“The Wild Boys Smile”:
James J. O'Meara
Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John, Part 2
Part 2 of 3 (part 1 here)
Alan Watts’ notion of “fascinating ugliness” leads us to another important theme is the disquieting or even repulsive “beauty” of John and his kind. Here is Jacqueline:
But though passably ‘human,’ according to the standards of Homo sapiens, she was strange. Were I an imaginative writer, and not merely a journalist, I might be able to suggest symbolically something of the almost “creepy” effect she had on me, something of its remote and sleepy power. As it is I can only record certain obvious features, and in general that curious combination of the infantile, or even the foetal, with the mature. The protruding brow, the short broad nose, the great distance between the great eyes, the surprising breadth of the whole face, the marked furrow from nose to lips–all these characters were definitely foetal; and yet the precisely chiselled lips themselves and the delicate moulding of the eyelids produced an expression of subtle experience suggestive of an ageless divinity. To me at least, prepared of course by familiarity with John’s own strangeness, this strange face seemed to combine idiosyncrasy and universality. Here, in spite of a vaguely repulsive uncouthness, was a living symbol of womanhood. Yet here also was a being utterly different from any other, something unique and individual. When I looked from her to the most attractive girl in the room I was shocked to find that it was the normal beauty that was repulsive. With something like vertigo I looked once more at the adorable grotesque.
Jacqueline, unlike J. J. and, in fact, most of John’s contactees has found a kind of modus vivendi:
Of course she gave herself for money, like any member of her profession, or of any other profession. Nevertheless, her heart was in her work, and she chose her clients, not according to their power to pay, but according to their needs and their capacity to benefit by her ministrations. She seems to have combined in her person the functions of harlot, psycho-analyst and priest.
This harks back to an old social character, the literate, free-spirited, delightfully risqué (if you go for that kind of thing) salon hostess of the French Enlightenment. Hence, her age, although her large eyes and short hair make her resemble a more recent, less intellectual type, the gamine, à la Gigi–she even has an elderly, crusty companion–actually her daughter!–for Hermione Gingold to play. The very American version would be the decidedly anti-intellectual and thoroughly mercenary Holly Golightly. (Capote hated the film, where Audrey Hepburn played her as Gigi.) She also seems to be what lot of modern, college educated prostitutes–or “sex workers”–like to think of themselves as: sort of a hands-on psychotherapist.
Ng-Gunko, John’s next contact, also connects with the idea of conventional ugliness becoming a higher kind of beauty, through the suggestion of higher realms or dimensions. As Guénon would point out, symbols need to be read inverted–terrestrial ugliness coming celestial beauty, and vice versa.
He was a grotesque and filthy little blackamoor, and I resented the prospect of sharing accommodation with him. He appeared to be about eight years old, but was in fact over twelve. He wore a long, blue and very grubby caftan and a battered fez. These clothes, we subsequently learned, he had acquired on his journey, in order to attract less attention. But he could not help attracting attention. My own first reaction to his appearance was frank incredulity. “There ain’t no such beast,” I said to myself. Then I remembered, that, when a species mutates, it often produces a large crop of characters so fantastic that many of the new types are not even viable. Ng-Gunko was decidedly viable, but he was a freak. Though his face was a dark blend of the negroid and the semitic with an unmistakable reminiscence of the Mongolian, his negroid wool was not black but sombre red. And though his right eye was a huge black orb not inappropriate to his dark complexion, his left eye was considerably smaller, and the iris was deep blue. These discrepancies gave his whole face a sinister comicality which was borne out by his expression. His full lips were frequently stretched in a grin which revealed three small white teeth above and one below. The rest had apparently not yet sprouted.
