In 1959 William S. Burroughs released his classic novel Naked Lunch, developed the Cut-up Method that was to define his writing over the next decade, and discovered Scientology. By cutting up newspaper and magazine articles, liberally mixed with Scientology pamphlets and poems by Rimbaud, Burroughs and collaborator Brion Gysin were able to cut into the future and steal the technology requisite for the invention of the iPhone and Twitter. The result was a serious decline in the quality of Burroughs’ correspondence.


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

Just another day in #beathotel instagram.am/Jr82Sj #junkporn #nsfw


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

In jail because of you. RT @ontheroadjk Where art thou Neal?


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

OMG just got 2nd novel placed w @OlympiaPress! #nakedlunch #ftw


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

RT @briongysinhassanisabbah cut thru some old newspapers. mad funny shit when put back together.


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

@briongysinhassanisabbah I think ur on 2 something here.


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

Hidden messages in every tweet. Cut thru the words n future leaks out. #cutup


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

#cutup Cut future leaks tweet thru words n every Hidden future tweet messages


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

Thanks for RTs! @gregorycorso1930 @sinclairbeatbeiles @ briongysinhassanisabbah


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

#cutup RT @briongysinhassahisabbah method Scientology is the engram recall of directed


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

#cutup RT @scientologyofficial Send us money money send us us money send


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

Nice to be here. RT @lronhubbard4real Hello-yes-hello. Nice to have you on board, Mr Burroughs.


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

@allenginzy Hubbard – DIANETICS – known to Russians long time. Get self audited.


William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted

From next book: Mind hard-on the blood control is Mr Hubbard communist #cutup

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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

19 responses to “The Collected Tweets of William S. Burroughs”

  1. Jeffro says:

    William S. Burroughs @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted
    @charlesbukowski What is the premise for your next novel?

    Charles Bukowski @charlesbukowski
    @nothingtrueeverythingpermitted Drink. Have sex. Drink. Vomit. Pass out. Wake up. Repeat.

    • Repeat. Always repeat. Women was pretty much a long series of RTs.

      I introduced my wife to Bukowski last week. She thought it was funny how much he vomited.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        “Women” is his least successful novel, I think; the only one I had difficulty getting through. After a while, when he hooks up with yet another woman, you’re like, “Okay, what’s the problem with this one?”

        • I read Post Office first and it’s certainly a great introduction to Bukowski. Very accessible and easy to enjoy. Women is great for the first little while, but as you say, it becomes predictable and boring. Ham on Rye I thought was excellent, and the collection he did for City Lights… I can’t remember the name… also very good.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            I think City Lights picked up a few copyrights after Black Sparrow Press went out of business, and in some cases changed the original names of collections, or combined them, etc. Anyway, I’m not sure which collection you mean, but there’s always something of value in any Bukowski book, including “Women.”

            Love “Ham on Rye” and “Post Office,” and “Factotum” is hilarious. Also, “Hollywood” is good fun, guessing who’s who. I think, for instance, he refers to Madonna as “Ramona.”

            • Notes of a Dirty Old Man… that’s the one. Great collection of stories, and a little less repetitive than Women, although stylistically similar, if I recall correctly.

              I’ve never read Hollywood for some reason. In fact, even the name isn’t familiar to me.

              • D.R. Haney says:

                It’s about the making of “Barfly.” “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” was originally a collection of Bukowski’s columns for “Open City,” an underground paper that was later renamed the “Los Angeles Free Press.” But there were books, after Black Sparrow closed, that would mix his columns for “Open City” and “Free Express” with stories from the Black Sparrow story collections. I don’t know if that’s still the case. But his column was named “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” and the style he used for it was a little more “literary” than the spare style we now associate with Bukowski.

  2. James D. Irwin says:

    I don’t know if I’m confused by this because I’m unfamiliar with Burroughs, or because even after using Twitter I don’t really understand how it works…

    I remember having to do ‘cut up’ poetry in one of my classes at university. That lecturer would quite openly talk about drug use. You could tell just by the way she dressed that she used to be a hippy… she’s a youth fiction writer now. One of her books is about teenagers who go into prostitution for some reason. She probably knows more about Burroughs than I do…

    • Probably the former. I have been studying Burroughs most of every day for the past six months, and intermittently for several years. I sometimes think I’m going a little insane because regular thoughts pop into my head and I defer to Scientology or Wilhelm Reich or some other of his crackpot interests in order to deal with the thought. Yesterday I took time off and played an Xbox game just like a normal person… except it was Call of Duty: Black Ops and whenever a date would pop up (most of it is set in the sixties) I would think, “Oh, Burroughs wrote Allen Ginsberg that day to explain the premise of his next book…” So basically I’m not even sure what’s obscure and what’s not anymore.

