The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … William S Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded (1962)


‘We call our program the Burroughs Extended Abstience Technique (BEAT). It draws on the briliant insights of William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), a Harvard-trained anthropologist who outlined the BEAT approach in a series of innovative books and lectures. His research involved extensive empirical testing in Mexico City, London, Berlin, Morocco and Paris, and earned him a number of honors and awards, as well as a conviction on manslaughter charges (Mexico City, 1951).

‘We have tested several of these books in classroom settings, including The Naked Lunch (1959), The Soft Machine (1961) and Nova Express (1964). But we have found that the most successful results are obtained via The Ticket That Exploded (1962, revised 1967).

‘As Mr. Burroughs himself wisely tells us at the outset of his book: “inoculation is the weapon of choice against virus and inoculation can only be effected through exposure…exposure to the pleasures offered under enemy conditions.” [p. 10] To this end, Burroughs developed an indoctrination program built on taped repetitive messages. “Anyone with a tape recorder controlling the sound track,” he reminds us, “can influence and create events.” [p.207] These recordings, he noted, can be “cut into short sections and spliced in together. This produces a strong erotic reaction.” [p. 18]

‘Fortunately for us, technology has advanced since Burroughs developed his BEAT technique, and we no longer need rely on cumbersome tape  splicing and bulky equipment. The BEAT program can now be implemented anywhere—via your child’s phone or other handheld device. We are in the process of designing a series of apps that will make access to BEAT as simple as the click of a mouse or stroke of a finger.

‘But first, the trigger warning…..Many students have found the Burroughs abstinence program distasteful and shocking. But their objections must be overruled, because the efficacious application of the method draws on precisely these elements. If students persist in their complaints, ask the troublemakers whether they want to turn into what Burroughs describes as “orgasm addicts stacked in rubbish heaps like muttering burlap”? [p. 8]

‘Of course not!

‘We begin each class session by group repetition of Mr. Burroughs’ definitions of terms. To whit, his astute descriptions of the essence of sexual union. These are recited by teacher and students in the form of questions and answers.’ — Ted Gioia


Gallery: Covers History



The Ticket That Exploded @ Wikipedia
The Ticket That Exploded @ goodreads
The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express: William Burroughs’s Ugly Spirit
Burroughs, Berrigan, and The Ticket That Exploded
Arabic Music and Burroughs’s The Ticket That Exploded
The Science-fiction of William Burroughs
Texte itératif et stéréotypes chez William Burroughs : de l’intertextualité à l’autostéréotypie
The Long Last Goodbye: Control and Resistance in the Work of William Burroughs



James Ilgenfritz – The Ticket That Exploded [An Ongoing Opera] (first half)

