The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … William Burroughs The Wild Boys (1969)



‘William S. Burroughs’ 1969 novel The Wild Boys introduces several themes into the author’s magical universe: the struggle to escape the mechanisms of social control; the search for transcendence of the biological trap of duality, and the narrator’s ability to rewrite (and thereby destroy) his own past. The Wild Boys, subtitled A book of the dead has been described by some critics as a homosexual version of Peter Pan. Set in an apocalyptic near-future, The Wild Boys contrasts the struggle between the remnants of civilisation which exist in totalitarian enclaves and the wild boys – a revolutionary tribe of youths who exist in a utopian, instinctual state. The wild boys exist outside of the conventions of civilisation, free from the control mechanisms of religion, nation, family and ‘normal’ sexuality. A magical universe, where rigorous training in guerrilla tactics leads towards specialised biological mutations; where the total gratification of desire creates a magical technology of liberation.

‘The wild boys themselves live as a tribe – without leaders or hierarchy but with a shared group consciousness. Rather than being individual characters, they are a manifestation of all that is repressed in civilised society, in particular, the forces we know as Eros and Thanatos. In the novel, the wild boys periodically explode into orgies of wild, unstoppable violence or lust. Through the use of drugs and sex, the wild boys discover a magical technology of restoring the dead to life, and so free themselves from biological dependence on women, birth, and death. Lacking an individual sense of self, they can cross to and from the land of the dead and exist in a liminal state between the worlds. They are, within Burroughs’ magical universe, a male-only version of the maenads, representing the chaotic power of instinctual desire when manifested in a living form. Also, they can be likened to the ancient Greek Pan, manifesting as the call to the wild, which reaches out to the susceptible. In The Wild Boys, the image of a smiling wild boy becomes a hugely popular media icon which spreads the wild-boy virus across civilisation, causing more and more youths to join the wild boys.

‘The wild boys are a utopian (perhaps dystopian) fantasy, but that is the whole point. As an articulation of Burroughs’ need to escape the confines of modern culture, he has created a beachhead into an alternative dream. The wild boys present not only a homoerotic fantasy of immediate sexual gratification, but also the potentiality to be a space where new forms of ‘otherness’ might develop.

‘The wild boys also embody trends in modern culture that many find uncomfortable; in particular, the idea of youths escaping from social control and literally ‘running riot’, and anonymous sexuality. Anyone who has participated in the anonymous sex which takes place in the interstitial zones of cities – parks, alleyways, truck-stops, docklands, restrooms, etc., will recognise the group consciousness of the wild boys, where words are unnecessary and communication is based on eye contact, touch, smell; where desire is communal rather than private. Instincts and impulses are uncluttered by personalities. For Burroughs, the wild boys fucking in the ruins of civilisation, represent a return to a primal state of being, what is referred to in Tantra as Sahaja – spontaneity – the ‘natural’ state of a human being who has achieved liberation from artificial limitations.’ — Phil Hine






WSB’s photo/scrapbook for ‘The Wild Boys’
A graphic adaptation of ‘The Wild Boys’
The 1971 New York Times review of ‘TWB’
Blake Butler ‘Fuck Now talk later: Revisiting ‘TWB’ @ HTMLGIANT
‘Looking for the Wild Boys’
‘Wild Girls: Kathy Acker rewrites Burroughs’
Mp3: Colin Bright’s musical adaptation of ‘TWB’
About the aborted WSB/S. Clay Wilson ‘TWB’ collaboration
Mp3: WSB reads from ‘TWB’ and other works
‘William S. Burroughs – 20th Century Gnostic Visionary’
The Wild Boys Message Board



Rare footage of William Burroughs talking about’The Wild Boys’

WSB reading from ‘TWB’ 1

WSB reading from ‘TWB’ 2

William S. Burroughs ‘Commissioner of Sewers’

Colin Bright ‘The Wild Boys’


William Burroughs’ Abstracts

‘The Abstracts of 1969 are a series of writing experiments which William Burroughs developed in the writing of his novel The Wild Boys. He published these Abstracts that year in small-press journals and underground newspapers, his usual testing ground in the 1960s. Their unusual format of careful juxtaposition is already familiar to anyone who has read The Wild Boys. Added to the five “Abstracts” found in The Wild Boys (actually six Penny Arcade Peep Shows / Abstracts, if you include the reprint of an Abstract first published in the journal Intrepid), the number of published individual Abstracts comes to twelve.’ — The Reality Studio







from The Review of Contemporary Fiction


Philippe Mikriammos: Most of your books definitely have a cinematographic touch. The Last Words of Dutch Schultz actually is a film script, and The Wild Boys and Exterminator! are full of cinematographic details and indications

William Burroughs: That’s true, yes.

PM: Why haven’t we seen any film made from one of your books?

WB: Well, we’ve tried to get financing on the Dutch Schultz script, but so far it hasn’t developed. Very, very hard to get people to put up money for a film.

PM: What films have you liked recently?

WB: I like them when I go, when I see them, but it’s rather hard to get myself out to see a film. I haven’t seen many films lately. I saw A Clockwork Orange; I thought it was competent and fun, well done, though I don’t think I could bear to see it again.

PM: Do you write every day?

WB: I used to. I haven’t been doing anything lately because I gave a course in New York, and that took up all my time; then I was moving into a new flat there, so that during the last five months, I haven’t really been doing much writing.

PM: When you write, how long is it each day?

WB: Well, I used to write… it depends … up to three, four hours, sometimes more, depending on how it’s going.

PM: What is the proportion of cut-up in your recent books, The Wild Boys and Exterminator!?

WB: Small. Small. Not more than five percent, if that.

PM: Parts of Exterminator! look like poems. How do you react to the words poem, poetry, poet?