Here is John meditating on beauty, during his initiatory period, making some typically disturbing connections:
From the bottom of his heart he gave thanks for all these subtle contacts with material reality; and found in them a spiritual refreshment which we also find, though confusedly and grudgingly. He was also constantly, and ever surprisingly, illuminated by the beauty of the beasts and birds on which he preyed, a beauty significant of their power and their frailty, their vitality and their obtuseness. Such perceived organic forms seem to have moved him far more deeply than I could comprehend. The stag, in particular, that he had killed and devoured, and now daily used, seems to have had some deep symbolism for him which I could but dimly appreciate, and will not attempt to describe. I remember his exclaiming, “How I knew him and praised him! And his death was his life’s crown.”
And suddenly the stag seemed to symbolize the whole normal human species, as a thing with a great beauty and dignity of its own, and a rightness of its own, so long as it was not put into situations too difficult for it. Homo sapiens, poor thing, had floundered into a situation too difficult for him, namely the present world-situation. The thought of Homo sapiens trying to run a mechanized civilization suddenly seemed to him as ludicrous and pathetic as the thought of a stag in the driving-seat of a motor-car.
He himself said that his “discovery of sheer evil” had fortified him. When I asked, “how fortified?” he said, “My dear, it is a great strength to have faced the worst and to have felt it a feature of beauty. Nothing ever after can shake one.”
And here is another contactee:
Jelli, a mite said to be seventeen years old. She was no beauty. The frontal and the occipital regions of her head were repulsively over-developed, so that the back of her head stretched away behind her, and her brow protruded beyond her nose, which was rudimentary. In profile her head suggested a croquet mallet. She had a hare-lip and short bandy legs. Her general appearance was that of a cretin; yet she had supernormal intelligence and temperament, and also hyper-sensitive vision.
Most all of John’s contactees are physical freaks of some sort, although many seem to sorta grow on one.
When at last the time came for the visitors to leave the island, I noticed that . . . some who had formerly looked at the young women with disapproval or lust or both, now bade them farewell with friendly courtesy, and with some appreciation of their uncouth beauty.
Beautiful or not, the homo superior is known by his smile.
John’s eyes were indeed, according to ordinary standards, much too big for his face, which acquired thus a strangely cat-like or talcon-like expression. This was emphasized by the low and level eyebrows, but often completely abolished by a thoroughly boyish and even mischievous smile.
In the end, however, she [his mother] nearly always adopted John’s improvement, with an odd little smile which might equally well have meant maternal pride or indulgence.
John’s lips compressed themselves and assumed a crooked smile. “You’re right,” he said. “There’s just one possibility that I have not mentioned. If the species as a whole, or a large proportion of the world population, were to be divinely inspired, so that their nature became truly human at a stride, all would soon be well.”
“Then,” said McWhist, “an odd thing happened. The boy’s anger seemed to vanish, and he stared intently at me as though I were a strange beast that he had never seen before. Suddenly he seemed to think of something else. He dropped his weapon, and began gazing into the lire again with that look of utter misery. Tears welled in his eyes again. His mouth twisted itself in a kind of desperate smile.”
“He stayed still for perhaps half a minute, and silent; then, looking down at us, he smiled, and said, ‘Don’t forget. We have looked at the stars together.’ Then he gently lowered the rock into position again, and said, ‘I think you had better go now. I’ll take you down the first pitch. It’s difficult by night.’ As we were both pretty well paralysed with bewilderment we made no immediate sign of quitting. He laughed, gently, reassuringly, and said something that has haunted me ever since. (I don’t know about McWhist.) He said, ‘It was a childish miracle. But I am still a child. While the spirit is in the agony of outgrowing its childishness, it may solace itself now and then by returning to its playthings, knowing well that they are trivial.’ By now we were creeping out of the cave, and into the blizzard.”
At the end he could hardly lift his hands with fatigue, and they were covered with bleeding blisters. But the deed was accomplished. The hunters of all the ages saluted him, for he had done what none of them could have done. A child, he had gone naked into the wilderness and conquered it. And the angels of heaven smiled at him, and beckoned him to a higher adventure.
