Hauser and O'Brien - Your Thoughts?

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BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Hauser and O'Brien - Your Thoughts?

Post by BansheeYage » Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:09 am

I know this is a topic that has been discussed on the forum in the past, but since it's an enigmatic passage that continues to spark thought and conversation I was curious to hear different perspectives. Timothy S. Murphy in his book Wising Up The Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs describes the Hauser and O'Brien chapter like this:

"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.

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."

Do you agree or disagree with Murphy's interpretation? If you disagree, how do you view the chapter?
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

edward_de_vere
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Re: Hauser and O'Brien - Your Thoughts?

Post by edward_de_vere » Mon Aug 08, 2016 10:39 am

Murphy's Wising Up the Marks contains some good material, but it's also completely saturated with Marxist/New Left mumbo-jumbo to the point where everything in Burroughs' writing is viewed through this lens. This creates a very distorted interpretation of Burroughs, who was completely unsympathetic to Marxism at the time he was writing Naked Lunch, and to interpret NL as a Marxist-inspired critique of capitalism is basically nonsense in my opinion.

Burroughs was indeed writing a negation of control and a means of escape from it, but Frankfurt School theorizing had nothing to do with any of it.

BansheeYage
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2015 3:22 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Hauser and O'Brien - Your Thoughts?

Post by BansheeYage » Tue Aug 09, 2016 6:11 pm

I dont think Murphy uses Marxism or leftist filters throughout the entirety of the book. From what I've seen he draws parallels where he sees them to certain ideas that may be contained in Marxism but without saying it's entirely Marxist.

Though I will agree that in the Hauser and O'Brien chapter he seems to cross that line by saying that it's a subversion of capitalism.

So since you disagree with Murphy's assessment of the Hauser O'Brien exchange, what's your interpretation of the chapter? Is it that Lee shakes off the systems of control trying to manipulate him and then after doing this ends up outside their reach? I feel like that's essentially what Murphy was getting at minus the capitalism angle.
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

edward_de_vere
Posts: 601
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:16 pm

Re: Hauser and O'Brien - Your Thoughts?

Post by edward_de_vere » Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:04 am

The notion of Lee escaping into an alternative, self-created reality in which there was no Hauser and O'Brien is a valid interpretation. I just found the insistence that the reality Lee was escaping from was specifically "capitalist" (with the implication that the new reality WSB created was going to be some Marxist Proletarian paradise) to be a far-fetched projection of Murphy's ideological convictions (convictions which were not part of Burroughs' worldivew).

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