[NetBehaviour] Notes on Burroughs By Marshall McLuhan (1964).

marc.garrett at furtherfield.org marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Nov 27 14:00:09 CET 2007

Notes on Burroughs By Marshall McLuhan (1964).

1. Today men’s nerves surround us; they have gone outside as electrical
environment. The human nervous system itself can be reprogrammed
biologically as readily as any radio network can alter its fare. Burroughs
has dedicated Naked Lunch to the first proposition, and Nova Express (both
Grove Press) to the second. Naked Lunch records private strategies of
culture in the electric age. Nova Express indicates some of the “corporate”
responses and adventures of the Subliminal Kid who is living in a universe
which seems to be someone else’s insides. Both books are a kind of
engineer’s report of the terrain hazards and mandatory processes, which
exist in the new electric environment.

2. Burroughs uses what he calls “Brion Gysin’s cut-up method which I call
the fold-in method.” To read the daily newspaper in its entirety is to
encounter the method in all its purity. Similarly, an evening watching
television programs is an experience in a corporate form — an endless
succession of impressions and snatches of narrative. Burroughs is unique
only in that he is attempting to reproduce in prose what we accommodate
every day as a commonplace aspect of life in the electric age. If the
corporate life is to be rendered on paper, the method of discontinuous
nonstory must be employed.

3. That man provides the sexual organs of the technological world seems
obvious enough to Burroughs, and such is the stage (or “biological theatre”
as he calls it in Nova Express) for the series of social orgasms brought
about by the evolutionary mutations of man and society. The logic, physical
and emotional, of a world in which we have made our environment out of our
own nervous systems, Burroughs follows everywhere to the peripheral orgasm
of the cosmos.


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