'You are a Competent Black Magician': A Writing Advice Cut-Up

Lauren Rae Hall, University of Pittsburgh

(Published: February 5, 2015)

Listening to William S. Burroughs ramble about novels’ plots and “bicameral man” for nearly five hours, I was struck by two things: he’s not a terribly engaging teacher, but he is a bewitching speaker. He’s slow and confident. His descriptions are long, with too many adjectives. His arguments are strange and meandering. I wanted to keep that Burroughs-ness but offer a direct and hopeful way into and through the often “fragile universe[s]” of writing. I wanted Burroughs to speak directly to the writer-listener who is entangled in the uncertainties of composition.