It's been a great shame of The Observer's life that we've never taken much to the work of novelist, short storyist, junkie, poet, chemical astronaut, painter and essayist William S. Burroughs. The Beats, in general, have long flummoxed Yours Truly, even though their art is a veritable three-ring circus of linguistic acrobatics, which we normally love.
Burroughs, who died in 1997, would have been 101 this week. We recently caught a BBC audio documentary about Burroughs and learned much about the great man, including his use of what he called "Cut Ups" — in which he'd take stories from the newspaper, whack them to bits with scissors, then stir them around until they approximated poetry.
Thanks to the Internet, you don't even need a pair of scissors anymore. There are Cut Up Generators all over cyberspace (do people still say "cyberspace"?) and The Observer has spent hours plugging things in — the Gettysburg Address, a recipe for chicken soup, directions from Little Rock to Jackson, Miss. Throw some brief editing and punctuation at the results, and it makes for serviceable Beat Poetry if you squint.
So, a demonstration is in order. Below is the Cut Up version (with The Observer's edits and punctuation) of a blog post by Arkansas Times Senior Editor Max Brantley on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's comparing being gay to drinking and cussing during a recent public appearance. Great verse it ain't, but it's got that something you can put your finger on while high on mescaline. Happy Birthday, Mr. Burroughs.
His GOP slot.
How can he want publicity?
Later a Slate, similes shut to it:
The slap, the true offensive, long and base.
ALSO: Stassen (possibly Mike Stassen).
His silly past, his keeper, the caucus.
Anti-gay, awful Huck, liking foreheads to excuse.
Huckabee's doing, serving accounts,
an Iowa same-sex wedding over drink abuse.
Really: Dana, or disapproval?
A baker of morning, got in trade?
Huckabee, Sunday, offended.
"I don't like asking again,"
Today, the wedding has been dirty to him:
"I prevent religious homosexuality!"
subject Huckabee has cursed, Huck long offended.
Could everything be orientation?
Liking the disapproval of law, Huckabee approved.
Arkansas has become his point, his Carolina
Friends, past nonsense, legal alcohol, bad gays,
Silly, flawed, discriminate and overestimate.
Carry life, serve reasoning!
Ballet dirty and know that shrimp!
Christian: out, up!
Defend that Cornpone past!
The Internet, not Beyonce's marriage,
dogs Huckabee's publicity.
GOP clicks added, coddling hotel voters.
His back to logic.