Dr. Benway

This is the place to talk about everything Burroughs.

Moderator: RealityStudio

Post Reply
Alexander
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:51 am
Name a Burroughs book: Naked Lunch

Dr. Benway

Post by Alexander » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:46 pm

Hi everyone,

I have another question regarding the "Benway chapter." It seems that some of the merhods described refer to "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy."

Obeserve the following passage:

'Squatting on old bones and excrement and rusty iron, in a white blaze of heat, a panorama of naked idiots stretches to the horizon. Complete silence - their speech centres are destroyed - except for the crackle of sparks and the popping of singed flesh as they apply electrodes up and down the spine. White smoke of burning flesh hangs in the motionless air. A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire and built a fire between his legs and stand watching with bestial curiosity as the flames lick his thighs. His flesh jerks in the fire with insect agony.'

Who are the naked idiots? Agents? Junkies? Homosexuals?

What is meant by "A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire ..."? Why would they set fire between legs?

I know that homosexuals were treated this way to cure them from the "desease" - which means doctors applied electric shocks to the patient's genitals.

That passage is (I think) quit difficult to grasp.

Thanks for your help.

Alex

User avatar
dheadley
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:57 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky
Contact:

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by dheadley » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:43 pm

Subconscious homo-erotic fantasies. WSB exercising his fertile imagination.

DrBenway1210
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:32 pm
Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by DrBenway1210 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:22 am

I disagree. I think Burroughs is talking about the type of hate crime against homossexuals that he witnessed at the time. A metaphor for the sadism of this cruelty, hence them being "Children".

Alexander
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:51 am
Name a Burroughs book: Naked Lunch

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by Alexander » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:33 am

If interpreting it as a homo-erotic fantasy, it seems more like an episode of pederast fantasy. Maybe he had those kind of tendencies. Like in Ancient Greece.

However, I would agree that it's refering to the hate crimes against homosexuals. In this case, those acts were carried out in the light of the law.

User avatar
dheadley
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:57 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky
Contact:

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by dheadley » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:07 am

He seems to relish the details in the passage quoted above. The hanging boys he loved so much were definitely homo-erotic fantasy but perhaps he can be seen as a pioneer of gay rights. There's a tendency nowadays to see everything in terms of gender politics. Burroughs was certainly queer, he even wrote a book about it, but he didn't identify himself as openly gay by today's standards (unlike Ginsberg who flaunted it).

DrBenway1210
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:32 pm
Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by DrBenway1210 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:45 pm

dheadley wrote:He seems to relish the details in the passage quoted above. The hanging boys he loved so much were definitely homo-erotic fantasy but perhaps he can be seen as a pioneer of gay rights. There's a tendency nowadays to see everything in terms of gender politics. Burroughs was certainly queer, he even wrote a book about it, but he didn't identify himself as openly gay by today's standards (unlike Ginsberg who flaunted it).
Burroughs always relishes in descriptions of violence, whether him agreeing with it or not. Most part of this gender politics tendency nowadays is from a victimization angle, not an organized resistance the way WSB viewed it. Another clear hint about my interpretation is the victim being called "Idiot", affirming Burroughs problems of sexual identification. Not that he considered himself to be an Idiot but maybe referring to the impotence of the situation.

User avatar
dheadley
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:57 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky
Contact:

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by dheadley » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:37 pm

All I know for sure is WSB had a vivid imagination and a talent for writing out his darkest thoughts. Perhaps he found it therapeutic.

As for Burroughs the Gay Rights Crusader...

“A room full of fags gives me the horrors. They jerk around like puppets on invisible strings, galvanized into hideous activity that is the negation of everything living and spontaneous. The live human being has moved out of these bodies long ago. But something moved in when the original tenant moved out.”

DrBenway1210
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:32 pm
Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by DrBenway1210 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:01 pm

dheadley wrote:“A room full of fags gives me the horrors. They jerk around like puppets on invisible strings, galvanized into hideous activity that is the negation of everything living and spontaneous. The live human being has moved out of these bodies long ago. But something moved in when the original tenant moved out.”
I've always found his homophobic outbursts fascinating. As if he only recognized himself strictly within the sexual realm of homosexuality, running away from the stereotype of that time. But he got softer as the years went by, for example in the Burroughs doc where he explains how a worldwide gay militia with "guns on arrival" would unite gays everywhere to successfully fight back against their hetero opponents.

User avatar
dheadley
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:57 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky
Contact:

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by dheadley » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:22 pm

I don't think he had much of an agenda when he started writing. Junky and Queer were mainly written to shock. Though of course his literary talents elevated them above pulp fiction. He wasn't a typical queer for sure. He wasn't typical anything. A total misfit.

What became Naked Lunch was a way to stay sane in Tangers. As he gained fame/notoriety he got a better handle on his readership and people expected him to take a stand on issues. I don't think he was ever comfortable in that role.

