Tuesday, June 25, 2013

William S. Burroughs and Louise Brooks

William S. Burroughs and Louise Brooks. The experimental novelist and the silent film star. He authored Naked Lunch and Junky and other works of "Beat" fiction. She played Lulu in the classic German expressionist film Pandora's Box. Brooks and Burroughs. Burroughs and Brooks. They are two cultural figures one doesn't think of together.

That's why I was surprised when I came across an item about Brooks in Burroughs' archive. Ohio State University has a large collection of Burroughs' books, manuscripts, and miscellaneous items. This collection of papers, books, serials, and other materials was given to OSU in 1998 by the estate of the writer. It includes magazine and newspaper articles Burroughs himself, in all likelihood, cut out and saved. Their holdings are documented online here.

And there in Box 15, Folder Number #153-171, between F. Scott Fitzgerald stories in Redbook magazine from the 1930s, and newspaper clippings from 1979 documenting a building fire in Lawrence, Kansas is item number 159:
"Kenneth Tynan, The Girl in the Black Helmet, 1979 PC of an article in The New Yorker, June 11, 1979, about the movie actress Louise Brooks, whose career was in the 1920's and 1930's."
I assume PC means photocopy.

Why did Burrough's keep a photocopy of Tynan's essay? Was he intending to write about the actress? Was it his interest in things from Kansas? (He lived in Lawrence. Brooks grew up Wichita.) Was he interested in Brooks as a cultural figure? Might they have crossed paths in New York City in the 1950s? Or did he perhaps know Tynan, the English theater critic and essayist. Tynan was a social creature, and seemed to know just about everyone. It's hard to say.

James Grauerholz, if you read this and might know why this particular article is in Burrough's archive, please drop a line or post a comment. (We met years ago when you and Ira Silverman were touring to promote the Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader. I put on an event with you both in San Francisco.)

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