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Friday 9 March 2012

William S. Burroughs: A letter adressed to Truman Capote, 1970

Ecco Press publie ce mois-ci aux États-Unis Rub out the words : The letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959-1974, épais volume de correspondance foldingue dans lequel on trouve cette lettre adressée par Burroughs à Truman Capote le 23 juillet 1970, et dont on doute qu’il l’ait au final jamais envoyée. On voit bien pourquoi : Burroughs, en plein fièvre paranoïaque, s’y fait passer pour un anonyme « lecteur » au sens maison d’édition du terme, attaché à un département purement imaginaire, qui vient de terminer De sang froid, et couvre aussitôt d’insultes Truman Capote avec une force telle que l’on peut se demander si cette lettre n’est pas , littéralement, une parodie ou une facétie. In cold blood est quand même un grand livre, le New Yorker ne mérite sans doute pas d’être ainsi arrosé au vinaigre, on a toujours raison d’être parano mais on n’est pas obligé de croire tout ce que dit Burroughs sur paroles (ce que la toxicomanie vous fait faire, parfois…), et surtout on avait très envie de passer la pause de midi à retranscrire cette missive pour Discipline. Simplement parce que l’enthousiasme et la mélancolie ont souvent leur place dans DinD, mais rarement la mauvaise humeur. Et comme, ces jours-ci, on est de mauvaise humeur….

«My dear Mr. Truman Capote,
This is not a letter in the usual sense – unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama. Rather call this a letter from « the reader » - vital statistics are not in capital letters – a selection from marginal notes on material submitted, as well « writing » is submitted to this department. I have followed your literary development from its inception, conducting on behalf the department I represent a series of enquiries as exhaustive as your own recent investigations in the Sunflower State. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting prior to making a statement also came to my attention.
I have in line of duty read all your published work. The early works was in some respects promising – I refer particularly to the short stories. You were granted an area for psychic development. It seemed for a while as if you would make good use of this grant. You choose instead to sell out a talent that is not yours to sell.
You have written a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on The New Yorker – (an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interest of vested American wealth). You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created. You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn.
Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In cold blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.”

Rub out the words : The letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959-1974, edited by Bill Morgan, Ecco Press, New York, 2012

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