The Left Hand of Darkness
Some 25 years ago (!) my Arts Honours dissertation was accepted. Its subject was”Death and Need in Naked Lunch”. The basic hypothesis was that William Burroughs (the author of the banned novel, Naked Lunch) could reasonably be considered as a descendant of the American transcendentalist literary tradition. I believe that my choice of novel and hypothesis caused the UWA Arts Department some perturbation at the time. But I was admirably defended by my supervisor: the brilliant, warm-hearted and much-missed artist and writer, Tom Gibbons.
One of the really interesting things about William Burroughs was his innovative treatment of written language. One of his favourite techniques was “cut-ups“, something I remember discussing with Tom on a few occasions. Burroughs and his buddy, Brion Gysin, elaborated on a Dadaist technique to physically cut up a body of printed text and reassemble it to extract new meaning.
But it occurred to me this evening that scissors are not the only way. You have these insights in a hotel room after a busy day (even when you have scissors). The basic concept is:
- Body of text;
- A means to sample / randomise.
So I thought I would experiment with a form of cut-up based on what bits of dialogue I could write down left-handed while watching bad crime shows on telly. For clarity, I am right-handed. I can write legibly left-handed, but only quite slowly. Hence the sampling. The results are surprisingly poetic and poignant: the voices of ghosts in an otherwise empty room:
One easy way to save on tax; Only on Big W! Only at Chemist warehouse.
Zero is a more acceptable number; a family with a dangerous past…
Not so funny now, is it!
I don’t know anything about his state of mind; he always came home to me…
How long have you been seeing Danny? I knew about the wife and the other women. He’s on his own.
I don’t remember getting back to the hotel the other night; she looked like a nice girl.
He wrecked peoples’ lives; always wanting something: beer, wine, food, not before he went on.
I don’t like sharing.
But I do like cut-ups…