cutup novel brought to you by William S. Burroughs
. The last book in the Nova Trilogy (the preceding two being The Soft Machine
and The Ticket That Exploded
). Most of these books can be described as both difficult to read and understand. This is both because of Burroughs' cutup style and because, to put it honestly they're yucky
. Not to say I didn't enjoy them.
From my perspective, Nova Express is a literary collage of all the elements that define William Burroughs' greatest fears and desires. These fears are the idea that reality is a grand cosmic conspiracy designed to fuck you from the start. The book embodies the conspiracy in the Nova Criminals, who jump from planet to planet infecting everyone on a planet with an irrational desire to enslave and destroy each other. This process accelerates until heroin is introduced (the great enslaver) and this is the moment when a planet goes "Nova" which isn't fully explained, but I supposed it is similar to when a star goes Nova. The only thing that can stop this, according to Burroughs, is apomorphine, a sort of opiate addiction cure.
William's desires always take the form of homosexual fantasy, almost always with young foreign boys.
The book makes more sense if you examine its historical context. Computers were new and commonly feared as able to do things that they just can't. The Cold War was at its coldest and so conspiracy paranoia was rampant. Also, it is well known that Burroughs was, in his own words, an expert addict, epecially to heroin which alienated him from society. L. Ron Hubbard was creating a new religious mythology, Scientology, with which Burroughs was experimenting at the time (and later abandoned and discredited). Burroughs exagerrates all these historical elements to create a mythology for the book.
Most vivid in my mind is the exquisite detail Burroughs goes into when describing the repulsive. You can almost hear the old wierdo's sick laughter as you ingest the foul prose. I recall firey, insectoid landscapes with accompanying pink cartilage and rectal mucus. Yes, rectal mucus. Thanks William, nice touch.
There's a lot more to this book than I have tried to describe and you should find certainly construct your own interpretation. It's dense and frightening and wonderful all at the same time. And you should read it.