Tuesday, July 05, 2005

GOD'S LITTLE TOYS

William Gibson, who himself wrote his first novel Neuromancer on a typewriter, holds forth on W.S. Burroughs and the cutup aesthetic.

I knew that this "cut-up method," as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever it was he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic. When he wrote about his process, the hairs on my neck stood up, so palpable was the excitement. Experiments with audiotape inspired him in a similar vein: "God's little toy," his friend Brion Gysin called their reel-to-reel machine.

Sampling. Burroughs was interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all.

Some 20 years later, when our paths finally crossed, I asked Burroughs whether he was writing on a computer yet. "What would I want a computer for?" he asked, with evident distaste. "I have a typewriter."