life of the artist and what the artist needs in life

i read the first enderby novel, “inside mr. enderby”, by william s burroughs, acquired from ye ol’ local library.

a tale of the artist, and what the artist needs, and the development of the artist. i’m down with burroughs and much of what he suggests if i’m reading it about right, is that a sensitive soul, a poet of grand worth and institution, is lost somewhere inside his own head, and somewhere inside what other people expect of him. posterity arrives early on in the form of time travelers, who do not wake the sleeping son of a bitch. if not for the cue that this poet was indeed a great man, he’d seem like the emotionally stunted lunatic the world around him. even the future imposes upon the man, when the teacher leading his students to this alter of greatness invite the students to celebrate the dyspeptic emissions and kiss the unclean knuckle of the sleeping man. no saint of art, he is a psychotic in need of therapy, not aggrandizement. in poor health, and poorer mental state, he huddles into his lavatory and creates poetry as if defecating the waste and illness of his broken soul into sound. some of these poems, decided to be not masterpieces, are flushed like toilet paper down the loo.

the story of enderby, then, is the story of the man being healed of the wounds that bleed, by the society that adores the poetry. he is offered, first, the acclaim of the academy through an award. he is quick to flush that right down the toilet in his own way, and abandon the academy for good. he is then offered the love and adoration of a beautiful, desirable woman. this, too, is flushed away when the real needs of the woman, a honeymoon in rome, a fine life, and the healing of souls done by the church are abandoned. the final opportunity of healing, at last, comes in the form of destruction, but i will not tell you exactly how.

a comic novel, full of profane and grandiose figures that overshadow enderby with their own emotions and forceful personalities, enderby is the put-upon matyr of all the ills and agonies of the world around him. he stoically shoulders the pain and casual violence and love and guilt and shame of a confused nation, all who know nothing of poetry and nothing of the man, except that enderby must be a great poet, a very great poet indeed.

even the time-travelers are not so all-knowing in the arts, as they also visit a major literary figure who is in all the anthologies, and who is an utter, complete failure. his poem is stale, and his fame is a product more of personal aggrandizement and marketing than actual talent.

enderby, the man at the center of all that madness and confusion, has only one way out.

funny, witty, and bleak bleak bleak. william s. burroughs has done much more than feed the hollywood movie machine.

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