Presently James Jones, keeping his eyes on mine, said one word, with quiet emphasis and some surprise, ‘Friend!’ I smiled and nodded. . . . The attendant put the pipe into his hand, closing the fingers over it. He looked blankly at it. Then with a sudden smile of enlightenment he put it to his ear, like a child listening to a shell. . . . “The music stopped with a squawk. J. J. looked with a kindly but tortured smile at the attendant. Then he slid back into insanity. So complete was his disintegration that he actually tried to eat the mouthpiece.”
All these smiles will make for an interesting connection soon, especially their intensification, the Grin (an evil counterpart, like Spider Baby), perhaps busting out into outright laughter:
John too was a changed being. His lips were drawn back in an inhuman blend of snarl and smile. One eye was half closed from Stephen’s only successful blow, the other cavernous like the eye of a mask. For when John was enraged, the iris drew almost entirely out of sight.
He gave a start and a shudder, looked at me with a frown, as if trying to get things straight in his mind, made a quick movement for the stiletto, checked himself, and finally broke into a wry boyish grin, remarking, ‘Oh, come in, please. Don’t knock, it’s a shop.’ He added, ‘Can’t you blighters leave a fellow alone?’
“Then tell me,” I said, perhaps rather excitedly, “what is the goal, the true life of the spirit?” John suddenly grinned like a boy of ten, and laughed that damnably disturbing laugh of his, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you, Mr. Journalist,” he said, “It is time your interview was concluded.
John is understandably freaked out when Spider Baby turns it on him: “The very sight of the house in the distance gave me the creeps. I couldn’t think. I kept seeing that infantile grin of hate, and turning stupid again.”
Even his eventual companion Ng-Gunko grins creepily:
These discrepancies gave his whole face a sinister comicality which was borne out by his expression. His full lips were frequently stretched in a grin which revealed three small white teeth above and one below.
Then, projecting his chin above his scarf, he would whip off his glasses and assume a maniacal grin of hate.
The last grin belongs to John, however, and like the first signals boyish triumph: “Then one day, grinning with pride and excitement, he summoned the whole company to the laboratory and gave a full account of his work.”
And consider this extended meditation:
He looked at me for some seconds in silence, Believe it or not, but that prolonged gaze had a really terrifying effect on me. I am not suggesting that there was something magical about it. The effect was of the same kind as any normal facial expression may have. But knowing John as I did, and remembering the strange events of his summer in Scotland, I was no doubt peculiarly susceptible. I can only describe what I felt by means of an image. It was as though I was confronted with a mask made of some semi-transparent substance, and illuminated from within by a different and a spiritually luminous face. The mask was that of a grotesque child, half monkey, half gargoyle, yet wholly urchin, with its huge cat’s eyes, its flat little nose, its teasing lips. The inner face,–obviously it cannot be described, for it was the same in every feature, yet wholly different. I can only say that it seemed to me to combine the august and frozen smile of a Buddha with the peculiar creepy grimness that the battered Sphinx can radiate when the dawn first touches its face. No, these images fail utterly. I cannot describe the symbolical intention that John’s features forced upon me in those seconds. I can only say that I longed to look away and could not, or dared not. Irrational terror welled up in me. When one is under the dentist’s drill, one may endure a few moments of real torture without flinching. But as the seconds pile up, it becomes increasingly difficult not to move, not to scream. And so with me, looked at by John. With this difference, that I was bound, and could not stir, that I had passed the screaming point and could not scream. I believe my terror was largely a wild dread that John was about to laugh, and that his laugh would annihilate me. But he did not laugh.
Before explicating those smiles, let’s ask ourselves why John wants to contact, and indeed bring together, all these fellow mutants. Once more, our old Yankee philosopher has the answer:
If thought was visible to the physical eye we should see its currents flowing to and from people. We should see that persons similar in temperament, character and motive are in the same literal current of thought. . . . [E]ach one in such moods serves as an additional battery or generator of such thought and is strengthening that particular current.
The more minds so working in the same vein, the quicker came the desired result.
John and his fellow freaks use their advanced mental powers to find an uncharted island, create a source of unlimited power, repel the curious and dangerous outsiders, and devote themselves at first to eugenic experiments, then, when the outsiders become too insistent, to their most important activity, group meditation. A utopia, in short.
