Burroughs Month: Making a hole in time


Question: In Cities of the Red Night, you deal with cut-ups as a form of psychic research. Is that based on any research or experience of your own?

Burroughs: Oh, yes, it’s based on research of my own, naturally. If you take, say, a time segment and start cutting it and playing around with it, often quite interesting things will emerge.


Q: The method in the novel was to read and then have sounds interspersed —

B: Yes.

Q: What would be the theory behind that? Synchronicity?

B: No theory behind it, it’s just a fact. Just a phenomenon.


Q: In The Job, you cited a case where you displaced a restaurant that had served bad food by your use of tape recordings. How did that work?

B: I don’t know why it works. You simply make recordings in front of the restaurant, and you take pictures as you make the recordings. Then you play the recordings back in front of the place and take more pictures —

Q: In front of the owners, or the workers?

B: It doesn’t matter.


Q: Is it necessary to distort the recordings?

B: Not necessary at all. What you’re doing, actually, you’re sort of making a hole in time. People are hearing what happened yesterday, and they think it’s happening right now, so it makes a hole in time through which something can cause a disruption.


Q: How did you stumble upon this method?

B: It came from a series of experiments with actual street recordings, making recordings and playing them back in the streets. When you do that, you find that very interesting things will happen.

Q: I think people are still uncomfortable with this sort of acausal view of the world.

B: I’ve never subscribed to cause and effect.

(1984 interview.)

The third time I read through Burroughs’ explanation of how to perform the psychic cut-up to make the restaurant disappear, something clicked: I turned a mental corner and found myself forming the thought, “Of course — the pictures being the same on both days confuses the recording and that makes the hole.” I actually still know what I meant, and that thought description does not fully explain it, but I ought not think about any of this because I’m crazy enough already and have got to actively dissuade myself from burning down the Wendy’s on a monthly basis*, plus I’m not feeling so hot today to boot, so I’m going to go lay down with a book.





All pictures not of Mr. Burroughs are via Square America.

*At night, when there is no one there to be hurt. I’ve given it loads of thought.

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