DrBenway1210
Posts: 18
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:32 pm
Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by DrBenway1210 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:56 pm

dheadley wrote:I don't think he had much of an agenda when he started writing. Junky and Queer were mainly written to shock. Though of course his literary talents elevated them above pulp fiction. He wasn't a typical queer for sure. He wasn't typical anything. A total misfit.

What became Naked Lunch was a way to stay sane in Tangers. As he gained fame/notoriety he got a better handle on his readership and people expected him to take a stand on issues. I don't think he was ever comfortable in that role.
I agree with you on that. The last thing he wanted was to be a role model to anyone and have that weight on his back. And one could hardly say that he had any political agenda other than the destruction of the system. That's what i love about Burroughs: Complete freedom about anything. By living and writing in Brazil, i can assure that's one of my main obstacles.

edward_de_vere
Posts: 607
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:16 pm

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by edward_de_vere » Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:00 am

Alexander wrote: Obeserve the following passage:

'Squatting on old bones and excrement and rusty iron, in a white blaze of heat, a panorama of naked idiots stretches to the horizon. Complete silence - their speech centres are destroyed - except for the crackle of sparks and the popping of singed flesh as they apply electrodes up and down the spine. White smoke of burning flesh hangs in the motionless air. A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire and built a fire between his legs and stand watching with bestial curiosity as the flames lick his thighs. His flesh jerks in the fire with insect agony.'

Who are the naked idiots? Agents? Junkies? Homosexuals?

What is meant by "A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire ..."? Why would they set fire between legs?

I know that homosexuals were treated this way to cure them from the "desease" - which means doctors applied electric shocks to the patient's genitals.

That passage is (I think) quit difficult to grasp.

Thanks for your help.

Alex
A major theme in Naked Lunch is degradation and loss of humanity through control, whether that control is inflicted from outside by governments, law enforcement, or psychiatry, or from within by drug addiction and sexual obsession. So as to whether the children and naked idiots are agents, junkies, homosexuals, etc, I would say all of the above and more.

edward_de_vere
Posts: 607
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:16 pm

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by edward_de_vere » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:12 am

DrBenway1210 wrote:
dheadley wrote:“A room full of fags gives me the horrors. They jerk around like puppets on invisible strings, galvanized into hideous activity that is the negation of everything living and spontaneous. The live human being has moved out of these bodies long ago. But something moved in when the original tenant moved out.”
I've always found his homophobic outbursts fascinating. As if he only recognized himself strictly within the sexual realm of homosexuality, running away from the stereotype of that time. But he got softer as the years went by, for example in the Burroughs doc where he explains how a worldwide gay militia with "guns on arrival" would unite gays everywhere to successfully fight back against their hetero opponents.
I've often pointed out that Burroughs seemed to be conflicted about both his drug addiction and his sexuality. Sometimes he reveled in the junky life, at other times he clearly loathed himself for spending so many years in a heroin-induced mental haze and life of squalor. Similarly, he was obsessed with the imagery of homosexual acts and was often celebratory of homosexuality as a form of rebellion against authority, but at other times he seemed to consider sex of any kind as yet another source of addiction and control and the body's needs as a trap and a dead end.

User avatar
dheadley
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:57 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky
Contact:

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by dheadley » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:19 pm

edward_de_vere wrote:
I've often pointed out that Burroughs seemed to be conflicted about both his drug addiction and his sexuality. Sometimes he reveled in the junky life, at other times he clearly loathed himself for spending so many years in a heroin-induced mental haze and life of squalor. Similarly, he was obsessed with the imagery of homosexual acts and was often celebratory of homosexuality as a form of rebellion against authority, but at other times he seemed to consider sex of any kind as yet another source of addiction and control and the body's needs as a trap and a dead end.

That’s how I see him too. Self-hatred is the key to understanding WSB. He was the complete outsider. Conflicted about himself. He clearly hated himself and wasn’t too impressed with humanity. My sense is that he was trying to find a place in human society through his writing.
Even rebellion against authority was a rebellion against himself.

This is the paradox of being a writer. The need to communicate is always at odds with objectivity. I think in a strange way WSB needed to feel alienated but he also needed to connect. Literature was his way back in. Publishing gave his life some meaning.

User avatar
Jim Pennington
Posts: 149
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:11 pm
Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Dr. Benway

Post by Jim Pennington » Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:48 am

A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire and built a fire between his legs and stand watching with bestial curiosity as the flames lick his thighs.
pulp-fiction violence .. and in this case has the ring of a KKK lynching only the dumb bastards forgot to bring the rope so used first things to come to hand... barbed wire and matches (nb: there are whole psychiatric papers written on how come 1) most arson is done by kids and 2) most kids are pretty good at inflicting pain)

Post Reply