack" (from the point of view of capitalist control, of course) that makes the body without organs potentially revolutionary: it frees the body, at least temporarily, from its subjection to an exploitable oral-genital organization and opens it up to other forms of subjective organization and thus to the other forms of social organization implied by different subject-structures.

In Burroughs's investigation of the body without organs that results from drug addiction, Deleuze and Guattari recognize an important precursor of their own search for an alternative to capitalist control, but they also see the abyss into which such a formulation can lead without vigilance and caution. The junky can overshoot the body without organs, can turn the process into a terminal state, the results of which we have already seen: the affectless, immobile body of the satisfied addict, which only rouses itself to search for more junk. If it does not succumb to this stasis of addiction, the body without organs of the withdrawing addict falls just as easily back into the structure of the disciplined, productive body of capitalism. It is only in the period between the two end-points, during the process of becoming, that the body without organs can take on a revolutionary valence, though this is hardly inevitable (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 149–66). This becoming only appears intermittently in Naked Lunch, and never gives rise to subjective structures that can construct alternative social systems, but it comes to be a regular part of Burroughs's writing, both in content and in style, in the works that follow.

There are other alternatives, even more embryonic, that point toward the kinds of solutions to control that Burroughs develops in the eighties, when he returns to the idea of a utopian community as a response to life


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in the administered society. The most evocative of these, explicitly presented as a Yage-induced hallucination, is the opening of "The Market":

The blood and substance of many races, Negro, Polynesian, Mountain Mongol, Desert Nomad, Polyglot Near-East, Indian—races as yet unconceived and unborn, combinations not yet realized pass through your body. Migrations, incredible journeys through deserts and jungles and mountains (stasis and death in closed mountain valleys where plants grow out of genitals, vast crustaceans hatch inside and break the shell of body) across the Pacific in an outrigger canoe to Easter Island. The Composite City where all human potentials are spread out in a vast silent market. (NL 106)

This routine, which goes on to delineate the organizational problems facing such an ontologically and biologically anarchistic vision of society, anticipates some of the insights into the revolutionary possibilities of the body without organs that Deleuze and Guattari will draw from the world-historical visions of schizophrenics in Anti-Oedipus . Yet despite this intriguing potentiality, Burroughs is unable to offer any real solutions to the problems of radical organization.

Still, there is at least one nominally radical or libertarian group in the novel, the Factualists, with whom Burroughs himself identifies, according to Ginsberg's testimony (NL xxvi). "The Factualists are Anti-Liquefactionist, Anti-Divisionist, and above all Anti-Sender," as their "Tentative Bulletins" attest. On the Divisionists: "We must reject the facile solution of flooding the planet with 'desirable replicas.' It is highly doubtful if there are any desirable replicas, such creatures constituting an attempt to circumvent process and change." On the Liquefactionists: "We must not reject or deny our protoplasmic core, striving at all time to maintain a maximum of flexibility without falling into the morass of liquefaction." And on the Senders:

Emphatically we do not oppose telepathic research. In fact, telepathy properly used and understood could be the ultimate defense against any form of organized coercion or tyranny on the part of pressure groups or individual control addicts. We oppose, as we oppose atomic war, the use of such knowledge to control, coerce, debase, exploit or annihilate the individuality of another living creature. Telepathy is not, by its nature, a one-way process. To attempt to set up a one-way telepathic broadcast must be regarded as an unqualified evil. . . . (NL 167)

These position papers or party platform planks, which represent Burroughs's own consistently maintained political views, are unexceptionable but at the same time insufficient, in that they remain purely


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negative. They are defined solely by their opposition to the despotic parties and have no positive content.

This restricted radicality, limited as it is to strict opposition, reaches its zenith in the narrator's penultimate monologue. He identifies himself here as the "Exterminator" because "At one brief point of intersection I did exercise that function[. . . . ]Sluiced fat bedbugs from rose wall paper[. . .]and poisoned the purposeful Rat, occasional eater of human babies. Wouldn't you?" (NL 205).[30] His new job is an extension of that old one: "Find the live ones and exterminate . Not the bodies but the molds you understand—but I forget that you cannot understand. We have all but a very few. But even one could upset our food tray. The danger, as always, comes from defecting agents: A. J,[. . .]Lee and the Sailor and Benway. And I know some agent is out there is the darkness looking for me. . . . Because all Agents defect and all Resisters sell out . . ." (NL 205). This program of extermination, like Horkheimer and Adorno's practice of critique, is a form of determinate negation, the wielding of the double-edged sword of reason against its own commodified image. It is directed at "molds," at the production line of identical repetitions of Word or thought, rather than at individual "bodies," but this makes it no less destructive and, as the final caveat makes clear, no more certain of success than the control strategies it attacks.