And why? Well, because their super-intellects just happen to have informed them that homo sapiens is through, finished, washed-up, out of time. John once again appropriates Harry Partch’s condemnation of modern Western music for a metaphor embodying our epitaph:
“Well, if we could wipe out your whole species, frankly, we would. For if your species discovers us, and realizes at all what we are, it will certainly destroy us. And we know, you must remember, that Homo sapiens has little more to contribute to the music of this planet, nothing in fact but vain repetition. It is time for finer instruments to take up the theme.”
Bitter music indeed, for homo sap. Let’s cheer ourselves up by going back to all that smiling.
It may seem like a trivial point–but will prove quite otherwise–but smiling is one of several links to more recent work, the “queer utopia” of William S. Burroughs’ The Wild Boys.
Now, while Burroughs’ utopia is certainly “queer” in the modern sense, we’ve seen that John and his group are repeatedly described or associated with the “queer” in the sense of strange or uncanny, a different species in effect while at the same time comprising both genders and all the various shades of what James Neill has called human “ambisexuality.” However tempting it may be for today’s “queer theorists,” Burroughs’ utopia should also be seen in the same inclusive way:
Burroughs has never demanded the subordination of the feminine to the masculine, as many heterosexual male chauvinists have; he has argued, rather, for the total separation of the masculine from the feminine, as befits his theory that men and women are actually separate species that cannot be united under the rubric of an expanded, and therefore abstracted, definition of “humanity.” In light of this, it seems more fruitful to view the project of The Wild Boys not simply as “the occlusion of women” but as an attempt to take sexual difference as a point of departure for political transformation, rather than seeing it as a problem to be overcome. Though his own viewpoint is unrepentantly androcentric, Burroughs said at that time that “I certainly have no objections if lesbians would like to do the same” from a gynocentric point of view. (Burroughs, Rolling Stone Interview, p. 52.)
“Queer theorists” will also be disappointed that Burroughs does not indulge in the cult of the Beautiful Boy. Like John’s colonists, the Wild Boys hard on the eyes, starting with Audrey, described by neighbors as “looking like a sheep-killing dog,” to, in the last chapter, the boy we spend the most time getting to know, presumably typical, known as The Dib: “His face had been beautiful at some other time and place now broken and twisted by altered pressure, the teeth stuck out at angles the features wrenched out of focus body emaciated by distant hungers” (WB p. 172). A veritable Ng-Gunko, complete with jellaba and fez.
We’ll get back to those teeth, but let’s note that the colonists, of both genders, share these emaciated bodies that they do nothing to hide:
As soon as my baggage and some cases of books and stores had been transhipped in the Skid’s dinghy, we got under way. Ng-Gunko and Kemi promptly divested themselves of their clothes, for it was a hot day. Kemi’s fair skin had been burnt to the colour of the teak woodwork of the Skid.
Looking at the slight naked figures of various shades from Ng-Gunko’s nigger-brown to Sigrid’s rich cream, all seated round the table and munching with the heartiness of a school treat, I felt that I had strayed into an island of goblins.
The invaders were fluttered by the sight of naked young women, several of whom were of the white race.
[John] was an uncouth but imposing figure, with his dazzling white hair, his eyes of a nocturnal beast, and his lean body. Behind him the others waited, a group of unclad boys and girls with formidable heads. One of the Viking’s officers was heard to exclaim, “Jesus Christ! What a troupe!”
A pack of Wild Boys indeed. The Dib explains the rugged practicality here: “‘Clothes no good here. Easy see clothes. Very hard see this.’ He pointed to his thin body” (WB, pp. 175-76).
