V Vale and Mindaugis Bagdon in conversation with Peter Maravelis
City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, Thursday, October 25, 2018, 7:00 p.m.
William S. Burroughs'
"The Revised Boy Scout Manual" An Electronic Revolution
Edited by Geoffrey D. Smith and John M. Bennett
with an afterward by V. Vale
published by Ohio State University Press
Before the era of fake news and anti-fascists, William S. Burroughs wrote about preparing for revolution and confronting institutionalized power. In this work, Burroughs' parody becomes a set of rationales and instructions for destabilizing the state and overthrowing an oppressive and corrupt government. As with much of Burroughs' work, it is hard to say if it is serious or purely satire. The work is funny, horrifying, and eerily prescient, especially concerning the use of language and social media to undermine institutions.
The Revised Boy Scout Manual was a work Burroughs revisited many times, but which has never before been published in its complete form. Based primarily on recordings of a performance of the complete piece found in the archives at the OSU libraries, as well as various incomplete versions of the typescript found at Arizona State University and the New York Public Library archives, this lost masterpiece of satiric subversion is finally available in its entirety.
William S. Burroughs was a primary figure of the Beat Generation who wrote in the postmodern paranoid fiction genre. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift," while Norman Mailer declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius." While he is best known for the novels Naked Lunch, Queer, and Junkie, he also collaborated with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Gus Van Sant, David Cronenberg, and Sonic Youth to produce films, music, and performance pieces.
V. Vale is a counterculture writer and publisher and the sole proprietor/founder of RE/Search Publications. He published part of Burroughs' "The Revised Boy Scout Manual" in 1982 in RE/Search #4/5: William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Throbbing Gristle.
Mindaugis Bagdon is a cinematographer, film historian, and creator of the seminal film on the first generation of the San Francisco punk scene titled LOUDER, FASTER, SHORTER. He was an acquaintance of William S. Burroughs.
Peter Maravelis is the events director at City Lights Bookstore and a life-long reader of the works of William S. Burroughs.
What has been said of the work of William S. Burroughs:
"A carefully annotated, definitive edition of a long-lost William S. Burroughs work, The Revised Boy Scout Manual is a scathingly humorous, often uncannily prescient guide to revolution."—Foreword
"It's all there all the time with Burroughs."—Marc Maron
“He's up there with the pope . . . you can’t revere him enough . . . he’s the greatest mind of our times.”— Patti Smith
“The most important writer to emerge since the Second World War.”—J.G. Ballard
“Well, he’s a writer.”—Samuel Beckett
“The Revised Boy Scout Manual offers easy-to-read proof that the uncensored human imagination allowed to freely extrapolate about future social change can offer outrageous scenarios and fresh language capable of inspiring readers decades into the future.”—V. Vale, founder and publisher of RE/Search
“Here we have Bill Burroughs’ voice coming through loud and clear, like a conversation after his first large whiskey, London c1972. His preoccupations at the time: weaponry, viruses, tape recorder cut-ups, Scientology techniques, the Mayan calendar and Korzybski’s General Semantics are utilized as means to deal with 'the shits.’ Never has a text been more apposite. As usual his ideas are developed into hilarious routines but at heart he is deadly serious: 'I mean every word I say.’ It is wonderful to see this legendary text in print at last.”—Barry Miles, author of Call Me Burroughs; The Beat Hotel, Ginsberg Burroughs and Corso in Paris 1957-1963; William Burroughs, El Hombre Invisible