Excerpt from “The Ticket that Exploded” as read by Aaron Runyon

The Ticket that Exploded @ the library


Allen Ginsberg Interviews William Burroughs


Allen Ginsberg: What’s the basic plot or theme of The Soft Machine?
William S Burroughs: The book takes place, to a large extent, in a mythical area which bears some resemblance to South America and also to the planet Venus. It concerns, I should say, a struggle between controllers and those who are endeavoring to throw off control.
AG: And Nova Express
WSB: The same
AG: What is the distinction between the two in terms of theme and plot or development of the theme?
WSB: Nova Express… is more directly concerned with the struggle. Soft Machine is more concerned with just description of the factors involved and the scene, which corresponds somewhat with the planet Venus.
AG: In Nova Express you give a more precise description of the battle or of actual tactics?
WSB: More actual battles, battle scenes, in Nova Express than in The Soft Machine. The Soft Machine is more concerned with the set.
AG: The material from both those books is overflow from Naked Lunch?
WSB: There is some overflow from Naked Lunch in both of them, yes.
AG: And also there is material that was generated out of the whole cut-up experience of that time.
WSB: Absolutely.
AG: An what new preoccupation or theme, or symbolic set-up, is added in Venus? The whole concept of Venus?
WSB: Added in there after Naked Lunch. And also in The Soft Machine there’s a good deal of narrative material that’s concerned with reincarnation. This is the concept of The Street of Chance, not sure of what kind of reincarnation you’re going to have. It’s almost like a lottery was the allegory of the Street of Chance, people between birth and death, what chance they’re going to get in their forthcoming reincarnation.
AG: And the concept of Venus is Eros, or female Eros?
WSB: No, no. Venus, the actual landscape, etc. This has been a theme in science fiction for some time. And most writers have equated it with something like South America, a lush tropical scene teeming with poisonous exotic life forms. I would mention in this connection the novel Fury by Henry Kuttner, which takes place on Venus, and there are a number of descriptions in science fiction.
AG: The Ticket That Exploded, following Nova Express, brought it all to a climax. Did that conclude the…
WSB: No, it didn’t at all. I mean, it’s…
AG: A continuation of the battle?
WSB: Yes. Yes.
AG: Or a continuation of the description of the scene?
WSB: Well, both. I would say you could regard The Soft Machine and Nova Express as almost a continuation of the same book, so that anything you say about one, more or less applies to the other…
AG: I thought The Ticket That Exploded kind of concluded – that was the action of the Nova, or of the explosion itself – by dissolving into a vibrating soundless hum.
WSB: Yes, there is that. Shall we say that The Ticket That Exploded winds it up? After that, was, of course, The Job.
AG: Which is an attempt to regulate the ideas, and that gives them a linear exposition.
WSB: Yes, that was it. It also contains some narrative material which was possibly a mistake. I think it is a mistake to mix essay and narrative, fictional material because it slows down the narrative, and then everybody thinks that the essays are fictional rather than being factual.
AG: So the next thing is what?
WSB: More or less immediately after The Job was The Last Words of Dutch Schultz.
But The Job, you might say, overlapped The Wild Boys because I realized it started to be one book. And then I realized that I had two books, and that they should not be mixed…
AG: So the fantasy material, or the fictional material of The Job, overlaps with The Wild Boys?
WSB: That’s right.
AG: And actually in both, there is a significant theme, because The Job is the most outright or outrageous statement about the occlusion of women.
WSB: Yes.
AG: And so The Wild Boys is an exemplification of the world.
