Sunday, December 14, 2014

Exterminator!

Just finished another William S. Burroughs book, Exterminator! a collection of short stories overlapping science fiction and memoir, which has so far been the worst book of his I've read yet.

I oscillated between giving it two stars or one, two stars out of respect, and the fact that there were a few lines here and there that were pretty good, but finally settled on one, only because it was just too much incoherent rambling, most of it unreadable, and boring, like a series of drunken blog posts written in the middle of the night, that should be deleted the next day once you've come to your senses, certainly not something you'd publish in a book.

That being said, the entire book is not very long, only about 160 some pages, containing thirty stories, mostly between one and five pages each, and couple ten to fifteen page ones.

Some stories were more readable than others.

By the title I assumed that all the stories would somehow be related to, or based upon Burroughs's own experiences working as a bug exterminator, with certain science fiction elements added in, but in fact, most stories have absolutely nothing to do with that. Only the first story, Exterminator!, which evidently is the source for the title of the book, is directly connected to that. That one is actually very readable, and probably the most linearly straight forward story in the entire book, but unfortunately it's not very interesting.

Other than that, I would say that the best stories in the book, are:

Astronaut's Return

Talks about the white race being a mutation originating from a nuclear explosion 30,000 years ago in what is now the Gobi Desert.

My Face

About body possession, switching bodies, transplanting consciousness into another body; see the movies Being John Malkovich and The Skeleton Key.

"Johnny 23"

Excerpt:

"he was a man who did not like to be disturbed...he decided to end the whole distasteful thing once and for all by turning everyone into himself...this he proposed to do by a virus an image concentrate of himself that would spread waves of tranquility in all directions until the world was a fit place for him to live...he called it the "beautiful disease"...he had convinced himself that "johnny 23" would simply remove from the planet hostile alien forces manifesting themselves through other people that would come about through peaceful penetration in the course of which no lives would be lost..."

The Discipline of DE

That's Do Easy, the way of wu wei, viewed from a Scientology angle.

The Coming of the Purple Better One

A Political protest rally in 1968, Grant Park, Chicago. Reads like a travel memoir, slash political commentary, mixed in with drugged out stream of consciousness ramblings.

I found these stories to be the most readable and the most interesting ones in the entire book, the rest is mostly gobbledygook. But still, even this, is nothing special, if anything they are good starting notes, intriguing ideas to build off of, and maybe he did. On there own, it seems incomplete, like fragments, too short even for the short story format.

I'm not a fan of the cut-up method at all, which apparently some of this book utilized, although I am still planning on reading his Naked Lunch, and maybe Nova Express, but it will probably be a major challenge.

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