Just as John’s colonists are biological freaks (born this way, as Lady Gaga would say), the Wild Boys are at least partially made that way, again for practical reasons; as Murphy expounds:
“Each group developed special skills and knowledge until it evolved into humanoid subspecies” (WB, p. 147), like the Warrior Ants, handless boys who screw steel implements into their stumps; cat boys who wear poison-clawed gloves; Snake boys, who handle (and even become) venomous reptiles; and lycanthropic wolf boys. Other boys deterritorialize themselves through technology, attaching themselves to gliders, roller-skates, and other weapons systems in order to battle the state apparatus (WB, pp. 147–48, 150–54). . . . Burroughs calls these Wild Boys “biologic adaptives” (Burroughs, Port of Saints 101).
We’ll soo get back to that “biological adaptive” bit.
The Warrior Ants remind us that the colonists are good with knives: “Fortunately Shahîn wore a sheath-knife . . .” As was John in his (wild) boyhood:
He sprang into a crouching posture, clutching a sort of stiletto made of the largest tine of an antler. McWhist was so startled by the huge glaring eyes and the inhuman snarl that he backed out of the cramping entrance of the cave. . . . . He gave a start and a shudder, looked at me with a frown, as if trying to get things straight in his mind, made a quick movement for the stiletto, checked himself, and finally broke into a wry boyish grin, remarking, ‘Oh, come in, please. Don’t knock, it’s a shop.’ He added, ‘Can’t you blighters leave a fellow alone?’
Boyish indeed. We’re back in the Stalky & Co., Boy’s Own Mag world Burroughs would mine for both Wild Boys and his Dead Roads Trilogy.
In The Wild Boys, the image of a smiling wild boy becomes a hugely popular media icon which spreads the wild-boy virus across civilisation, causing more and more youths to join the wild boys.
Tío Mate, the Chief, and Old Sarge—the antiauthoritarian figures of the first three routines [i.e., chapters] —share with the Wild Boys a peculiarly beatific way of smiling; indeed, the chapter’s titles and closing lines draw attention to it. Skerl sees in these smiles “that invite comparison with the smile of Dante’s Beatrice and of the Mona Lisa—two hallowed female icons that embody traditional Western values” evidence that the Wild Boys and their allies “exist in a state of ecstasy” (Skerl 83). Perhaps, like Beatrice, the Wild Boys are to be our guides to/through the lands of the dead; perhaps as well, like Dante, we will not be subject to any of the perils and delights to be found there—but perhaps we will. At any rate, the smiles of the Wild Boys and of the characters who anticipate them do not bode well for those “traditional Western values.” (Murphy, p. 161)
The smiles are not only advertising and recruitment devices, they are weapons as well. We’ll explore those odd, and inter-connected features in a bit.
1. “Save for these, John found nothing but lunatics, cripples, invalids, and inveterate old vagabonds in whom the superior mentality had been hopelessly distorted by contact with the normal species.”
2. As did Jon Lovitz’s character with his “Tales of Ribaldry.”
3. James Neill notes, op. cit., that the “sacred prostitute” is a typically ‘queer’ role. One thinks of that typical ’90s figure, Terence Sellers, with her criminology degree and weakness for the worst of Huysman’s style; her Krafft-Ebbing meets Jack Kerouac pastiche, The Correct Sadist (New York: Grove, 1985), compares favorably to Xaviera Hollander’s ’70s Penthouse Letters-style books, but already seemed dated by the inevitable Correct Sadist 2: Dungeon Evidence (The Tears Corporation/Creation, 1997).
4. I have alluded to this phenomenon in my essay “From Ultrasuede to Limelight: Aryan Entrepreneurs in the Dark Age, Part 1: Halston,” here and in my forthcoming collection The Eldritch Evola … & Others, in reference to “Anjelica Huston, an actual Halston model we see in archival footage and interviews. Her equally . . . unusual . . . features suggest a beauty that dwells on other planes than ours; superhuman rather than subhuman, elfin rather than bestial. Like Meg Foster, it would be possible to imagine a production of LOTR where she plays Galadriel, while [Sarah Jessica] Parker suggests nothing more otherworldly than a wicked witch or stepmother.” We now have Ms. Huston’s own view of the matter: “My earliest impression of great beauty was of blondes with pale eyes, but I realized at a young age that I wouldn’t look that way. I was disappointed, but I knew I had to do something with what I had–long legs . . . a chameleon’s ability to make myself interesting-looking or plain. Beauty is mallable” (A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York [New York: Scribner’s, 2013]).