WB: Well, as soon as you get away from actual poetic forms, rhyme, meter, etc., there is no line between prose and poetry. From my way of thinking, many poets are simply lazy prose writers. I can take a page of descriptive prose and break it into lines, as I’ve done in Exterminator!, and then you’ve got a poem. Call it a poem.

PM: Memory and remembrances of your youth tend to have a larger and larger place in your recent books.

WB: Yes, yes. True.

PM: How do you explain it?

WB: Well, after all, youthful memories I think are one of the main literary sources. And while in Junky, and to a lesser extent in Naked Lunch, I was dealing with more or less recent experiences, I’ve been going back more and more to experiences of childhood and adolescence.

PM: Parts of Exterminator! sound like The Wild Boys continued. We find again Audrey Carson, and other things. Did you conceive it that way, as a continuation of Wild Boys, or is it just a matter of recurrent themes?

WB: Any book that I write, there will be probably…say if I have a book of approximately two hundred pages…you can assume that there were six hundred. So, there’s always an overflow into the next book. In other words, my selection of materials is often rather arbitrary. Sometimes things that should have gone in, didn’t go in, and sometimes what was selected for publication is not as good as what was left out. In a sense, it’s all one book. All my books are all one book. So that was overflow; some of it was overflow material from The Wild Boys, what didn’t go into The Wild Boys for one reason or another. There are sections of course in The Wild Boys that should have gone into Exterminator!, like the first section, which doesn’t belong with the rest of the book at all; it would have been much better in Exterminator!, the Tio Mate section. There’s no relation really between that and the rest of the book.

PM: There was the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and then The Wild Boys, subtitled “A Book of the Dead.” Am I stupid in seeing a connection between them.

WB: Oh no, the connection I think is very clear: everyone in the book is dead. Remember that Audrey is killed in the beginning of the book, in an auto accident.

PM: Did you inspire yourself from the old books of the Dead?

WB: To some extent, yes. I’ve read them both; not all of the Egyptian one, my God, or all of the Tibetan one, but I looked through them. In other words, the same concepts are there between birth and death, or between death and birth.

PM: You have kept an unchanged point of view about the origins of humanity’s troubles. In The Naked Lunch you wrote: “The Evil is waiting out there, in the land. Larval entities waiting for a live one,” and in Exterminator!, “The white settlers contracted a virus,” and this virus is the word. But who put the word there in the first place?

WB: Well, the whole white race, which has proved to be a perfect curse on the planet, have been largely conditioned by their cave experience, by their living in caves. And they may actually have contracted some form of virus there, which has made them what they’ve been, a real menace to life on the planet.



William Burroughs The Wild Boys
Grove Press

‘In this funny, nightmarish masterpiece of imaginative excess, grotesque characters engage in acts of violent one-upmanship, boundless riches mangle a corner of Africa into a Bacchanalian utopia, and technology, flesh and violence fuse with and undo each other. A fragmentary, freewheeling novel, it sees wild boys engage in vigorous, ritualistic sex and drug taking, as well as pranksterish guerrilla warfare and open combat with a confused and outmatched army. The Wild Boys shows why Burroughs is a writer unlike any other, able to make captivating the explicit and horrific.’ — Penguin



The camera is the eye of a cruising vulture flying over an area of scrub, rubble and unfinished buildings on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Five-story building no walls no stairs … squatters have set up makeshift houses … floors are connected by ladders … dogs bark, chickens cackle, a boy on the roof makes a jack-off gesture as the camera sails past.

Close to the ground we see the shadow of our wings, dry cellars choked with thistles, rusty iron rods sprouting like metal plants from cracked concrete, a broken bottle in the sun, shit-stained color comics, an Indian boy against a wall with his knees up eating an orange sprinkled with red pepper.

The camera zooms up past a red-brick tenement studded with balconies where bright pimp shirts flutter purple, yellow, pink, like the banners of a medieval fortress. On these balconies we glimpse flowers, dogs, cats, chickens, a tethered goat, a monkey, an iguana. The vecinos lean over the balconies to exchange gossip, cooking oil, kerosene and sugar. It is an old folklore set played out year after year by substitute extras.

Camera sweeps to the top of the building where two balconies are outlined against the sky. The balconies are not exactly one over the other since the top balcony recedes a little. Here the camera stops … ON SET.

It is a bright windy morning China-blue half-moon in the sky. Joselito, the maricón son of Tía Dolores, has propped up a mirror by the rain barrel and is shaving the long silky black hairs from his chest in the morning wind while he sings “NO PEGAN A MIO.” (“DON’T HIT ME”)

It is an intolerable sound that sets spoons tinkling in saucers and windowpanes vibrating. The vecinos mutter sullenly.

“Es el puto que canta.” (“It is the queer who sings.”) “The son of Dolores.” She crosses herself.

A young man rolls off his wife despondently.

“No puedo con eso puto cantando.” (“I can’t do it with that queer singing.”)

“The son of Dolores. She has the evil eye.”

In each room the face of Joselito singing “NO PEGAN A MIO” is projected onto the wall.

Shot shows an old paralyzed man and Joselito’s face inches from his screaming “NO PEGAN A MIO.”

“Remember that he is the son of Dolores.”

“And one of Lola’s ‘Little Kittens.’”

Tía Dolores is an old woman who runs a newspaper-and-tobacco kiosk. Clearly Joselito is her professional son.

On the top balcony is Esperanza just down from the mountains since her husband and all her brothers are in prison for growing opium poppies. She is a massive woman with arms like a wrestler and a permanent bucktoothed snarl. She leans over the balcony wall.

“Puto grosero, tus chingoa de pelos nos soplan en la cocina.
(“Vulgar queer, your fucking hairs are blowing into our food.”)

