Anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death

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edward_de_vere
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Anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death

Post by edward_de_vere » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:58 pm

I've always wondered what exactly WSB meant with his oft-quoted "Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death"?

Did Burroughs just mean that one can commit murder by bludgeoning somebody to death with a frying pan, or was he making a point of how we "own" the death of the once-living plant and animal remains that we cook? Either way, it is a strange quote, especially in the first interpretation, since while you certainly could murder somebody with a frying pan (especially the old cast iron ones), it wouldn't be anyone's first weapon of choice to do so.

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GLN
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Re: Anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death

Post by GLN » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:38 am

edward_de_vere wrote:I've always wondered what exactly WSB meant with his oft-quoted "Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death"?

Did Burroughs just mean that one can commit murder by bludgeoning somebody to death with a frying pan, or was he making a point of how we "own" the death of the once-living plant and animal remains that we cook? Either way, it is a strange quote, especially in the first interpretation, since while you certainly could murder somebody with a frying pan (especially the old cast iron ones), it wouldn't be anyone's first weapon of choice to do so.
Perhaps the best first thing to understand is that you've presented a fragment of that longer statement as your Thread Header.

Here's a fragment of the Alan Ansen piece as written and published (boldface is my emphasis):

A tall ectomorph—in Tangier the boys called him El Hombre Invisible—his persona constituted by a magic triad of fedora, glasses and raincoat rather than by a face, his first presence is that of a con man down on his luck. But that impression soon gives way to the feeling that, whatever his luck may be, yours has been very good. A cracker accent and use of jive talk fail to conceal incisive intelligence and a frightening seriousness. “No one owns life,” says Burroughs, “but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.


The piece was published in the June 1959 Issue of BIG TABLE.

The best second thing to understand is that there is an internet resource called Quote Investigator.

According to Quote Investigator - "Ansen and Burroughs were friends, and QI believes that Ansen heard the quotation directly from Burroughs."

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/02/19 ... te-13064-1

If I imagine myself as a fly-on-the-wall during that conversation between Ansen and Burroughs, my sense of semantic intent on WSB's part is that of presenting an image of a human being physically strong enough to lift a frying pan, such as a young child (post 6 years old) with cognitive functions.

That image serves as metaphor to indicate that anyone physically strong enough to lift that much weight in the air has probably come into contact with a fact of life - Death And Everyone Dies - and it matters not if this fact is accepted as true or not. Anyone making contact with the idea/fact owns it, from that point on, is how I imagine WSB using the physical strength metaphor.

I don't think it was WSB's intent to signify murdering people with frying pans. I think an intent was to express a fact about a fact and raise questions, such as - when does a child have an initial, cognitive encounter with the concept of death?
Last edited by GLN on Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Gary Lee-Nova
"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable.
But there it sits, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.
" - H.L. Mencken

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

Re: Anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death

Post by edward_de_vere » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:17 am

Thanks for the introduction to Quote Investigator, I'll have to use it to track down the source (and veracity) of several other quotes, including one by WSB.

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Anyone who picks up a frying pan owns death

Post by BansheeYage » Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:35 pm

My understanding of the phrase was similar to GNL's interpretation. That once one has contact with the capability or idea of life and death they become owners of it. Interesting post, thanks for sharing!
"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."

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