Sunday, 12 January 2014

William S. Burroughs in Tangier

Photo by James Grauerholz
In my review of Crime Zone, I wondered if CID Richardson had ever shadowed Burroughs. Well, upon further reading it turns out he had. In his book he refers to him as “Morphine Minnie,” which another book, Tangier: A Different Way by Lawdom Vaidon, tells me was Burroughs’ nickname at the time.

Richardson has this to say about Burroughs on pages 162-3.

“He was an educated American, a remittance man, like so many of them. It was sometimes said that he was putting up a fight against the habit. I suppose many of them did. Part of the ugly melodrama of their condition lay in this struggle with themselves.

“Whether in the course of his individual struggle or not, Morphine Minnie certainly got up to some strange tricks. He had a large box specially made for him with holes punched in the sides: in appearance it was like a very long cabin trunk. On occasions he would induce a young boy to enter the box and lie down in it—fully clothed, I hasten to add—and he would put the lid back on. After he judged the boy had been in there long enough he would open the box again, let the boy out and send him on his way. He would then get into the box himself, and lie down. When he later emerged, so far as I was able to understand it—and he was a strenuous advocate for the practice—he was supposed to be rejuvenated.
"I am bound to say, however, that I never saw that there was much difference in him. Presumably, like so much of this kind of nonsense, it was ‘all in the mind.'"

This last but was concerning Burroughs’ orgone accumulator. I really don’t have the inclination to explain what that pseudoscientific contraption is, so hit the link if you’re interested.

Tangier: A Different Way has this to add. Burroughs was “a nice, long-winded, ex-Harvard creature of 40. . .[he] was trying to cure himself of morphine addiction, but had discovered some German medicine to be had in Tangier without prescription that was stronger and even more delicious than what he’d been using.”

I didn’t know that Burroughs was trying to kick the habit at that time. If that’s true, he picked a really bad place to try! In later years he got onto a methadone treatment program. I doubt if he would have ever returned to the United State if that weren’t available.

Burroughs himself had mixed feelings about his drug use. While he wrote so much about it, and foolish readers have even tried heroin after reading Junkie and thinking it was cool, he always warned people off it. Kerouac once asked Burroughs if he could get him some, to which Burroughs replied, ‘Don’t try it kid, it’s poison.’”

I agree. You’ll never see me sticking a needle in my veins unless I turn diabetic!


PCresswell said...

Just as I was starting to think that I had some kind of a handle on human weirdness, this comes along!

Sioux said...

Sean--I'm with you. I went to high school with a kid who shot heroin. I still distinctly remember him telling me he once watched an air bubble travel in the vein up his arm.

I wonder if he's still alive?

You really unearthed some interesting historical tidbits. Well done.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't know he had the habit either. I'm with you - no needles in me either!

D.G. Hudson said...

I knew he had the habit from reading a lot about the group he hung with (Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al.) I'm Not a big fan of his books, and in particular the last one I read, Cities of the Red Night.

I have read Naked Lunch, and considered reading Junky sometime in the future. It's not high on my TBR list, though.

Pete. said...

Interesting stuff- especially the Orgone ( I didn't know Burroughs was into that) as it links into one of my favourite historical personalities- Wilhelm Reich. Give me more stuff to look into, many thanks.



Morgan said...

*shivers* That whole world scares me!

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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