Shot shows hairs sprinkling soup and dusting an omelet like fine herbs.

The epithet “grosero” is too much for Joselito. He whirls cutting his chest. He clutches the wound with an expression of pathic dismay like a dying saint in an El Greco painting. He gasps “MAMACITA” and folds to the red tiles of the balcony dripping blood.

This brings Tía Dolores from her lair under the stairs, a rat’s nest of old newspapers and magazines. Her evil eyes rotate in a complex calendar, and these calculations occupy her for many hours each night settled in her nest she puffs and chirps and twitters and writes in notebooks that are stacked around her bed with magazines on astrology … “Tomorrow my noon eye will be at its full.” … This table of her power is so precise that she has to know the day hour minute and second to be sure of an ascendant eye and to this end she carries about with her an assortment of clocks, watches and sundials on thongs and chains. She can make her two eyes do different things, one spinning clockwise the other counterclockwise or she can pop one eye out onto her cheek laced with angry red veins while the other sinks back into an enigmatic grey slit. Latterly she has set up a schedule of “ojos dukes” (“sweet eyes”) and gained some renown as a healer though Tío Mate says he would rather have ten of her evils than one of her sweets. But he is a bitter old man who lives in the past.

Dolores is a formidable war machine rather like a gun turret, dependent on split-second timing and the reflector disk of her kiosk, she is not well designed for surprise encounters.

Enter the American tourist. He thinks of himself as a good guy but when he looks in the mirror to shave this good guy he has to admit that “well, other people are different from me and I don’t really like them.” This makes him feel guilty toward other people. Tía Dolores hunches her cloak of malice closer and regards him with stony disapproval.

“Buenas días señorita.”

“Desea algo?”

“Sí … Tribune . . Tribune Americano…”

Silently pursing her lips she folds the Herald Tribune and hands it to him. Trying not to watch what the woman is doing with her eyes, he fumbles for change. Suddenly his hand jumps out of the pocket scattering coins on the pavement. He stoops to pick them up.

A child hands him a coin.

“Gracias … Gracias.”

The child looks at him with cold hatred. He stands there with the coins in his hand.

“Es cuanto?”

“Setenta centavos.”

He hands her a peso. She drops it into a drawer and pushes the change at him.

“Gracias … Gracias …”

She stares at him icily. He stumbles away. Halfway down the block he screams out


He begins to shadowbox and point pistols. People stop and stare.

Children scream after him.

“Son bitch Merican crazy man.”

A policeman aproaches jerkily.

“Señor oiga …”


He lashes out wildly in a red haze blood cold on his shirt.

Enter a pregnant woman. She orders the Spanish edition of Life. Looking straight at the woman’s stomach, Dolores’ eyes glaze over and roll back in her head.

“Nacido muerto” (“Born dead”) whispers Tío Pepe who has sidled up beside the woman.

On “sweet eye” days she changes her kiosk to a flower stall and sits there beaming the sweetest old flower lady of them all.

Enter the American tourist his face bandaged his arm in a sling.

“Ah! the American caballero wishes the Tribune. Today I sell flowers but this paper I have kept for you.”

Her eyes crease in a smile that suffuses her face with gentle light.

“Aquí señor, muchas gracias.”

The paper smells faintly of roses. The coins leap into his hand.

Giving him the change she presses a coin into his palm and folds his fingers over it.

“This will bring you luck señor.”

He walks down the street smiling at children who smile back … “I guess that’s what we come here for … these children … that old flower lady back there

Enter the woman whose male child was born dead. She has come to buy a flower for his grave. Tía Dolores shakes her head sadly.

“Pobrecito.” (“Poor little one.”)

The woman proffers a coin. Tía Dolores holds up her hands.

“No señora … Es de mío …”

However, her timing schedule necessitates a constant shift of props and character … “My sweet eye wanes with the moon” … That day the tourist reached his hotel in a state of collapse for a terrible street boy followed him from the kiosk screaming

“Son bitch puto queer, I catching one clap from fucky you asshole.”

Sometimes half her booth is a kiosk and the other half a flower stall and she sits in the middle, her sweet eye on one side and her kiosk eye on the other. She can alternate sweet and evil twenty-four times a second her eyes jumping from one socket to the other.

Confident from her past victories, Tía Dolores waddles out onto the balcony like a fat old bird.

“Pobrecito” … She strokes Joselito’s head gathering her powers.

“Tell your maricón son to shave in the house.”

With a hasty glance at three watches, Dolores turns to face this uncouth peasant woman who dares to challenge her dreaded eye.

“Vieja loca, que haces con tu ojos?” sneers Esperanza.

“Tu te pondrás ciego como eso” (“Old crazy one, what are you doing with your eyes? You will blind yourself doing that.”

Dolores gasps out “TÍO PEPE” and sinks to the deck by her stricken son.

And Tío Pepe pops out tying his pants in front with a soggy length of grey rope. Under a travesty of good nature his soul is swept by raw winds of hate and mischance. He reads the newspapers carefully gloating over accidents, disasters and crime he thinks he is causing by his “sugestiónes.” His magic consists in whispering potent phrases from newspapers “ … there are no survivors … condemned to death … fire of unknown origins … charred bodies … This he does in crowds where people are distracted or better, much better right into the ear of someone who is sleeping or unconscious from drink. If no one is around and he is sure of his flop he reinforces his “sugestiónes” by thumping him in the testicles, grinding a knuckle into his eye or clapping cupped hands over his ears.

Here is a man asleep on a park bench. Tío Pepe approaches. He sits down by the man and opens a paper. He leans over reading into the man’s ear, a thick slimy whisper.

“No hay supervivientes” The man stirs uneasily.

“Muerto en el acto” The man shakes his head and opens his eyes. He looks suspiciously at Tío Pepe who has both hands on the paper. He stands up and taps his pockets. He walks away.