Also consider my remarks on the hard-faced, androgynous MILFs in “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1,” here. Or the cross-eyed seductiveness of Karen Black, from Easy Rider to Trilogy of Terror to House of a 1000 Corpses, see my “More Aryan than Human: The Return of Repressed White Wisdom in Rob Zombie’s Firefly Family Films,” here. And consider as well the unmistakable mutant charm of Linda Blair:
We often don’t realise, I suppose, the extent to which the ideal of an ‘actress’ is subconsciously thrust upon us by movies both great and small. It’s worth remembering that, even in the lowliest slasher flick, filmmakers and casting directors in this none-more-patriarchal industry are predisposed to seek out the girls who are flawless and beautiful and charismatic and able to act with, at least, a competent, easily digestible proficiency. Which is not to say that Linda Blair lacks any of those virtues of course, but we’re so used to seeing women on-screen who exemplify this slightly stultifying ‘actress ideal’ that when someone like Linda, who’d probably get dropped at the first round of auditions for a leading lady role for just being a bit odd lookin’, a bit stroppy, a bit UN-actresslike, is able to pull rank based on her childhood notoriety and stomp commandingly across our screens…. well it’s just a plain beautiful thing to see, making the grown up Linda (kinda – she was eighteen circa ‘Exorcist II’) a truly distinctive screen presence.
And of course, it sometimes works both ways; this aside on bad film legend Ray Dennis Steckler sounds like it could come out of Odd John itself:
Man, I love this guy so much. I know it’s a redundant and cruel thing to say, but he’s just so weird looking. Every time he’s on screen, it blows my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being who looks, or moves, quite the way he does in my whole life. Was Ray Dennis Steckler born somewhere? Did he have a childhood? I’d prefer to think he just walked outta the woods one day, the emissary of a higher race.
And this is in a review of Wild Guitar, which features “Bud Eagle, a naïve would-be teen idol played with boggle-eyed, thug-faced grace by mighty-quiffed Arch Hall Jr.” Of course, things aren’t entirely that simple, and I feel I must insert a warning here, lest anyone think of improving their chances on the dating scene by pulling a Gary Busey on their face. For example, although featuring Meg Foster, herself an excellent example, she’s a human collaborator but still human; They Live itself contains many more of the wrong kind of alien-ugly:
Nada: You see, I take these glasses off, she looks like a regular person, doesn’t she? Put ‘em back on . . . [puts them back on] formaldehyde-face!
Nada: That’s like pouring perfume on a pig.
Nada: You know, you look like your head fell in the cheese dip back in 1957.
Rich Lady: [into her wristwatch] I’ve got one that can see!
5. “Mentats, the human computers; Know a Mentat by his red stained lips.”—Frank Herbert, Dune.
6. Mulford would have approved: “Thousands live too much in the thought current of seriousness. Faces which wear a smiling expression are scarce. Some never smile at all. Some have forgotten how to smile, and it actually hurts them to smile, or to see others do so.” Thoughts are Thing, p. 41.
7. One thinks of similar meditations on shape shifting, luminous faces in Hesse, especially in Demian or this from Siddhartha: “And over everything something thin, inessential yet existing, was continuously drawn, like thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, a sheath or mold or mask of water. The mask was smiling, and the mask was Siddhartha’s smiling face. . . . Thus Govinda saw the smile of the mask, the smile of unity over the flowing forms, the smile of simultaneity over the myriad births and deaths. The smile was exactly the same, resembled exactly the still, refined, impenetrable, perhaps-kind-perhaps-disdainful, wise, thousandfold smile of Gotama the Buddha. . . . So Govinda knew, this is the way the Perfect One smiles.”
