what am I, an octopus?

This is the place to talk about everything Burroughs.

Moderator: RealityStudio

Post Reply
User avatar
davee_mac
Posts: 386
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:10 pm
Location: Lancashire, England

what am I, an octopus?

Post by davee_mac » Sun Sep 18, 2016 2:34 pm

Making my way through RUB and there's an amusing line in a letter to Brion where he says, re: his myriad explorations of cut-ups and travel and letters to publishers etc, that he has now become an octopus... and then later in the letter, "need more tentacles".

I remember the classic "what am I, an octopus?" line in some earlier letters, presumably in the LETTERS OF book, but I can't for the life of me think where exactly it features.....

Can anyone help with where it is from? I can't even remember if it was a one-off or a 'favourite' line that appeared a few times.

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

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by edward_de_vere » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:46 pm

The "what am I, an octopus?" line appears in NL in the scene where a technician brings in a lesbian body builder to replace a baritone to sing the National Anthem (the technician is complaining that he is assigned too many menial tasks in the routine). I forget the name of the chapter.

User avatar
David D
Posts: 42
Joined: Sat Nov 09, 2013 4:07 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by David D » Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:27 am

The only octopus I can find in the digital version of the Letters is in a March 15, 1949 letter to Kerouac:
I tell you we are bogged down in the octopus of bureaucratic socialism.
Which is a pretty brilliant line in itself, if unrelated ...

The routine in NL with the Technician is under the heading 'Hospital', the line is also spoken by Clem in the 'Islam Inc and the Parties of Interzone' chapter (with the comma strangely (mis-?)placed):
‘Thirty years in show business and I never handle such a routine like this. I gotta dispossess a Bidonville, give myself a bang of H, piss on the Black Stone, make with the Prayer Call whilst dressed in my hog suit, cancel Lend Lease and get fucked up the ass simultaneous.… What, am I an octopus already?’ Clem complains.
"Most people simply aren't human so far as I am concerned."

User avatar
davee_mac
Posts: 386
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:10 pm
Location: Lancashire, England

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by davee_mac » Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:14 am

thanks chaps!
(typical that i'd misremember the source)

i should have also added in that letter in RUB, he says about turning into an octopus, "it's the only way to live" :D

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

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by edward_de_vere » Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:12 pm

From the NL chapter "Hospital"
TENOR: "Oh thay can you thee..." His voice breaks and shoots up to a high falsetto.

In the control room the Technician mixes a bicarbonate of soda and belches into his hand: "God
damned tenor's a brown artist!" he mutters sourly. "Mikel rumph," the shout ends in a belch. "Cut
that swish fart off the air and give him his purple slip. He's through as of right now.... Put in that sex-
changed Liz athlete.... She's a fulltime tenor at least.... Costume? How in the fuck should I know?
I'm no dress designer swish from the costume department! What's that? The entire costume
department occluded as a security risk? What am I, an octopus? Let's see... How about an Indian
routine? Pocahontas or Hiawatha?... No, that's not right. Some citizen cracks wise about giving it
back to the Indians.... A Civil War uniform, the coat North and the pants South like it show they got
together again? She can come on like Buffalo Bill or Paul Revere or that citizen wouldn't give up the
shit, I mean the ship, or a G.I. or a Doughboy or the Unknown Soldier.... That's the best deal.
...Cover her with a monument, that way nobody has to look at her...."

The Lesbian, concealed in a papier mâché Arc de Triomphe fills her great lungs and looses a tremendous bellow.
"Oh say do that Star Spangled Banner yet wave..."

User avatar
davee_mac
Posts: 386
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:10 pm
Location: Lancashire, England

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by davee_mac » Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:55 pm

^
"occluded"

now that i *do* remember from LETTERS... remember that awesome and long digression on sea creatures, The Wide Sargasso Sea and ideas for book titles with 'Occluded' in 'em???

Just imagine if Naked Lunch really had been called 'My Ass is Occluded'............!!

User avatar
David D
Posts: 42
Joined: Sat Nov 09, 2013 4:07 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by David D » Tue Sep 20, 2016 2:09 am

:lol:
Yes, a million-seller right there ... It really is a marvel he only ever got one review titled 'UGH' as it is ...

And now that we're on the topic, I'm actually reminded of one of the Burroughs texts I discovered most recently: a brief piece titled "Octopus" in the collection Living with the Animals edited by Gary Indiana in 1994. Entertaining, and very typical of the later work. So yes, our cephalopod cousins did remain a lifelong fascination ...
"Most people simply aren't human so far as I am concerned."

User avatar
GLN
Posts: 288
Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 6:00 pm

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by GLN » Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:50 am

davee_mac wrote:...
I remember the classic "what am I, an octopus?" line in some earlier letters, presumably in the LETTERS OF book, but I can't for the life of me think where exactly it features.....

Can anyone help with where it is from? I can't even remember if it was a one-off or a 'favourite' line that appeared a few times.
From - -Burroughs, W. S. & Gysin, B. The Third Mind (New York: Viking Press, 1978) and quoted here:

http://culturedarm.com/william-burrough ... eat-hotel/

And in the same book, written in collaboration with Burroughs, Gysin evaluated the late evolution of Naked Lunch and the innovation of the cut-up technique which would prove pivotal for both of their careers:

William Burroughs and I first went into techniques of writing, together, back in room #15 of the Beat Hotel during the cold Paris spring of 1958.

Naked Lunch manuscript of every age and condition floated around the hermetically sealed room as Burroughs, thrashing about in an ectoplasmic cloud of smoke, ranted through the gargantuan roles of Doc Benway, A. J., Clem & Jody and hundreds of others he never had time to ram through the typewriter.

“Am I an octopus?” he used to whine as he shuffled through shoals of typescript with all tentacles waving in the undersea atmosphere.

It looked, in those days, as though Naked Lunch, named so long before its birth by Kerouac, might never see the light of day outside room #15.
Last edited by GLN on Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
davee_mac
Posts: 386
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 3:10 pm
Location: Lancashire, England

Re: what am I, an octopus?

Post by davee_mac » Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:10 pm

cracking finds both ^ :)

Post Reply