And there is a youth sleeping in a little park. Tío Pepe drops a coin by the boy’s head. Bending down to pick up the coin he whispers … “un joven muerto” (“a dead youth.”)

Several times the vecinos shoo him away from a sleeper and he hops away like an old vulture showing his yellow teeth in a desperate grin. Now he has picked up the spoor of drunken vomit and there is the doll sprawled against a wall, his pants streaked with urine. Bending down as if to help the man up, Tío Pepe whispers in both ears again and again … “accidente horrible” … He stands up and shrieks in a high falsetto voice … “EMASCULADO EMASCULADO EMASCULADO” and kicks the man three times gently in the groin.

He finds an old drunken woman sleeping in a pile of rags and claps a hand over her mouth and nose whispering … “vieja borracha asfixiado.” (“old drunken woman asphyxiated.”)

Another drunk is sleeping in dangerous proximity to a brush fire.

Tío Pepe drops a burning cigarette butt into the man’s outstretched hand squatting down on his haunches he whispers slimily … “cuerpo carbonizado … cuerpo carbonizado … cuerpo carbonizado. …” He throws back his head and sings to the dry brush, the thistles the wind … “cuerpo carbonizado … cuerpo carbonizado … cuerpo carbonizado …”

He looks up at Esperanza with a horrible smile.

“Ah! the country cousin rises early.” While he croons a little tune.

“Resbalando sobre un pedazo de jabón Slipping on a piece of soap se precipito de un balcón.” fell over a balcony.

Esperanza swings her great arm in a contemptuous arc and wraps a wet towel around the balcony wall spattering Tío Pepe, Dolores and Joselito with dirty water. Sneering over her shoulder she turns to go inside.

The beaten team on the lower balcony lick their wounds and plot revenge.

“If I can but get her in front of my kiosk at 9:23 next Thursday …”

“If I could find her borracho …”

“And I will have her gunned down by pistoleros…”

This boast of Joselito is predicated on his peculiar relationship with Lola La Chata. Lola La Chata is a solid 300 pounds cut from the same mountain rock as Esperanza. She sells heroin to pimps and thieves and whores and keeps the papers between her massive dugs. Joselito had a junky boy friend who took him to meet Lola.

Joselito danced flamenco screeching like a peacock. Lola laughed and adopted him as one of her “Little Kittens.” In a solemn ceremony he had suckled at her great purple dug bitter with heroin. It was not uncommon for Lola to service customers with two “Little Kittens” sucking at her breasts.

As Esperanza turns to go inside six pimpish young men burst through the door in a reek of brilliantine and lean over the balcony screaming insults at Joselito.

This brings reinforcements to the faltering lower balcony. Tío Mate stalks out followed by his adolescent Ka El Mono.

Tío Mate is an old assassin with twelve deer on his gun. A thin ghostly old man with eyes the color of a faded grey flannel shirt. He wears a black suit and a black Stetson. Under the coat a single action Smith & Wesson tip up forty-four with a seven-inch barrel is strapped to his lean flank. Tío Mate wants to put another deer on his gun before he dies.

The expression a “deer” (un “venado”) derives from the mountainous districts of northern Mexico where the body is usually brought into the police post draped over a horse like a deer.

A young district attorney just up from the capital. Tío Mate has dropped by to give him a lesson in folklore.

Tío Mate (rolling a cigarette): “I’m going to send you a deer, señor abogado.”

The D.A. (he thinks “well now that’s nice of him”): “Well thank you very much, if it isn’t too much trouble …”

Tío Mate (lighting the cigarette and blowing out smoke): “No trouble at all señor abogado. It is my pleasure.”

Tío Mate blows smoke from the muzzle of his forty-four and smiles.

Man is brought in draped over a saddle. The horse is led by a woodenfaced Indian cop. The D.A. comes out. The cop jerks his head back … “un venado.”

Tío Mate had been the family pistolero of rich landowners in northern Mexico. The family was ruined by expropriations when they backed the wrong presidential candidate and Tío Mate came to live with relatives in the capital. His room is a bare, white cell, a cot, a trunk, a little wooden case in which he keeps his charts, sextant and compass. Every night he cleans and oils his forty-four. It is a beautiful custom-made gun given to him by the patrón for killing “my unfortunate brother the General.” It is nickel-plated and there are hunting scenes engraved on the cylinder and barrel. The handles are of white porcelain with two blue deer heads. There is nothing for Tío Mate to do except oil his gun and wait. The gun glints in his eyes a remote mineral calm. He sits for hours on the balcony with his charts and instruments spread out on a green felt card table. Only his eyes move as he traces vultures in the sky. Occasionally he draws a line on the chart or writes down numbers in a logbook. Every Independence Day the vecinos assemble to watch Tío Mate blast a vulture from the sky with his forty-four. Tío Mate consults his charts and picks a vulture. His head moves very slightly from side to side eyes on the distant target he draws aims and fires: a vulture trailing black feathers down the sky. So precise are Tío Mate’s calculations that one feather drifts down on to the balcony. This feather is brought to Tío Mate by El Mono his Feather Bearer. Tío Mate puts the feather in his hat band. There are fifteen black years in his band.

El Mono has been Tío Mate’s Feather Bearer for five years. He sits for hours on the balcony until their faces fuse. He has his own little charts and compass. He is learning to shoot a vulture from the sky. A thin agile boy of thirteen he climbs all over the building spying on the vecinos. He wears a little blue skullcap and when he takes it off the vecinos hurry to drop a coin in it. Otherwise he will act out a recent impotence, a difficult bowel movement, a cunt-licking with such precise mimicry that anyone can identify the party involved.

