[NetBehaviour] God's Little Toys

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Jul 13 10:54:33 CEST 2005

*God's Little Toys*

Confessions of a cut & paste artist.
By William Gibson

When I was 13, in 1961, I surreptitiously purchased an anthology of Beat 
writing - sensing, correctly, that my mother wouldn't approve.

Immediately, and to my very great excitement, I discovered Allen 
Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and one William S. Burroughs - author of 
something called Naked Lunch, excerpted there in all its coruscating 

Burroughs was then as radical a literary man as the world had to offer, 
and in my opinion, he still holds the title. Nothing, in all my 
experience of literature since, has ever been quite as remarkable for 
me, and nothing has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of the 
sheer possibilities of writing.

Later, attempting to understand this impact, I discovered that Burroughs 
had incorporated snippets of other writers' texts into his work, an 
action I knew my teachers would have called plagiarism. Some of these 
borrowings had been lifted from American science fiction of the '40s and 
'50s, adding a secondary shock of recognition for me.

By then 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.

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