WSB: Absolutely, yes.
AG: Then the next work is…
WSB: The Wild Boys. Then a direct overflow from The Wild Boys was Exterminator! and Port of Saints.
AG: Now I haven’t read Port of Saints yet. I’ve read Exterminator! and The Wild Boys. How do those two books differ and what’s their progression?
WSB: There isn’t very much difference. I found the material for The Wild Boys when I had to make, at some point, a more or less arbitrary choice. Sometimes you realize that the things you left out are better than what you’ve put in. So three books came from that block of material.
AG: Is there any progression, or any thematic distincton between them?
WSB: Yes. For example, Port of Saints is, I think, more structured like a musical composition. In fact, there are musical leads for each chapter.
AG: And Exterminator!
WSB: Exterminator! is more episodic and perhaps not as structured as Port of Saints, or even The Wild Boys.
AG: Well, how can you expect anybody to read through all this if you don’t make big categorical distinctions? It’s like reading one large series of prose poems that have no end.
WSB: No, no, no, no. It’s quite comprehensible and as accessible as any book you pick up at the airport? People are demanding less and less in the way of plot and structure, I find. So I don’t think there’s any difficulty in understanding.
AG: Actually, The Wild Boys is very clear because it’s divided into very definite themes and chapters
WSB: Yes, so is Port of Saints
AG: Exterminator!, though has some elements being mixed with essay, like “Do Easy”
WSB: What easy material?
AG: Exterminator! Isn’t “Do Easy” in Exterminator!?
WSB: Oh yes! Yes, I did feel that Exterminator! was possibly too much, too miscellaneous. The first pieces in The Wild Boys, actually, should have been in Exterminator! That was not really in sequence there. Uh, that’s true.
AG: Is there some one paragraph summary of the basic theme of say, The Soft Machine, Nova Express?
WSB: The basic theme is that the planet has been invaded by Venutians and the book attempts to cope with invasion
AG: And the intention of the Venutians is planetary takeover?
WSB: Planetary takeover, probably not just enslavement but extermination. Shall we say that there conditions are different? And they want to reproduce conditions that would probably be fatal to the earth.
AG: So that they can live here?
WSB: Yes.
AG: In other words, they’re like the Reds, except from Venus.
WSB: Yes, like the White Man arriving in the New World
AG: How dies it end though? It ends with the virus being exterminated by the realization of the situation.
WSB: It doesn’t really end.
AG: Well, the anxiety of the invasion seems at the end to be dispersed by the dissolution of space and time, or the dissolution of time.
WSB: Yes, it is. That dissolution was necessary in order to neutralize the conspiracy. From this comes the theme that the only future is to enter into a spirit, a completely spirit state.
AG: Grasping the matter? There is a notion that most conspiracies are actually spiritual conspiracies, in the sense of power takeovers involving people’s minds.
WSB: The people conspired against.
AG: Oh, yes. Yes.
WSB: Just as we destroyed the Indians by destroying their spiritual life.
AG: I’m still a little fuzzy on the last part. My point was that most conspiracies are mental anyway.
WSB: They are. But usually if you want to destroy people, destroy their Gods. Destroy their Maker.
AG: Except that then the Gods being destroyed are, say, Christ or Baptist visions of Christ.
WSB: On the contrary, those are the Gods being used. In other words, these are concepts that are very useful for the invaders because they are spiritually empty.
AG: Actually, it’s a very good statement on it. Is there some passage…that could be cited, for summing it up in a nutshell, in either Nova Express or The Soft Machine?
WSB: I would say that Nova Express would probably have the clearest statement.