El Mono picks out a pimp with his eyes. He makes a motion of greasing a candle. The pimp licks his lips speechless with horror his eyes wild. Now El Mono is shoving the candle in and out his ass teeth bare eyes rolling he gasps out: “Sangre de Cristo…” The pimp impaled there for all to see. Joselito leaps up and stomps out a triumphant fandango. Awed by Tío Mate and fearful of a recent impotence, a difficult bowel movement, a cunt-licking, the pimps fall back in confusion.

Tío Paco now mans the upper balcony with his comrade in arms Fernández the drug clerk. Tío Paco has been a waiter for forty years. Very poor, very proud, contemptuous of tips, he cares only for the game. He brings the wrong order and blames the client, he flicks the nastiest towel, he shoves a tip back saying “The house pays us.” He screams after a client “Le service n’est-ce pas compris.” He has studied with Pullman George and learned the art of jiggling arms across the room: hot coffee in a quiet American crotch.

And woe to a waiter who crosses him: tray flies into the air. Rich well-dressed clients dodge cups and glasses, bottle of Fundador broken on the floor.

Fernández hates adolescents, pop stars, beatniks, tourists, queers, criminals, tramps, whores and drug addicts. Tío Paco hates their type too.

Fernández likes policemen, priests, army officers, rich people of good repute. Tío Paco likes them too. He serves them quickly and well. But their lives must be above reproach.

A newspaper scandal can mean long waits for service.

The client becomes impatient. He makes an angry gesture. A soda siphon crashes to the floor.

What they both love most of all is to inflict humiliation on a member of the hated classes, and to give information to the police.

Fernández throws a morphine script back across the counter.

“No prestamos servicio a los viciosos.” (“We do not serve dope fiends.”)

Tío Paco ignores a pop star and his common-law wife until the cold sour message seeps into their souls:

“We don’t want your type in here.”

Fernández holds a prescription in his hand. He is a plump man in his late thirties. Behind dark glasses his eyes are yellow and liverish. His low urgent voice on the phone.

“Receta narcótica falsificado.” (“A narcotic prescription forged.”)

“Your prescription will be ready in a minute señor.”

Tío Paco stops to wipe a table and whispers … “Marijuana in a suitcase … table by the door” … The cop pats his hand.

Neither Tío Paco nor Fernández will accept any reward for services rendered to their good friends the police.

When they first came to live on the top floor five years ago Tío Mate saw them once in the hall.

“Copper-loving bastards,” he said in his calm final voice.

He did not have occasion to look at them again. Anyone Tío Mate doesn’t like soon learns to stay out of Tío Mate’s space.

Fernández steps to the wall and his wife appears at his side. Her eyes are yellow her teeth are gold. Now his daughter appears. She has a mustache and hairy legs. Fernández looks down from a family portrait.

“Criminales. Maricónes. Vagabundos. I will denounce you to the police.”

Tío Paco gathers all the bitter old men in a blast of sour joyless hate. Joselito stops dancing and droops like a wilted flower. Tío Pepe and Dolores are lesser demons. They shrink back furtive and timorous as dawn rats. Tío Mate looks at a distant point beyond the old waiter tracing vultures in the sky. El Mono stands blank and cold. He will not imitate Fernández and Tío Paco.

And now Tía María, retired fat lady from a traveling carnival, comes out onto the lower balcony supporting her vast weight on two canes. Tía María eats candy and reads love stories all day and gives card readings the cards sticky and smudged with chocolate. She secretes a heavy sweetness. Sad and implacable it flows out of her like a foam runway. The vecinos fear her sweetness which they regard fatalistically as a natural hazard like earthquakes and volcanoes. “The Sugar of Mary” they call it. It could get loose one day and turn the city into a cake.

She looks up at Fernández and her sad brown eyes pelt him with chocolates. Tío Paco tries desperately to outflank her but she sprays him with maraschino cherries from her dugs and coats him in pink icing. Tío Paco is the little man on a wedding cake all made out of candy. She will eat him later.

Now Tío Gordo, the blind lottery-ticket seller, rolls his immense bulk out onto the upper balcony, his wheel chair a chariot, his snarling black dog at his side. The dog smells all the money Tío Gordo takes. A torn note brings an ominous growl, a counterfeit and it will break the man’s arm in its powerful jaws, brace its legs and hold him for the police. The dog leaps to the balcony wall and hooks its paws over barking, snarling, bristling, eyes phosphorescent. Tía María gasps and the sugar runs out of her. She is terrified of “rage dogs” as she calls them. The dog seems ready to leap down onto the lower balcony. Tío Mate plots the trajectory its body would take. He will kill it in the air.

Tío Pepe throws back his head and howls:

“Perro attropellado para un camión.” (“Dog run over by a truck.”)

The dog drags its broken hindquarters in a dusty noon street.

The dog slinks whimpering to Tío Gordo.

González the Agente wakes up muttering “Chingoa” the fumes of Mescal burning in his brain. Buttoning on his police tunic and forty-five he pushes roughly to the wall of the upper balcony.

González is a broken dishonored man. All the vecinos know he has much fear of Tío Mate and crosses the street to avoid him. El Mono has acted out both parts.

González looks down and there is Tío Mate waiting. The hairs stand up straight on González’s head.


He snatches out his forty-five and fires twice. The bullets whistle past Tío Mate’s head. Tío Mate smiles. In one smooth movement he draws aims and fires. The heavy slug catches González in his open mouth ranging up through the roof blows a large tuft of erect hairs out the back of González’s head. González folds across the balcony wall. The hairs go limp and hang down from his head. The balcony wall begins to sway like a horse. His forty-five drops to the lower balcony and goes off.

Shot breaks the camera. A frozen still of the two balconies tilted down at a forty-five-degree angle. González still draped over the wall sliding forward, the wheel chair halfway down the upper balcony, the dog slipping down on braced legs, the vecinos trying to climb up and slipping down.


