What up, yo?
A good friend of mine recently suggested my teaching a course on writing and William Burroughs came to mind.
Although it might seem strange to think of El Hombre Invisible standing in front of a room of eager students, teaching them the fine art of writing (“I’m not sure I really believe this scene. I need to be able to really smell the mugwump jism…”), he did exactly that in the 1970′s. After years of living in London, near poverty and all-but-forgotten by American readers, Allen Ginsberg (What didn’t he do for his friends?) arranged for Burroughs to return to the states and take a teaching job at City College in New York City.
This change of scene lead to important developments for the writer. First, Burroughs was crowned with avant garde celebrity by the city’s punk rock underground – known for their dark proclivities and literary preoccupations. Burroughs new position as a teacher also gave rise to a number of questions for the author:
What is good writing?
Can good writing be taught?
These questions resulted in one of my favorite Burroughs reads, a collection of non-fiction essays about writers and writing and other Burroughsian themes entitled The Adding Machine. The book is currently available for browsing online. The entire book isn’t here, but most of it is. Check it out! If you ever end up in a writing class of mine it will be required reading.
What are your favorite books about writing? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
Joe Nolan <3