William Burroughs is widely reconized as one of the most innovative writers of the twentieth century. Click here to sign up for the City Lights Newsletter! Staff Recommendations. Rare Books. Poetry Broadsides.
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Burroughs Collecting. Roughly copies were printed in the first edition, and I would gather that few of even the most dedicated Burroughs fans have ever read it. Many people get this slim volume confused with the more common Exterminator! Readers who go beyond Naked Lunch and Junkie are probably familiar with Exterminator! This makes sense as Exterminator! The book was issued by Viking in Not surprisingly, this title is rather conservative in form, content, and packaging when compared to the radical experimentation in independent publishing venues of the preceding decade.
It is basically a short story collection. If The Exterminator is a forgotten text, Dave Haselwood is something of a forgotten publisher. His Auerhahn Press aspired to join high-quality printing with experimental writing. Building on the solid foundations of Circle, Ark and the printing work of the refugees from the Waldport Camp, like William Everson, printing in San Francisco exploded after the so-called San Francisco Renaissance of the mids.
Robert Hawley began Oyez Press in His books were beautifully done and according to some expensive. Andrew Hoyem cut his teeth working with Haselwood on Auerhahn Press titles in Yet time has dimmed the glimmer of Auerhahn Press. Somehow printers, like Hoyem and Mackintosh, have become household names in printing circles, and the legacy of Haselwood gets relegated to the shadows, rarely to be seen or heard from, like the bird from which the press takes its name.
How can this be possible when you take into consideration the titles and authors Haselwood published? Right off the bat the press printed a landmark work in post-WWII avant poetry. In addition, from the beginning Auerhahn had a signature look and feel. I love the cover photograph by Jerry Burchard.
In fact, Haselwood had a way of publishing what became iconic cover images. These are some of the most recognizable photos by Berman. It came out late last year on the heels of the excellent Wallace Berman and his Circle. Do yourself a favor and get both. They are fantastic. Alastair Johnston of Poltroon Press has singlehandedly attempted to keep Haselwood and his incredible backlist in the spotlight. Johnston published a bibliography of Auerhahn Press in a beautiful edition. The look of the volume really does Haselwood and Johnston proud.
The accompanying text is a treasure trove of information on Auerhahn. Go out and get a copy. If you can dig up a copy, get a hold of Ampersand Volume 16 Number 1 as well. The quotes from interviews and letters that follow come from the bibliography and Ampersand. Haselwood put a little extra into it.
In fact a limited edition of the book contained original artwork by Gysin. Roughly octavo-size but thin only 51 pages the book has a slight, ethereal quality. This is highlighted by the beautiful wrappers inscribed with Brion Gysin calligraphy in light green on front and back.
The white and green covers are delicate, subject to staining and fading. Finding a copy in fine condition is a challenge. Haselwood does approach the coranto immediacy of the later Brion Gysin Let the Mice In… though Exterminator strikes out towards an oversize Olympia paperback.
Not all agree on the beauty of The Exterminator. Haselwood has some reservations about the typography. Like many, Haselwood was quite fascinated by Burroughs. Unfortunately, this interest did not extend to the manuscript he received from Burroughs and Gysin.
On the other hand, Burroughs and Gysin were giddy with excitement about the possibilities of the cut-up. The collaborators saw nothing but opportunity and even dollar signs. Can you imagine, from a cut-up book.
God, he must have really been out on smack somewhere at that point. These are almost impossible to read. It was impossible to typeset. In fact, the repetitive poems could be jukebox sensation. As evidenced from the collected letters, Burroughs early on desired to be a bestselling author.
He craved acceptance from an audience, be it the general public or, as Oliver Harris demonstrated, Ginsberg or Lewis Marker. This early need for affirmation and the desire to make it big never left Burroughs. From the beginning, Burroughs sought to sell out. On one level he never had the opportunity early on. On another level, no matter how hard he tried and the letters show he tried repeatedly ; he just could not write bestseller material.
The Ugly Spirit kept getting in the way, as did his faith in the cut-ups. But like his grandfather, Burroughs was an entrepreneur. He wanted to make a buck. It was in his blood. Exterminator fever did not sweep the country although Burroughs received a small royalty check from Haselwood in Yet the book must have been something of a success, because Haselwood reissued it in with much less beautiful wrappers. Missing are the white and green, replaced by a dark blue and red.
In my opinion, the color change makes all the difference. Like the edition, there were copies in the second edition. So what does this forgotten text tell us? The Exterminator presents Burroughs at the dawn of his most radically experimental period. The idea of Burroughs as a poet has largely gone unnoticed. This may be due to the rarity of the two key texts in question: Minutes to Go and The Exterminator.
But in the time between the Olympia Naked Lunch and the Olympia Soft Machine late to mid , Burroughs appeared before the public as much as a poet then as a novelist. Remember Naked Lunch was unavailable in the United States as a complete novel.
It remained in essence a short story published in little magazines like Big Table. These publications had few readers, but those who received them were probably writers and artists. The Burroughs they would be familiar with would be as much a poet as a novelist. The Exterminator is a mixture of fiction, essay and poetry. The Exterminator serves as a transitional work from the poetic experiments of Minutes to Go to the form of the novel in the Soft Machine.
See Page Naked Lunch Burroughs. From the instant of its rediscovery by Gysin in September , the cut-up technique was in a state of constant flux and rapid development. The work of Minutes to Go quickly overflowed and morphed into the work collected in The Exterminator.
The material kept coming and spilled into a possible second volume. Interestingly, Harris barely mentions The Exterminator. Clearly, The Exterminator is in danger of becoming a lost work. Too bad in my opinion. A copy of The Exterminator might be on display. I do know he has some rare Auerhahn broadsides, so get up to Beacon if you are in the area. Your email address will not be published.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Auerhahn Press Catalog The Exterminator Auerhahn Press Announcement for The Exterminator Haselwood printed a lot of the small edition letterpress jobs for the Beats; he was the finest printer for hand set type. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Search for:.
The Exterminator by William Burroughs
Published by Penguin Books. Seller Rating:. About this Item: Penguin Books. Condition: GOOD. Spine creases, wear to binding and pages from reading. May contain limited notes, underlining or highlighting that does affect the text.
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Burroughs and first published in Early editions label the book a novel. It is not to be confused with The Exterminator , another collection of stories Burroughs published in in collaboration with Brion Gysin. Some of the stories, such as "Ali's Smile", had previously been published in other books and magazines such as Rolling Stone , Village Voice , Evergreen Review , and Esquire. The title story is about an insect exterminator , a job Burroughs himself once held.