William S Burroughs The Ticket that Exploded
Grove Press

‘Inspector Lee and the Nova Police have been forced to engage the Nova Mob in one final battle for the planet. This is Burroughs’s nightmare vision of scientists and combat troops, of Johnny Yen’s chicken-hypnotizing and green Venusian-boy-girls, of ad men and conmen whose destructive language has spread like an incurable disease; a virus and parasite that takes over every human body.

‘One of Burroughs’s most approachable works, The Ticket That Exploded is the climax of his innovative ‘cut-up’ Nova trilogy – following The Soft Machine and Nova Express – and is an enthralling and frightening image of the future.’ — Grove Press





p.s. Hey. ** Jamie, Hey, hey. Okay, that makes sense about the stress being exasperating to your stomach, health. I had acid-reflux really bad in my early 20s, and I’m sure it was anxiety related. If the ‘cure’ is enjoying yourself, well, score! We’re presenting the haunted house thing on the 27th. It’s a guided tour thing, at least for now. The audience watches us guide them through it, so it’ll be a little watching someone else play an old fashioned video game with commentary. And we’re doing an illustrated history of the home haunt phenomenon talk beforehand. Ideally, we’ll either tour the event or make it interactable and upload it somewhere. My day was good. Very fruitful meeting with the just mentioned haunt/game’s designers and then I saw the first night of the current run of Gisele’s and my piece ‘Kindertotenlieder’ at the Pompidou, which was great to see again. I’m happy you’re enjoying Broomer’s work. Oh, I’ve been really into experimental film since I was a teenager, so I make it a point to search out newer practitioners, mostly by watching for festivals and venues that show them then trying to investigate the filmmakers I don’t know. Ari sounds like a human with very promising tastes. Thanks about my Thursday, and I hope both our days end at a confetti strewn finish line. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. That’s so nice about your friend and “I Wished’. You’re not the only one who needs to get to the current blog day via social media, and I have no fucking clue why that problem exists, and neither does my hosting site, so eternal wtf. Ultra-best of luck to David on both of those fronts. I send him (and you) seriously great vibes. ** Ian, I think they would only find great enhancement on a grandmother’s mantlepiece. Great man gift idea for the fat wallet crowd. Bleak sounds about right, ha. Hump day? Happy post-hump day to you? ** _Black_Acrylic, We have Antique Roadshow in the US too, and it’s a big non-guilty pleasure. And, yes, presenting their analysts with one of those babies would at very least get you on the air, guaranteed. ** Dominick, Hi!!!! Here’s the only haunted attraction I’ve found in Budapest so far, but I’ll keep looking. I’ll happily accept yesterday’s love from you. I know pleasure when I read about it. Oh, I get to pick? Hm, tough, although I’ve always liked that Maria Rubinke piece of the the girl tearing the top of her head in half, so maybe that one? What’s your dream porcelain horror? Love tearing the top of his head in half while screaming, ‘This is how much I love you!’, G. ** David Ehrenstein, Ah, you found your way back in. Good. This blog’s tech is so weird. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Thanks, man. Great talking with you too. And, oh no, yet more Jeff-centric challenges? Dude, you’re due a serious bliss fest. Good, I’m glad my little caveat about ‘Annette’ helped you stay the course. I wasn’t aware of that intended restriction re: ‘Memoria’. I’m seeing a screening of it on the 24th. Strange, or kind of lovely but inconvenient. Huh. ** Steve Erickson, I’m surprised Antiques Roadshow doesn’t do a special Halloween episode of that very nature. I haven’t read ‘Cleanness’, So … how is it? Tick tick … your EP. ** Bill, Very happy you dug the show, my friend. Those Ben Hirshkoff pieces are cool. I didn’t know his stuff. And you have the blue one? Very nice. Oh, I think if Zac and I ever do a horror/.porn — not entirely impossible — one scene is about as big as we’d go for, so you’ll be the perfect collaborator! Watch this space. But not too quickly. ** Johnny Paul, Hi. Oh, yeah? You think? I guess I think not? ** Andrew, Hi, Andrew. I saw Paul K last night and your ears were burning even if you didn’t notice. Good about 11:11 going nowhere (else). It’s balance, right? When I was doing Little Caesar Press way back in the day, which was a one-man operation even, I somehow managed to write my head off and get my stuff published a bit at the same time, although I don’t how I managed. I was mostly writing poetry though. That probably made a difference. Point is, it’s totally possible. If the fiction itch is out of control, you gotta scratch it, man. To not do that … well, you know what un-itched itches feel like, I’m sure. I’m cheerleading re: you/it over here. Thank you so much for sending that book! You’re very generous, and I am very enhanced as a result. And thanks for the video link. Very cool. Everyone, Andrew Wilt, writer and head of one of the world’s best presses, 11:11, shares a video trailer for one of their new books, Logan Berry’s ‘R̵U̵N̵-̵O̵F̵F̵ ̵S̵U̵G̵A̵R̵ Crystal Lake’, and it was devised by the fantastic writer Maggie Siebert no less. Hence, watching seems pretty key. Thanks, man. Have a swell Thursday. ** Okay. I haven’t turned the blog’s spotlight on old William Burroughs in a long time, so I thought I would illuminate one of his least-read novels. Personally, I’m only a fan of his books from the ‘Naked Lunch’ -> ‘Wild Boys’ period, and ‘TTTE’ is from the latter part of that killer phase, the last of his mostly cut-up based novels. If you like Burroughs’ stuff, the book up there is a prime example. See you tomorrow.


  1. Jamie

    Hey D,
    Do you think it’ll be easy to get a ticket for your event? I kind of forget that I’m a parent and can’t just book trains and go gallivanting so much anymore, so the whole thing might be theoretical anyway.
    That’s nice that you saw and dug the Kindertotenlieder performance. How long is it running for (apologies if this info is on the sidebar of the blog; I’m using my phone and don’t get it there)?
    I finally got over my dislike for William Burroughs last year, by reading The Wild Boys. Actually it wasn’t a dislike so much as a non-click and I finally clicked. I’ve always thought The Ticket That Exploded is the finest title for a book. I’ll be giving it a read sometime soon.
    How was Thursday? I’ve been on a bike ride and reading and I’m playing about with an idea for a cartoon, whilst also thinking that I never want to be involved in making another cartoon. No confetti strewn finish line, but maybe a bath on the horizon.
    Hope Friday buffets you along like a perfectly temperate breeze (although I just looked up buffeted and it doesn’t mean what I thought, so maybe “gently blows” instead.
    Love, Jamie

  2. Dominik


    “The Ticket That Exploded” is one of my favorite Burroughs novels. Thank you for this post!

