Below is the brief interview with William S. Burroughs I published in the May-June 1981 issue of Newcomers magazine.
The issue I gave him had an article about the Orgone Motor, which sounded a lot like a radiometer since it supposedly worked off of free atmospheric energy (“orgone” energy, or biological energy – the centerpiece of Reich’s later work).
The Orgone Energy Bulletin was a hard thing to get in those days, although now of course it’s all online.
I had obtained my photocopies through interlibrary loan from the Library of Congress by requesting them from the Antioch College Library (where I went to college and organized an independent study on Reich).
Anyway, I went up to Burroughs after his reading (he was in Chicago promoting “Cities of the Red Night“) and knowing of his interest in Orgone energy gave him one of the photocopies in return for a promise to respond to a brief set of interview questions for my magazine.
Unfortunately, the Orgone Energy Bulletin did not disclose the critical “factor Y” that made the Orgone motor actually work (and give free energy to the world). We were supposed to find out when Reich’s lab at Orono Maine was unsealed in 2007, 50 years after his death. But I don’t think we did.
I sent the questions off and the answers arrived a few days later, all typed on a single sheet of paper. Burroughs was living in Kansas City at the time. In the magazine I also reported on his book signing appearance at Barbara’s and his reading at Tuts, and reviewed Cities of the Red Night. I will post those articles another time.
So here, in honor of William S. Burroughs’s 100th birthday, is the brief interview:
1. What do you say when someone asks you, “What is Cities of the Red Night about”?
It’s about a remake of history and a second chance. Sooner or later for every species time runs out. Mutate or die. This is not a religious or moral but a biologic imperative. The human species is not designed to remain in its present state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.
2. What did you think about coming to Chicago on a publicity tour like a normal author?
I felt normal. All my reading tours have been publicity tours and I have given more than a hundred readings in the past six years. One thing authors have in common: they are in the business of writing and selling books.
3. What has been the reaction so far to Cities of the Red Night?
Critical reaction has been mixed, two good reviews to one bad. Word of mouth has been unanimously enthusiastic and positive.
4. Why is there no mention of the word love in Cities of the Red Night, though there is ample opportunity for it?
The word love has been so vulgarized and loaded with sentimental connotations that I prefer not to use it. In this book the characters are working for a common end which they take for granted. Many of them experience the mixture of liking and sexual attraction that is as close as I can come to a definition of love. It is not necessary to state the obvious.