Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fantagraphics acquires lost William S. Burroughs graphic novel

Everyone's favorite cranky Uncle Bill, William S. Burroughs, continues to battle the forces of Control thirteen years after his death. The author who gave name to heavy metal, provided inspiration to underground writers everywhere, and pissed off an entire generation of academic critics, will see his forty-year old "bedtime story" Ah Pook Is Here re-published in a deluxe edition by Fantagraphics Books in 2011.

From the Fantagraphics site: "This lost masterpiece, Ah Pook Is Here, created in collaboration with artist Malcolm McNeill in the 1970s, will be published in the summer of 2011 as a spectacularly packaged two-volume, hinged set, along with Observed While Falling, McNeill’s memoir documenting his collaboration with one of America’s most iconic authors.

Ah Pook Is Here is a consideration of time with respect to the differing perceptions of the ancient Maya and that of the current Western mindset. It was Burroughs’ contention that both of these views result in systems of control in which the elite perpetuate its agendas at the expense of the people. They make time for themselves and through increasing measures of Control attempt to prolong the process indefinitely."

panels from Burroughs' Ah Pook Is Here, by Malcolm McNeil (Fantagraphics, 2011)

And on the topics of time, magic and music, Burroughs was certainly willing to "take a broad, general view of things," as he once advised his readers to consider. An online post at Arthur magazine (from 2007) reprints his 1975 conversation with Jimmy Page regarding the cosmic force of music, drugs, and belief. While the general conversation between the singer and the shaman comes close to one of those woozy, Playboy-After-Dark sessions with the tape-machine capturing the purple haze of 1970s rock'n'roll Babylon, it sure beats the hell out of hearing Lady GaGa talking with Cher at this year's Video Music Awards.

WSB: Did you ever hear about something called infra-sound?
JP: Uh, carry on.
WSB: Well, infra-sound is sound below the level of hearing. And it was developed by someone named Professor Gavreau in France as a military weapon. He had an infra-sound installation that he could turn on and kill everything within five miles. It can also knock down walls and break windows. But it kills by setting up vibrations within the body. Well, what I was wondering was, whether rhythmical music at sort of the borderline of infra-sound could be used to produce rhythms in the audience–because, of course, any music with volume will set up these vibrations. That is part of the way the effect is achieved.
JP: Hmm.
WSB: It’s apparently…it’s not complicated to build these infra-sound things.
JP: I’ve heard of this, actually but not in such a detailed explanation. I’ve heard that certain frequencies can make you physically ill.
WSB: Yes. Well, this can be fatal. That’s not what you’re looking for. But it could be used just to set up vibrations….
JP: Ah hah…A death ray machine! Of course, when radio first came out they were picketing all the radio stations, weren’t they, saying “We don’t want these poisonous rays” [laughter]….Yes, well…certain notes can break glasses. I mean, opera singers can break glasses with sound, this is true?
WSB: That was one of Caruso’s tricks.
JP: But it is true?
WSB: Of course.
JP: I’ve never seen it done.
WB: I’ve never seen it done, but I know that you can do it.
JP: I want laser NOTES, that’s what I’m after! Cut right through.

WSB: Apparently you can make one of these things out of parts you can buy in a junk yard. It’s not a complicated machine to make. And actually the patent…it’s patented in France, and according to French law, you can obtain a copy of the patent. For a very small fee.
JP: Well, you see the thing is, it’s hard to know just exactly what is going on, from the stage to the audience…You can only…I mean I’ve never seen the group play, obviously. Because I’m part of it….I can only see it on celluloid, or hear it. But I know what I see. And this thing about rhythms within the audience. I would say yes. Yes, definitely. And it is…Music which involves riffs, anyway, will have a trance-like effect, and it’s really like a mantra….And we’ve been attacked for that.
WSB: What a mantra does is set up certain vibrations within the body, and this, obviously does the same thing. Of course, it goes….it comes out too far. But I was wondering if on the borderline of infra-sound that possibly some interesting things could be done.

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