Edited by the musician and poet Steven Taylor, this conversation between the two Beat icons was prompted by the London Observer assigning Ginsberg to interview Burroughs before the release of the David Cronenberg film of Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch. Released here in full for the first time, the days-long discussion coincided with the shamanic exorcism of the demon Burroughs believed caused him to fatally shoot his common law wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951.
Randomly open a page, and the reader will discover Burroughs and Ginsberg riffing and meditating seamlessly, endlessly, without segues—creating a dialogue that spiderwebs into myriad threads, roaming wildly into a forest of topics ranging from the power of buffalo skulls and the spiritual properties of peyote to preferred methods of soup preparation and the best way to eat a grapefruit. There's rarely a dull moment at the Burroughs house. For aficionados of these two literary lights and the Beat movement in general, this is an illuminating artifact and essential addition to the collection.
This is a conversation, but it is more than two men on a speed-rap jag. The temptation for the reader is to go beyond the conversation or to read into it what is not there. The rewards, however, are rich if you stay home and listen to what they are saying. Everything they know is poignant and accessible, and they are afraid of nothing. If you listen, you hear a deep discussion of sin ... As you read this conversation, it’s important to set aside expectations and to accept the transcript for what it is—a conversation, but a conversation loaded with details, ideas, analyses, and a profound understanding of a moment in American literary history and the people who lived it.
You wouldn’t think that a book made up of barely planned conversation by not just its principals but anybody else who commented at all relevantly and within mic range would be anything other than a trial to read. And maybe you have to be interested in or knowledgeable about the main participants—the two longest-lived stars of the Beat Generation—to really dig it. But if you are, you very probably will ... For Beat aficionados, the book will resemble a light, pungent dessert.