The narrator's impasse reveals that the world of Naked Lunch has closed in on itself, has occupied all of the available logical space with its contradictory determinations. Its paradoxes, generated by reason, cannot be resolved or made productive, but can only be negated by reason. The dialectic of control, like the dialectic of Enlightenment, is, finally, a negative dialectic between whose opposing terms all of society is laid out as on a lunch plate or an assembly line. The only escape hatch, as Adorno would agree, is open to the artist who can negate the system, not in material reality, but in the structure of his work. The artist himself cannot resist or escape, but the work can. The final routine of Naked Lunch, "Hauser and O'Brien," dramatizes this precarious space of resistance. While preparing a shot of heroin, Lee is interrupted by Hauser and O'Brien, two narcotics agents who have been ordered to arrest Lee and to "Bring in all books, letters, manuscripts" in his possession (NL 209). Lee offers to help them set up a pusher so that they will allow him to finish his shot, after which he pulls out a pistol and kills them. He assumes that he will be hunted down for this act and prepares to flee the city: he packs his manuscripts, purchases a large quantity of heroin, and moves into a gay bathhouse for the night.


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The next morning, he calls the Narcotics Bureau from a pay phone to inquire about the murder investigation he feels sure is under way. To his surprise, the operator insists that no officers named Hauser or O'Brien work there, and that there is certainly no investigation of their deaths under way. On his way out of the area in a taxi, Lee realizes what has happened:

I had been occluded from space-time like an eel's ass occludes when he stops eating on the way to the Sargasso. . . . Locked out. . . . Never again would I have a Key, a Point of Intersection. . . . The Heat was off me from here on out . . . relegated with Hauser and O'Brien to a landlocked junk past where heroin is always twenty-eight dollars an ounce[. . . . ]Far side of the world's mirror, moving into the past with Hauser and O'Brien . . . clawing at a not-yet of Telepathic Bureaucracies, Time Monopolies, Control Drugs, Heavy Fluid Addicts:

"I thought of that three hundred years ago."

"Your plan was unworkable then and useless now. . . . Like Da Vinci's flying machine plans. . . . " (NL 217)

Like Naked Lunch itself, Lee's writings (in which the Narcotics Bureau took such an interest) have negated the totality of capitalist control and thrown him outside its limits, but since those limits are coterminous with the limits of reason, he is outside time and space and outside history as well. Burroughs will explore this extrahistorical nonspace, this negative subject-position, in his works of the sixties and seventies before returning to an affirmative historical perspective in the eighties.

As at the end of Queer, in reaching this place outside history Lee has reached a point of stability from which to attack the machinery of control, but in the face of the threatening "not-yet," which is historically inevitable yet subject to change, he lacks a viable plan of attack. Like the police, he will not be able to mesh with present time until he finds an alternative to the negative dialectics that control capitalist society. These "Telepathic Bureaucracies" and "Time Monopolies" will form the substance of the Nova trilogy. Lee's stable point, though extrahistorical, is not static but rather metastable, the way the attractors of chaos theory are metastable: it partakes of a stability founded on rapid, apparently disorderly fluctuation that, at a higher level, contains its own order. The rapid montage of routines in Naked Lunch, like the even more disorienting cut-ups of the Nova trilogy, give fleeting form to this fluctuating perspective. In escaping the determinations of capitalist control, this extrahistorical metastability offers the promise of a critique that would not remain negative, but it also threatens to collapse into idealism, compromise, and collaboration with the dominant order of control in spite


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of its critical intentions. Capital, too, wants nothing more than an end to history and the forms of resistance to which history gives rise.

According to Burroughs's recurrent medical metaphor, control is a disease for which the "'Treatment is symptomatic'—which means in the trade there is none[. . .]except to make the patient as comfortable as possible" (NL 43, 189). This diagnosis is articulated by doctors—themselves figures of control—however, so we must remain skeptical about the exception, especially since Burroughs's own prescription seems to be to make the reader/patient as uncomfortable as possible, perhaps to suggest that in fact "Poverty, hatred, war, police-criminals, bureaucracy, insanity, all symptoms of the Human Virus[. . .]can now be isolated and treated " (NL 168), as the Factualists claim. We will have to wait for the countercultural break of the late sixties for these fragmentary insights to be articulated into a full-scale revolutionary program of treatment for the cancerous "metastasis" of control (NL 232). The immediate consequence of this uncertain diagnosis is Burroughs's demand for more tests, more analysis of the Human Virus, in the form of "a sequel to Naked Lunch " which will be "A mathematical extension of the Algebra of Need beyond the junk virus. Because there are many forms of addiction I think they all obey basic laws" (NL xliv). This "mathematical extension," complicated by Burroughs's discovery of the cut-up technique and his increasingly active collaboration with the painter Brion Gysin, ultimately produced three sequels, The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express, which together comprise the Nova trilogy, Burroughs's most formally radical work, to which we now turn our attention.


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Chapter Three— "All Agents Defect and All Resisters Sell Out": The Negative Dialectics of Naked Lunch
 

Preferred Citation: Murphy, Timothy S. Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft0580030m/