1954 — William Burroughs writes his first letter home from Tangier

Burroughs was inspired by the works of Paul Bowles to visit Tangier, and found it much to his liking. He rented a room in the home of a procurer who supplied prostitutes to visiting tourists, and began to write. Burroughs referred to his prodigious output of fiction in this period as “Interzone”, and it would later form the basis of his best known work, “Naked Lunch”.

He also maintained a regular correspondence with friends and relatives, notably Kerouac and Ginsberg, as well as Burroughs’ parents (whom he was financially dependent on at this time). Although Burroughs stayed in Tangier only a few months before returning to America, there was never any question that he would return, and he saw in the new year of 1955 there.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

Bug Powder

A basic insecticide of the fifties in common use throughout New York City, Bug Powder is a yellowish powder that apparently kills bugs.

I say ‘apparently’ because from what little we see of it, it’s none too effective on bugs. Indeed, it is sufficiently un-threatening that it can be eaten or injected by humans, which is hardly the quality of a deadly poison.

It apparently improves the sexual experience, at least for women, with one user stating that she no longer needed to reach orgasm thanks to the drug. Its other effects are not well-known, although one user who was using it mixed with Bug Powder described the experience as ‘a Kafka high’, in reference to his story, Metamorphosis.

Related drugs: The Black Meat, Mugwump Jism and The Drug That Does Not Exist.

The Black Meat

Made from the sun-dried meat of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede, the Black Meat is a rare delicacy even among drug users.

Little is known of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede, and indeed, conventional taxonomies do not list it. It is unclear whether it the insect inhabits freshwater or the seas, although the former is more likely.

The centipedes are harvested by Interzone Inc., and taken to Interzone in North Africa where the flesh is dried by the hot Saharan sun. It is then ground up to form a light black powder, which can be injected or snorted by the user. Its effects are largely undocumented, although one user who was using it mixed with Bug Powder described the experience as ‘a Kafka high’, in reference to his story, Metamorphosis.

Related drugs: Bug Powder, Mugwump Jism and The Drug That Does Not Exist.

Mugwump Jism

Secreted by the mysterious Mugwumps of Interzone, Mugwump Jism is a colorless liquid that produces intoxicating effects on humans.

In fact, Mugwump Jism actually comes in two finely distinguished varieties, with similar effects. Strangely, what excites the Mugwumps (who are sentient bipeds of about the same size as humans, and appear to be some form of amphibian) to produce this drug is artistic creation, especially of a literary variety.

However, they do produce it even without this inspiration, albeit at a slower rate, and it is a sad but not uncommon sight in Interzone to see a chained Mugwump surrounded by a small circle of addicts sucking upon its excretions.

Related drugs: The Black Meat, Bug Powder and The Drug That Does Not Exist.

The Drug that does not exist

There is no drug more pernicious or addicting than this. Fortunately, there is also no drug more rare or hard to find. In fact, you can only find it in the movie version of Naked Lunch.

The Drug That Does Not Exist appears to be a creation of the fevered imagination of withdrawing multiply-addicted writer William Lee. God only knows what he was addicted to at that point – Bug Powder, Mugwump Jism, the Black Meat, and possibly even some real drugs like heroin or morphine…

For obvious reasons, little is known about this drug. But the smart money says that William Lee is right, and that withdrawal from it is a real bitch…

After all, if a man as experienced in the matters of addiction and withdrawal as William Lee is absolutely terrified of this particular withdrawal above all others, then it’s something the rest of us are better off not knowing too much about.

Related drugs: The Black Meat, Bug Powder and Mugwump Jism.

1959 — Naked Lunch is first published

Naked Lunch – no The – was first published in Paris in 1959. (US publication would wait until three years later.) It was a breakthrough novel for William S. Burroughs, who had spent five years writing it, mostly in Tangier, and mostly under the influence of a variety of drugs, or withdrawal from the same. As a text, it is a challenging work, with Burroughs’ hallucinatory prose further made confusing by the application of the Cut Up Method. Classifying it into a genre is nigh impossible, although it could be argued that the work prefigures both magic realism and gonzo journalism.

The book was not well received in the US upon its publication. In Burroughs’ own words:

When I started writing Naked Lunch, people offered their opinions: “Disgusting,” they said. “Pornographic, un-American trash!” “Unpublishable.” Well, it came out in 1959, and it found an audience: town meetings, book burnings and an inquiry by the state Supreme Court. That book made quite a little impression…

Referenced in:

Atlantis to Interzone — Klaxons