The cameraman shoots wildly … pimps scream by teeth bare eyes rolling, Esperanza sneers down at the Mexican earth, the fat lady drops straight down her pink skirts billowing up around her, Tía Dolores sails down her eyes winking sweet and evil like a doll, dog falls across a gleaming empty sky.

The camera dips and whirls and glides tracing vultures higher and higher spiraling up.

Last take: Against the icy blackness of space ghost faces of Tío Mate and El Mono. Dim jerky faraway stars splash the cheek bones with silver ash. Tío Mate smiles.



p.s. Hey. ** Armando, Hey. So sorry, man. ** New Juche, Cool, my great pleasure. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha, true that. ** Jamie, Hi, J. Oh, hm, well, since, like a lot of adventuring smarty-pants kids, Rimbaud was my great idol and role model as a young teen, I think I’d pick a lock of his hair both because it would be cool and, well, because if I ever got extremely broke, I could sell that lock for a gazillion dollars. Did you ever come up with a personal pick? I jumped the gun. The last two scenes in the film required longer to edit than I’d thought, and that took the entire day, so today will be the rough cut viewing day. Gulp. No doubt in the world that we’ll think the rough cut still needs a ton of work, but hopes are high that we’ll be thrilled with the makings. It’s 1 hour 50 minutes at this very moment, but that’ll shift. I would indeed like your wet and cold. Our skies are heating again. Did your day surprise you with anything? Time code love, Dennis. ** Steevee, Hi. Thanks for the Cheap Trick alert. I know of some of the rarities there, but I’ll check back. The first T. Rex album is that hard to find? Strange. It’s a good one. One of their best, I think. ** Brendan, Ha, thanks, man. Have a complete and utter blast and tell Britney Spears hi for me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Wow, a no appointment hair cutter must be an extreme rarity at this point? Especially now that your cutter has gone all app-y. ** S., Hey. I still think long hair on guys is the best. Well, if they’re under, say, 26. After that it looks wrong. Or maybe not, now that I think about it. Cancel that opinion. It’s nice about bears in the sense that, when I was young, guys who now qualify as bears could almost never get laid unless they paid for it. They were just considered fat and ugly. But now they’re royalty or something. That’s nice. Rock that second draft. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Yeah, I heard about the Davies. I’m staying away. He does seem like he has been drifting off course. No, as I told Jamie, the last two scenes were a more laborious edit than I’d thought, so today’s the day for watching the rough, assembled film. So hopefully I can tell you tomorrow barring further unexpected delays. Cool about the lyrics. I’ve tried to write lyrics a few times, for bands I was in and for collab. projects. Man, song lyrics are a tough form. Others have turned poems of mine into song lyrics, but I’ve never managed writing them from scratch with much success. I’ll look for your email, great! ** Misanthrope, I thought the inclusion of his hair might add sparkle to your always sparkly eyes. Random weird pains several times a day is not lucky. Don’t get Stockholm syndrome, man. Excellent about your mom’s bettering! Ah, have a swellest possible time in NYC, my bud. Know you will, And report back. ** Joseph, Hi, J. She rocks. It’s true. It’s very true. Myrna is a more common name than Mina? Oh, Myrna Loy is more famous, I guess. Yeah, but when’s the last time you heard someone talk about her. Or someone who wasn’t 70 years old or something? Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll see ‘GotG2’ on a plane, that’s for certain. Oh, Ok Cupid. What is that like? It’s one of those bandied about sites/names I’ve never looked at. I imagine it being kind of clean and white and overly organized. Like Friendster used to be but more sophisto. Blah blah, I hope it works. It seems like it could. ** Bill, I still have a boyfriend from high school’s hair lock somewhere too. In LA. I think I thought I use it to do a magic spell or something, but I never did. No, I have not read Nicholas Rombes. I don’t think I’ve even heard his name before unless I’m spaced. Okay, cool, I’ll find out what that book’s deal is. Sounds very curious. Thanks, B! ** Right. I haven’t done something on Burroughs here for ages, probably for some very good reason, but I decided to throw this blog’s faint, marginal spotlight on my favorite Burroughs novel and see what happens. What happened? See you tomorrow.


  1. h

    Dear Dennis — been a little while (or no? can’t remember. A week? ) Great Burroughs day, I’ve been revisiting his Interzone lately, but I realize I like Wild Boys better. Wondering why, hmm.

    How is everything? I will trace it on your posts, but anything you’d mention again? Is it warm in Paris?

    Just submitted Akerman piece to one seminar — happy, I put your name as a receiver in the manuscript, but want to revise & expand it. It’s already well done, I’m proud, but don’t love some part of it, especially, where I discuss Laura Mulvey whose work I don’t really appreciate. But very soon.

    Today I’m going to watch Beau Travail at a theater here, and I got thrilled & couldn’t sleep last night. Did you enjoy Beau Travail?

  2. Dooflow

    Just doing a random check in on Wild Boys Day! My inner narrator is going to be set to Burrough’s cadence all day. Wish you all the luck and magic with the movie! Xoxo

  3. Dóra Grőber


    I had quite a hectic day yesterday with my brother’s arrival and when I did manage to sit here my internet connection was dead again so… here I am a day later.
    I’m glad the length of the film turned out to be perfectly optimal! That must really be a huge relief! I hope everything will go well with the professional editor when the time comes!
    Here, everything’s great! My brother brought me a few books (one is a Burroughs book, The Ticket that Exploded) so I’m pretty thrilled. We don’t have any solid plans so far but we’ll see what happens in these next couple of days.