      The Cut-up Method is pretty wild. I think it’s interesting, and used correctly it serves a certain purpose… and it’s definitely fun to play around with.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        When I watched my friends play ‘Black Ops’ (I don’t play video games besides GTA, because I am terrible at all of them), they all got to meet James D. Irwin: History Dork. The whole thing is set around what was once my favourite period of history. I’m not sure anyone else played the zombie version and went ‘oh cool! You can play as McNamara!’

        I’m not a fan of the cut up thing, at least not if we’re calling it writing. If it’s labelled as ‘art’ then maybe it’s okay… I mean at least when I cut up wikipedia entries for essays I have the good grace to re-word the sentences…

        I found it quite dull in those classes… maybe I was just in a bad mood (and the class was always right after compulsory stuff analysing Jane Eyre…) Certainly some people really enjoyed it. A few carried on with it, and at least one person used the concept for their dissertation…

        • I studied that same era pretty intensely back in uni, and I’m also not proud to admit that I was super happy to see McNamara (he’s also in one of the levels; you get to run around with him but can’t shoot him). The zombie bit is really great – although the Japanese character is a bit racist. Then again, they’re all pretty epic stereotypes.

          It’s sad, but Burroughs had some unpublished and lesser-known cut-ups that were actually quite successful. His most famous ones (the Nova Trilogy) were a bit more obscure. He kept changing his philosophy. In the beginning he thought he was doing magic, and didn’t really edit much. Later he would cut up and then pick phrases that sounded good and use them. The result was pretty impressive in places, especially when cutting up his childhood memories with something modern. Very haunting and often poetic. Then again, a lot of his work was about lament for a past that probably never happened…

          I think it was the only way for him to rebel against the Word Virus, though. You can’t very well talk in plain English about how talking in plain English is submitting to mind control.

          Anyway, good point about it being art over literature. It was originally a technique used by artists, and Burroughs more or less made it famous by rediscovering it and applying it to literature (with varying degrees of success). It’s telling that even though he became infamous and you can buy his books anywhere, they only really printed 1,000-5,000 copies of each book even at the height of his notoriety. People loved to say that they were fans… but they didn’t really buy his damn books. His first one, Junky wasn’t cut up and that sold 100,000 copies in the first few months.

  3. D.R. Haney says:

    Hilarious, especially: OMG just got 2nd novel placed w @OlympiaPress!

    Also, it’s a touch sad, seeing that there are see-ree-us writers out there expressing themselves in exactly this way at the moment. If the literary biography weren’t moribund and due for certain expiration, I would wonder what future biographers would make of their subjects’ tweets and status updates and so on.

    On the other hand, unless there are digital archaeologists, as some have said there will be, none of those tweets, updates, etc., will be around for future reference anyway. Not much survives online for long, despite a peculiar and commonly held idea of internet immortality.

    • You know, the reason I actually wrote this was because I had been studying Burroughs’ correspondence in such depth. After a while I got pissed when I needed to study something and he’d not mentioned it to anyone, or at least not in his collected correspondence. Then I thought to myself (obviously getting a big head), “What if I was a super-famous dead author and someone wanted to know about me?”

      I doubt that will ever come to pass, but if it does, people will be sorely disappointed. You could dig up bits from magazines and newspapers, and get friends and relatives to talk, and of course there have been blog posts… but no journals and no letters. And I don’t think that’s just me. What’s more, the art of letter writing (I hate to sound so old-fashioned, but I suspect it’s true) seems to have died with e-mail. In 50 yrs if I were to hand my e-mail password over to a scholar and give permission to publish the stuff relevant to whatever achievement I’d made, it would be dull and unimpressive, littered with typos, and each e-mail an average of 5 lines long. Then I got to thinking… people don’t even e-mail that much any more. You’d realistically have “The Collected Tweets” or “The Complete Facebook Likes of David S. Wills”… It’s quite depressing, really.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        The letter was pretty much done by the time email came along. In fact, email was thought, initially, to be the salvation of the letter. Now, as you say, people can’t even be bothered to email. I would like to be generous and say something like, “Well, people are so busy, they’re so overwhelmed, they don’t have time to write to friends and relatives,” but I don’t think any of that’s entirely true; people are lazy, and that’s exactly why they’re so enamored of technology and symbolic, mass “communication.”

        I’ve been thinking lately about the death of tailoring. I don’t know how people could give up, so easily, clothes made for them and them only, and content themselves with a number that identifies them as a size whatever, buying clothes that fit the number. Did the personal touch mean so little? Apparently so. And now that lack of a personal touch is everywhere, and it’s only a matter of time before it disappears altogether, along with brick-and-mortar stores. Though of course our computers will go on saying “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.” I suppose we should be grateful for even that sort of “personal” touch.