8. Thoughts are Things, pp. 33, 38.
9. Harry Partch, Bitter Music: Collected Journals, Essays, Introductions, and Librettos, ed. Thomas McGeary (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000).
10. James Grauerholz gives this as the title of the relevant section of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader, ed. James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg (New York: Grove Press, 2000). See also Jamie Russell’s Queer Burroughs (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001) which discusses his “queertopias.”
11. Timothy J. Murphy, p. 147, Cf. Alain De Benoist: “I am not against feminism. There is a good kind of feminism, which I call identitarian feminism, which tries to promote feminine values and show that they are not inferior to masculine values.” The American Renaissance Interview, here.
12. Perhaps because Burroughs associates physical attractiveness with reproduction? Is it a coincidence that the chief modern theorists of The Boy are Camille Paglia (“The Beautiful Boy as Destroyer” in Sexual Personae, 1990) and Germaine Greer (The Beautiful Boy, 2003)?
13. David Bowie had already noted the connection between Stapledon’s “homo superior” and Burroughs’ Wild Boys, along with spiders and knives: “It was the era of Wild Boys, by William S. Burroughs. That was a really heavy book that had come out in about 1970, and it was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become. They were both powerful pieces of work, especially the marauding boy gangs of Burrough’s Wild Boys with their bowie knives. I got straight on to that. I read everything into everything. Everything had to be infinitely symbolic.” David Sinclair, “Station to Station,” Rolling Stone June 10, 1993, here. When Bowie met Burroughs in 1974, at Rolling Stone’s behest, he claimed “No, I didn’t know that was their weapon. The name Bowie just appealed to me when I was younger. I was into a kind of heavy philosophy thing when I was 16 years old, and I wanted a truism about cutting through the lies and all that.” I suppose at some point Burroughs must have pointed out to the former David Jones that actually it’s “boo-ie” not “bow-ie.” “Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman” Rolling Stone, February 28, 1974, here.
14. “Zimbu Xototl Time” by Phil Hine (2000), here.
How old are you O’Meara, why do you find these people worth writing about?
The whole Beatnick, drug addict , pedophile, twisted Amerikan view of life….isn’t Art, or another way of enlightened being.
If you lived through the late 50’s, and really came of age in the 60’s, and suffered through the ‘Rock God’ 70’s, you’d know it was all bullshit, self promotion and Jewish entrepreneurship!
(ie. Bill Graham,born Wolodia Grajonca in Berlin)
Our societies are plagued by this hangover, due to people like this taking control of the youth culture and twisting it for ever buck, and every young thing they could get their greasy hands on!
Here’s another ‘Mover and Shaker’ to look up on Wikipedia, this guy is the evil Wizard behind the curtain.
We’re left with all these tired old tunes, and yet another ‘Ground breaking’ Bio on one of these creeps, and yet another ‘World Tour’ by Bob Dylan…or spare me, Paul McCartney, while the greasy set gather in the shekels!
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
Wild Boys? Mannerbund? These images and ideas are a poor fit here since there are girls around. Don’t they just ruin everything? As Herbert Spencer said, Ugliness is an awkward fact that ruins a beautiful theory. And to top it off, John is straight and hooks up with Lo at the end. And he has experimented with Stephen so no Gay Theorist can accuse of him of making a choice in ignorance. On the other hand, perhaps the women of Homo Superior aren’t the drag that most of the ones of Homo Sapiens are. So in that sense, the metaphor may hold.
I rather think John illustrates Neill’s point, that humans are “ambisexual” and the Mannerbund is most broadly an adolescent affair, with most boys going on to found families. Thus the homophobic Right’s cries of “birth rate!” are pointless. See my review of Bradley’s Behind to Veil of Vice for a description of real Arab societies which manifest the same, natural, pattern in the absence of Victorian or modernist interference.
Funny and totally OT, but I’ve been reading the autobiography of John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran. He writes that the band’s 1984 single ‘Wild Boys’ was originally intended for a feature film of Burroughs’ book that was never made.
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