    I didn’t have the chance to write this in time but I really loved yesterday’s post! Having someone’s hair or even just seeing it like this is so… intimate. It made me feel this weird vulnerability. It was also strange how I knew most of those names and could even picture the actual people from photographs, etc. but seeing a lock of their hair made them more real somehow. I don’t know if it makes any sense. This post touched me. Thank you for sharing it!

    Did you watch the whole movie for the first time? God this is so exciting! How was it? And what else happened on your end? I hope everything’s lovely!

  4. David Ehrenstein

    Hey Dennis I’M 70 Years Old!

  5. David Ehrenstein

    “The Wild Boys” is my fave of Dr. Benway’s books.

  6. David Ehrenstein

    I’ve been doing my damnest to get a link posted. Three times it’s failed.

  7. rewritedept


    hey, it’s my favorite burroughs novel. i’m re-reading exterminator in a very half-assed fashion currently.

    so editing is more involved than expected? how’s stuff otherwise?

    things are good here. working all the damn time. sleeping when i can. ate mushrooms on tuesday and read ‘helter skelter’ by myself (day off). i went shooting with some coworkers a couple weeks ago. that was fun. i’d never fired a gun before. it’s… empowering? not in a good way, necessarily. but fun regardless.

    not tons to note on my end, just wanted to say hey. talk soon. love.


  8. Jamie

    Hey Dennis! Did you get the rough cut done and watched? How was it? Excellent, I hope.
    Today was indeed surprising as we were told that we have a month to get out of our flat as the building it’s in is being declared unsafe. This is considerably better than what we were told yesterday which was that we might have to get out in a matter of hours. It’s so annoying as it’s all caused by two flats being left empty up on the other side of the building and they’ve just been getting worse and worse until they’ve messed up the building. I fucking love this flat too and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed living somewhere so much. So, that was a bombshell. How are you liking your new abode and neighbourhood?
    I’m sure I’ve told you before that I bought a second hand copy of The Wild Boys it had a note from a mother to her son, also called Jamie, and she’d given him the book for his 18th birthday. What a good mum. I’ve long wanted to like William Burroughs, but I’ve never got into him. It’s like his humour doesn’t work for me and a lot of his writing seems based on his humour, or something like that.
    I’m sure you’ll have spilled by now, but how was your Friday and do you have any weekend plans? I guess I’m flat-hunting.
    Hope everything’s very good with you.
    Homeless love,

  9. David Ehrenstein

    Still didn’t work! What I’m trying to do is link the text of a lecture about Art Museums given by The Count of Montebello (a great aesthete and One Fabulous Babe)

    It can be found at “Arts and Letters Daily”

  10. steevee

    Here’s an article on David Lynch as a queer artist I found interesting:

    • David Ehrenstein

      “David Lynch is, intentionally or otherwise, a queer artist worthy of being in the ranks of folks like Todd Haynes, Kenneth Anger, the Wachowskis and Cheryl Dunye. ”

      No he’s not. He’s really quite reactionary. And his palette is VERY small — as the rebooted “Twin Peaks” demonstrates. His images may seem bizarre at first but at heart they’re not. The family of bunny rabbits in “Inland Empire” is typical


  11. steevee

    Here’s my Nashville Scene review of Terence Davies’ A QUIET PASSION, which I liked much more than Jeff:

  12. Tosh Berman

    I read Wild Boys when I was a teenager. I actually read all of Burroughs writings as a teenager, except his later novels of course. I also read Raymond Chandler as a teenager as well. I think in those years I craved a noir voice in literature. When I think of Burroughs I do think of noir writing. I have a lot of the old paperbacks of Burroughs in my collection to this day. I should re-read the works to see if they still stand up for me. When I do read him, I immediately hear his “voice.” It’s impossible to separate his identity with his writing. Thanks for today’s blog, and the focus on one novel by him. The hair blog was fascinating as well. It’s slightly creepy but I can understand why one would be attracted to that world. Hair is a very personal part of one’s body. I often think of that when I look at my bathtub drain and see parts of me going down that drain.

  13. Bernard

    I always liked that book.
    h, I dunno about Dennis but I was captivated by Beau Travail and have watched it maybe 5 times always very moved by how it uses images and movement to do what many films would try and fail to do with words and incident, so it seems to me to have lessons to learn from
    It’s been a while since checked in; I’ve been cramming on deadlines for stuff I wanted to finish before I arrive in Paris. Which I will. Monday, 5 June. So if you have any time to meet Monday or Tuesday, let me know. Can I use WhatsApp to text you? FB Messenger? Rick Herron is already in the Récollets apartment we’re sharing; I don’t know exactly what we’re trying to research, but we could use your advice on Paris galleries and artists to connect with.
    You are even busier than usual lately, it seems. I can’t believe you already did principal photography; you guys work at the speed of hummingbirds. I am very sorry I am too late to be assigned a role in the film; maybe in the next one, I can play the gruff daddy type that all the waifs are pining after. Cinéma vérité.
    Diarmuid will be hanging out around the 20th as you probably heard and we’ll see Jerk. I don’t know how much you’ll be around in June, though. I’m there til July 3; Art and I are going to Toulouse, Avignon and surroundings, and Lyon after, and maybe the Loire châteaux a little.
    Anyway, you always inspire me so I am looking forward to the inspiration and the whole Dennis experience. a très bientot.

    • h

      Hello, Bernard: thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts re Beau Travail. I did like it, not loved it. Some images are really beautifully moving (like that walking on the ropes scene and a few others), but I didn’t enjoy the general grand tone. It can be though a taste matter.