        • I think we forego detail because of the immediacy of e-mail, at least to some degree. Everyone’s online all the time, and you know if you write someone a one-liner then you’ll get a reply an hour later, and then you can elaborate. In a letter you had to explain yourself. Then there are embedded links, so you don’t even really need to summarize what you’re getting at. Just point your friend to the news item that you’re wanting him to see.

          Tailoring… I think my only experience was in getting my kilt made. Beyond that I was firmly born into the generation whose clothes came from the supermarket. Never had anything made for me. For the past six years I’ve just gotten stuff from the charity shop, which I like, but again it’s hardly personal, is it?

          Well I sound like I’m complaining… Ultimately no one forces me to answer my parents’ long e-mails with brief replies, or to communicate with old friends via Facebook messages. I’d like to claim that it’s economy of words and that I’m trying to improve my grasp of the language by becoming more efficient and expressive… but that’s total justification bullshit. I’m lazy, too. We’re all lazy. Looking at the great writers and their collections of letters, these people were generally not lazy, and that’s probably why they were successful. They took the time to write letters and they took the time to write books. There probably were always the equivalent of writers who now just blog and tweet, but they aren’t remembered for precisely that reason. Maybe.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            I’m too lazy to answer this at the length it deserves!

            There are moments when we can refer to others to fill in the gaps of what we mean to say, and other moments when we can’t. Who had used the term “negative capability” before Keats? Who had said “I is another” before Rimbaud? Those are both remarks made in letters.

            Without Neal Cassady’s “Joan Anderson letter” there would never have been “On the Road” and, arguably, the Beat Generation. Flannery O’Connor’s letters are filled with her priceless, as far as I’m concerned, theological musings, which help like nothing else, beyond her rare essays, to explicate her singular fiction. Byron’s letters, often considered the best written in English, amount to a de-facto biography.

            I don’t know how others define the purpose of writing, and I frankly don’t care how others define it. The important thing for me is to try to make my subject, or my meaning about that subject, as clear as I think it needs to be made clear, and I feel a gnawing sense of failure when I don’t pull it off. I’m still having dreams about my latest TNB post, dreams in which I’m trying to address my lack of clarity, phrasing better what was phrased ambiguously and fully realizing what was half baked.

            So it’s a little hard for me to understand how people who think of themselves as writers can be so cavalier. Everything I write ends up touching on matters of importance to me. I pay more attention, naturally, to the details of an essay than I will to a comment on a message board, but I’ve felt the same nagging sense about sloppy expression on a message board as I have about an essay. I suppose, in the end, I feel that I may strike on something of value by “accident,” but if I take the position that “formal” writing counts and “informal” writing doesn’t, I feel I may potentially miss something. It’s not, by a long shot, that I believe my thoughts hold significance for the world. But those thoughts may hold significance for me and, in private correspondence, with my correspondent, and they may pay off one day in “formal” writing aimed at a larger audience, though, in my case, that larger audience will always be one small to the point of nonexistent.

            I think we’re always revealing ourselves, even when we aren’t aware that we’re revealing ourselves, but, to the degree that I consider myself a “writer,” I feel I have to take stock of what I’m revealing and I’m not.

            But maybe I’ve wandered far away from the subject.

            • James D. Irwin says:

              I always take care over whatever I write, unless it’s a very quick text.

              The replies I write on comment boards, in e-mails, and most texts… I re-draft them as I go. I don’t know why, because I am about as lazy a person as you can meet. I enjoy writing, whatever it is. Particularly letters, which of course I don’t write very often— largely just at Christmas.

              One of the main reasons I quit social networking is because I’d rather only two people ever stayed in touch with me, but in a more meaningful way than likes, pokes, and one line comments. Some— probably most— people are fine with a large shallow pool of interaction. That’s fine, but personally I find it deeply unsatisfying. I guess I’m just old fashioned…

            • It surely is an art form, but in that case I am definitely no artist. As I said, my e-mails are typically short, but even the long ones are poorly written. Usually they’re just stream-of-consciousness nonsense. If I was being kind I could compare them to the Joan Anderson letter, but that’s just justifying a lack of focus on my part. And let’s not get started on typos…

              I must say, though, that I feel Twitter and Facebook help develop the ability to say a lot in a few words. I can tell sometimes that writer friends have put a lot of time into writing these short quips. They’ve had an idea or relate an experience and they’ve clearly attempted to put it down in the most concise phrasing. I guess, being generous again, one could compare it to the discipline of writing poetry, like haiku or some other rigid structure. Or maybe that’s being too kind…

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