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Queen Elizabeth II by Dorothy Wilding (1952)

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Brighton

(The Manchester Guardian, 3 March 1956)

The president of Scarborough Hotels Association, Mr. Harry Lund, is annoyed with people who praise foreign holidays at the expense of holidays at home, and he is also annoyed with the Government. At the association’s annual meeting last night he said:

“We appear to have two implacable enemies – the garlic and olive oil gang of the press and radio, and the Government. By the garlic and olive oil gang I mean those writers, usually women, who happily accept on the Continent the sort of carpetless room with iron bedstead, flock mattress and early Victorian which they would raise all hell about over here. Imagine what they would say if instead of bacon and eggs and the incomparable meats and vegetables of England we were to give them starch-loaded Continental breakfasts and main meals consisting of dollops of spaghetti with a little tomato sauce. If they are willing to put up with that sort of thing over there it’s their own look-out. What we do object to is that they should then be given good space in journals and valuable time on the air in which to drool about how much better and cheaper foreign holidays are than our own.”

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(The Grauniad, 28 November 1954)

Sir Ben Lockspeiser, addressing the Office Appliance and Business Equipment Trades Association in London yesterday, described some of the electronic devices now being used to perform elaborate clerical tasks in some of the larger business organisations. He suggested that the wider use of such devices could reduce the much-criticised disparity between office staffs and producers, and that their social and economic consequences in the business world might be as revolutionary as those which followed the invention of the typewriter and the consequent general employment of women in offices.

As an example, Sir Ben Lockspeiser said that some airlines now dealt with bookings automatically with the help of an electronic device whose “memory” consisted of a rapidly rotating magnetic drum on which all the relevant information was recorded in code. By calling up the computer the booking clerk in any office could tell an intending passenger in a matter of seconds whether or not there was a seat available for him on any particular aeroplane.

Sir Ben emphasised that electronic brains such as these had a doubly important role to play in modern business, but a notable obstacle to their wider use had hitherto been their expense and great size. A fully automatic general purpose electronic computer might contain as many as five thousand valves and require special ventilation to dissipate the heat generated. The germanium transistor, however, which had now emerged from the laboratory as a reliable commercial product, might change all this. It performed many of the functions of the radio valve, but was very much smaller and did away with filament heating.

Speaking of the vexatious problem of whether these elaborate electronic brains could really “think”, Sir Ben said that it was necessary to distinguish between routine thought – which a machine could often perform much more quickly and more reliably than the human brain – and creative thought, which lay outside the province of the machine.

(The Observer, 22 November 1964)

Irving Wardle defends William Burroughs’s hallucinatory 1959 novel and his divisive style of writing:

Opinion is already split so many ways over The Naked Lunch that it is worth stating William Burroughs’s claim to attention in fairly uncontroversial terms before reopening the argument.

First, after 15 years of drug addiction, he knows what he’s talking about; on the reporting level, his work has the authority of a war correspondent who has both lived in danger and done his homework.

Second, Burroughs is a real writer, a man with an instinct and respect for language, and whose energy finds a natural outlet in language. He can write good orthodox narrative when he wants to: no charlatan could have turned out the autobiographical Junkie. And even the notorious “cut-up” method that he practises today, shuffling the contents of the book like a pack of cards, leaves his narrative imagination intact. A naked man is trapped in an upstairs room with three murderous Arabs: “Pieces of murder falling slowly as opal chips through glycerine… Slower animal reactions allow him a full second to decide: straight through the window and down into the crowded street like a falling star and his wake of glass glittering in the sun… sustained a broken ankle and a chipped shoulder… clad in a diaphanous pink curtain, with a curtain-rod staff, hobbled away to the Commissariat de Police.”

Here Burroughs is applying the mandarin principle of leaving out whatever he finds boring. With writers such as Kerouac this yields floods of invertebrate telegraphese; but whatever The Naked Lunch may be, it is not spineless. Ugly as they are, its hallucinatory set-pieces are executed with obvious care, and its kaleidoscope fragments are as precise as sick cartoon captions (“With veins like that, Kid, I’d have myself a time,” whispers an old addict, fingering a boy’s arm). The cut-up method itself, with its swerving non sequiturs and incoherent sprays of dots, seems intended as a literary equivalent to those serialist compositions that allow the musicians to start and stop anywhere they like.

The key word in Burroughs’s own discussions of it is “intersection”, a term implying a good deal more than the interlocking of verbal material. Intersection points also represent transitions from one state of consciousness to another – like Pirandello’s changes between illusion and reality. In Burroughs, the change is from “junk time” to normal time, and he is aware that the moment of change is far more exciting than anything that happens once this change is established. But the final justification of the method is the material itself – a sequence of nightmare visions of a world in mutation, where genetic and social laws have broken down, and familiar outlines are melting away or merging together, like the cells of the book, in cancerous proliferation.

“I do not presume to impose ‘story’ ‘plot’ ‘continuity’,” Burroughs has said. “I am not an entertainer.” He is.

Couples attached to Baroque harnesses with artificial wings copulate in the air, screaming like magpies.
Aerialists ejaculate each other in space with one sure touch.
Equilibrists suck each other off deftly, balanced on perilous poles and chairs tilted over the void. A warm wind brings the smell of rivers and jungle from misty depths.
Boys by the hundred plummet through the roof, quivering and kicking at the end of ropes. The boys hang at different levels, some near the ceiling and others a few inches off the floor.
Sharp protein odor of semen fills the air. The guests run hands over twitching boys, suck their cocks, hang on their backs like vampires.
A horde of lust-mad American women rush in. Dripping cunts, from farm and dude ranch, factory, brothel, country club, penthouse and suburb, motel and yacht and cocktail bar, strip off riding clothes, ski togs, evening dresses, levis, tea gowns, print dresses, slacks, bathing suits and kimonos. They scream and yipe and howl, leap on the guests like bitch dogs in heat with rabies. They claw at the hanged boys shrieking: “You fairy! You bastard! Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!”

(William S. Burroughs, The Naked Lunch)

Toscanini is excessively short-sighted. To see him peering at a score, held so that it nearly touches his nose, is to begin to understand how his memory holds fast its multitude of details. Evidently to read thus laboriously is in a measure to memorize. It is sometimes painful to see him search for a rehearsal letter in a score or for some other point that has eluded him. He rehearses everything from memory, merely referring to the score for rehearsal numbers or for confirmatoin of a detail, over which he is right 99 times in 100. Occasionally he brings his own orchestral parts – not all very good, and some too bad to be used. None meticulously marked as, for instance, are Mengelberg’s.

(Bernard Shore, The Orchestra Speaks)

Kontra-punkte, one of Stockhausen’s less crazy compositions, dates from 1953, the golden age of total serialism.

The abstract painting is by Eva Ryn Johannissen.

Can the highest paid footballers in the world beat Slovenia?

When you pay someone millions of pounds, they perform better than anyone else, right?

That is fuck you economics, and that is why the UK is fucked.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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