    • Bill

      Bernard, you’ll be in Paris again! Wow. Have a great trip…


  14. Sypha

    Trying to remember when it last was I read this book… I want to say 2009. I should re-read it again one day. For awhile now I’ve been planning on re-reading his Cut-Up Trilogy as well, as it’s literally been maybe 15 years or so since I last read those. feeling the odd urge to re-read his “Ghost of Chance” novella, perhaps because it’s referenced quite often in the writings of Nick Land’s CCRU (I just finished reading the “CCRU Writings 1997-2003” collection last night).

    Dennis, don’t know if you saw this on Facebook a few days ago, but this year I started up a new band, +Passover-. As you can imagine by the title, its aesthetic is somewhat inspired by Joy Division (hell, it’s even named after a Joy Division song). It’s kind of an instrumental post-punk, dance-rock, noise-rock, electronic pop affair. Much more sonically accessible and song-orientated than my Sypha Nadon project (with some exceptions). This summer I hope to release an album under that band name (to be entitled “Hostile Architecture”), but today I released a single from the album on my Mauve Zone Recordings netlabel. To anyone who might be interested, this single (entitled “Menacing Earthworks,” with the b-side entitled “Pandemonium Matrix”) may be listened to/downloaded for free here:

  15. Nick Toti

    The Wild Boys was one of the first Burroughs books I read, just after Naked Lunch. I remember writing to a friend that Naked Lunch was “overrated,” but it’s since become one of my favorites. I think I had to read some of his less experimental stuff (Junky, Queer, his letters, etc.) before I was really able to get my head around him. I should re-read The Wild Boys. Thanks for putting this thought into my brain with your post!

    P.S. – My favorite Burroughs-related thing:

  16. _Black_Acrylic

    There’s a great bit in Philip Best’s PhD thesis “Apocalypticism in the Fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard and Thomas Pynchon”. Best argues that Andrea Dworkin and Burroughs were each imagining different apocalypses: hers a world without men and his without women. I’ve never read The Wild Boys but should really get around to it soon. His sense of humour definitely seems to chime with my own.

    The good news is that I had a successful driving lesson today, after the overheated/aborted effort of last week. This one was the final MS Society-funded lesson of the £500 they’re generously paying for. Now it’s coming out of my own pocket and I’ll need to ensure I’m on top of my driving game from here on in.

  17. David Ehrenstein

    David Sedaris

  18. steevee

    One thing I find interesting about early Cheap Trick is that they had a sense of critical distance on attitudes that were accepted as normal in mainstream rock around the time they were working. The Rolling Stones would have thought nothing of doing a song celebrating Mick and Keith picking up teenage girls around the time they did “Daddy Should’ve Stayed In High School.” During my insomniac phase, I started a FB thread about “Stray Cat Blues” while listening to BEGGARS BANQUET and wondered if the Stones could possibly have meant it to sound as creepy – if musically compelling and powerful – as it does now. The consensus was that most male musicians thought it was perfectly OK in the ’60s and ’70s to sleep with 15-year-old girls.

  19. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis – Nice post on “The Wild Boys.” I had no idea about the “Abstracts” he created in the run-up to the novel. Fascinating stuff and really glad you included them here. Did you know about them before collecting material for the post? Have they ever been published on their own?

    I’m betting you shared above with Jamie about the rough cut. What’s next in the process?

    Yes, writing lyrics has proven much tougher than I thought. I agreed to help out my musician friend with it b/c I thought I’d have to write lyrics for a theater project that turned out to never materialize. It’s been an interesting challenge and keeping things simple has seemed to work best, often further simplifying once I hear how the words sound sung. The other challenge is trying to generate some tension & complexity within that simplicity, though occasionally maybe the music itself helps out on that score. Not sure the results are remotely stellar, to be honest, but it’s been a fun thing to work on sporadically, maybe because it requires almost total intuition and guesswork on my part. At its best, it feels like it’s draining words from a different part of my writing brain, if that makes sense.

  20. Joseph

    I keep passing on by The Wild Boys on my way to find other things on my shelves, or in the case of The Wild Boys – the milk crates, and every time I think “I’m gonna read you again” then don’t. Maybe I’ll use this weekend to do just that, between this post and its nagging.

    Last time I heard anyone talk about Myrna Loy? Probably about a year or two ago when I was talking to my mom about From The Terrace and how she hadn’t seen it, excluding all the times I’ve said Mina and gotten Myrna in response, of course.

    GotG2, as you put it, isn’t something I’d see unprovoked by someone else but I can’t say I regret that 2 hours of my life and if you’re trapped inside of a plane, there are much worse ways to piss away 2 hours on a plane.

    As for Ok Cupid, I’m not too sure what it’s like, it did cause me to meet another human I wouldn’t have otherwise met (my argument, which is a shitty one, is that I would meet these people anyway – which I don’t). I’m unfamiliar with Friendster, but you’re probably correct in all assumptions. It does have this seemingly never ending questionnaire that I can’t seem to stop answering, it’s like a trivia game but about the self. Maybe that could be turned into something. Maybe not.

    Enjoy your Saturday to the fullest, Ima find that crate.

  21. Bill

    This was one of those formative books of my youth. Sigh.

    I remember Friendster, haha.

    I’m trying to watch the Japanese movie Pulse, which has great reviews on various “best horror movie” lists. It’s about ghosts invading our world through… the internet. Wooooo. I’m afraid it doesn’t date very well.

    I might have to read Mina Loy’s Insel on my way to Berlin. Writers Who Love Too Much is too heavy to carry on the flight.


  22. Jim Pennington

    The Wild Boys is a truly neglected and totally subversive masterpiece in the Burroughs canon. By accident i discovered changes had been made between the first editions and the later ones in the 80s … nothing very subversive or compromising unless you are a wild boy with a bulging pouch thong thingy and an anorak. They are documented on the aloes books website:

  23. rizzo patrick

    tres bon livre que j’ai dans les annees 70 sous le les garcon sauvages, c’etait un voyant sur notre futur

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