    And thank you for the haunted attraction! The page seems pretty enthusiastic, so it might be great. Although I have a serious itch to fix all the typos and missing commas in their descriptions, haha. Thank you for taking the time to look around!

    Yess, I really like Maria Rubinke’s pieces, too! That one’s yours, then, and I’ll take the related love. Thank you! I think I’d either go for one of Qixuan Lim’s “popsicles” or Evelyn Bracklow’s first ant plate. Love dedicating his Instagram exclusively to his drawings of Harry Styles with cat ears, Od.

  3. David Ehrenstein

    Ah Dr. Benway — such a marvelous gentleman.

    “the Ticket That Exploded” and The Soft Machine” were originally parts of the humungous first draft of “NakedLunch.” It was Allen Ginsberg’sidea tocut “Ticket” and “Soft”offof “Lunch” properand have them published as “sequels.”

    Meanwhile speaking of things “Naked” Here’s a modern horror story for ya

  4. chris dankland

    hi dennis !!

    i wanted to pop in to say how beautiful and affecting I wished is — I’ve read it twice so far, and I’m sure i’ll read it and dissect it for a long time beyond that, as i do with all yr books. i feel like the novel highlights all of yr best features as a writer, and the last 50 pages in particular made me feel really emotional, starting with the chapter where u first met george at school all the way through to the end. ur an incredible writer, and i know that i’ll be re-thinking and re-examining a lot of yr earlier books with i wished in mind.

    i have some questions if that’s ok with u, which u can definitely just feel free to ignore if they don’t interest u, or if u don’t feel like getting into it:

    what grade was george in when u first met? 6th? 7th?
    why did u title the last chapter Finale (1976)? what happened in 1976?

    the main thing that i’m thinking about now is why u included the russian george in the book. i’m thinking about the possible correspondence between the “torn from something” title and the end of the THIALH where u say “But if George didn’t love Dennis, and there’s no evidence he did, then I guess I never loved him. I loved something else that this is torn from.” i think i maybe just need to sit with and think about that character and his place in the book for awhile.

    I’m also spending more time with the roden crater chapter and the santa chapter, because those are both really heavy and complicated in the best possible way, and trying to sort of unpack the sentences and these recurring metaphors.

    i’m so moved by those last 50 pages. thank u for writing this book and sharing it with everyone. and thank u for being santa claus for so many ppl, myself included, and giving ppl like me yr attention and care. i’m also thinking a lot about the book in terms of the blog and all the ppl u talk to on here.

    but mostly i’m just thinking about u and george and that scene where u are sitting together and he has yr t-shirt balled up in his hands like flowers. (i also noticed that the russian dad held george’s shirt like a flower.) it’s very moving to me, and ever since I read the book i’ve been thinking a whole bunch of things about u and george and literature and how some things stick in yr heart for yr whole life. this is sort of a rambling and all over the place response to the book because i’m still absorbing it, but i just wanted to say that it’s a very beautiful, very sad, very thoughtful and complicated book, and it meant something important to me, and gave me something, and thank u for that.

    it’s halloween time !! woo hoo !! i’m excited to enjoy DC’s spooky season 🙂 i hope ur having a good day in paris. i’m sending u a big hug

  5. Bill

    Hey Dennis, it would be my honor to collaborate with you and Zac sometime! Totally understand you guys have a long to-do list.

    Haven’t thought about this Burroughs oldie for awhile. Should revisit some of the old favorites.

    I’m never sure how much of Jones’ novels are autobiographical. In the new one, like in the last one, the narrator is not named, but he makes video pieces that sound a lot like Jones’. There’s a scene at Cal Arts where he meets with you. Hmmm.


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