Nova Express

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Nova Express
NovaExpress.jpg
First edition
Author William S. Burroughs
Cover artist Roy Kuhlman
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Series The Nova Trilogy
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Grove Press
Publication date
November 9, 1964 [1]
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
LC Class 64-10597

Nova Express is a 1964 novel by American author William S. Burroughs. It was written using the 'fold-in' method, a version of the cut-up method, developed by Burroughs with Brion Gysin, of enfolding snippets of different texts into the novel. It is part of The Nova Trilogy, or "Cut-Up Trilogy,' together with The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded . Burroughs considered the trilogy a "sequel" or "mathematical" continuation of Naked Lunch .

William S. Burroughs American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer

William Seward Burroughs II was an American writer and visual artist. Burroughs was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author whose influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films. He was also briefly known by the pen name William Lee. Burroughs created and exhibited thousands of paintings and other visual art works, including his celebrated 'Gunshot Paintings'.

The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a written text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. The concept can be traced to at least the Dadaists of the 1920s, but was popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by writer William S. Burroughs, and has since been used in a wide variety of contexts.

Brion Gysin Canadian artist

Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

Contents

Nova Express was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1965. It is listed in David Pringle's 1985 book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels .

Nebula Award literature prize for science fiction and fantasy works from the United States

The Nebula Awards annually recognize the best works of science fiction or fantasy published in the United States. The awards are organized and awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), a nonprofit association of professional science fiction and fantasy writers. They were first given in 1966 at a ceremony created for the awards, and are given in four categories for different lengths of literary works. A fifth category for film and television episode scripts was given 1974–78 and 2000–09, and a sixth category for game writing was begun in 2018. The rules governing the Nebula Awards have changed several times during the awards' history, most recently in 2010. The SFWA Nebula Conference, at which the awards are announced and presented, is held each spring in the United States. Locations vary from year to year.

Nebula Award for Best Novel literary award

The Nebula Award for Best Novel is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for science fiction or fantasy novels. A work of fiction is defined by the organization as a novel if it is 40,000 words or longer; awards are also given out for pieces of shorter lengths in the categories of short story, novelette, and novella. To be eligible for Nebula Award consideration a novel must be published in English in the United States. Works published in English elsewhere in the world are also eligible provided they are released on either a website or in an electronic edition. The Nebula Award for Best Novel has been awarded annually since 1966. Novels which were expanded forms of previously published short stories are eligible, as are novellas published by themselves if the author requests them to be considered as a novel. The award has been described as one of "the most important of the American science fiction awards" and "the science-fiction and fantasy equivalent" of the Emmy Awards.

David Pringle is a Scottish science fiction editor.

In 2014, Grove Press published a "Restored Text" edition, edited by Oliver Harris, which included a number of corrections and added an introduction and extensive notes. The introduction argued for the care with which Burroughs used his methods and established the text's complex manuscript histories.

Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1947. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove later became an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Oliver Harris is a British academic and Professor of American Literature at Keele University. He is the author and editor of ten books, including eight editions of works by William S. Burroughs: Letters, 1945–1959 (1993), Junky: the definitive text of Junk (2003), The Yage Letters Redux (2006), Queer (2010), and The Cut-Up Trilogy, The Soft Machine, Nova Express, and The Ticket That Exploded (2014). He is President of the European Beat Studies Network.

Interpretation

Nova Express is a social commentary on human and machine control of life. The Nova MobSammy the Butcher, Green Tony, Iron Claws, The Brown Artist, Jacky Blue Note, Limestone John, Izzy the Push, Hamburger Mary, Paddy The Sting, The Subliminal Kid, Blue Dinosaur, Mr. and Mrs. D are viruses, "defined as the three-dimensional coordinate point of a controller." [2] "which invade the human body and in the process produce language." [3] These Nova Criminals represent society, culture, and government, and have taken control by the use of word and image. Inspector Lee and the rest of the Nova Police are left fighting for the rest of humanity in the power struggle. "The Nova Police can be compared to apomorphine, a regulating instance that need not continue and has no intention of continuing after its work is done." [4] The police are focused on "first-order addictions of junkies, homosexuals, dissidents, and criminals; if these criminals vanish, the police must create more in order to justify their own survival." [5] The Nova Police depend upon the Nova Criminals for existence; if the criminals cease to exist, so do the police. "They act like apomorphine, the nonaddictive cure for morphine addiction that Burroughs used and then promoted for many years." [6]

Apomorphine chemical compound

Apomorphine (brand names Apokyn, Ixense, Spontane, Uprima) is a type of aporphine having activity as a non-selective dopamine agonist which activates both D2-like and, to a much lesser extent, D1-like receptors. It also acts as an antagonist of 5-HT2 and α-adrenergic receptors with high affinity. The compound is historically a morphine decomposition product made by boiling morphine with concentrated acid, hence the -morphine suffix. Contrary to its name, apomorphine does not actually contain morphine or its skeleton, nor does it bind to opioid receptors. The apo- prefix relates to it being a morphine derivative ("[comes] from morphine").

Control is the main theme of the novel, and Burroughs attempts to use language to break down the walls of culture, the biggest control machine. He uses inspector Lee to express his own thoughts about the world. "The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. [...] With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly." [7] As Burroughs battles with the self, what is human, and what is "reality", he finds that language is the only way to maintain dominance over the "powerful instruments of control," which are the most prevalent enemies of human society.

Criticism

While Naked Lunch was an initial shock to the literary community, Nova Express was considered the end of Burroughs's stylistic experiment and of the Nova Trilogy. The novel received more praise on its own, as it was often compared to the other books in the trilogy and Naked Lunch. Eric Mottram stated that although "Burroughs's repetitive narcotic and homoerotic fantasies become tedious in sections of his third novel ... it is from these obsessions that his most powerful work develops." [8]

Eric Mottram was a teacher, critic, editor and poet who was one of the central figures in the British Poetry Revival.

Reviewing the novel for a genre audience, Judith Merril compared Nova Express to "the surreality of certain dreams, or the intense fascination of a confusion of new impressions in real life." [9]

Related Research Articles

<i>Naked Lunch</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch is a 1959 novel by American writer William S. Burroughs. The book is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the U.S. to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone.

<i>Naked Lunch</i> (film) 1991 science fiction drama film directed by David Cronenberg

Naked Lunch is a 1991 drama film co-written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Scheider. It is an adaptation of William S. Burroughs' 1959 novel of the same name, and an international co-production of Canada, Britain and Japan.

<i>The Soft Machine</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

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Joan Vollmer Common-law wife of William S. Burroughs

Joan Vollmer was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College, she became the roommate of Edie Parker. Their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all night discussions. In 1946, she began a relationship with William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife. In 1951, Burroughs killed Vollmer in what he first admitted to and shortly thereafter denied as a drunken attempt at playing William Tell.

<i>Cities of the Red Night</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

Cities of the Red Night is a 1981 novel by American author William S. Burroughs. His first full-length novel since The Wild Boys (1971), it is part of his final trilogy of novels, known as The Red Night Trilogy, followed by The Place of Dead Roads (1983) and The Western Lands (1987). The plot involves a group of radical pirates who seek the freedom to live under the articles set out by Captain James Misson. In near present day, a parallel story follows a detective searching for a lost boy, abducted for use in a sexual ritual. The cities of the title mimic and parody real places, and Burroughs makes references to the United States, Mexico, and Morocco.

<i>Junkie</i> (novel) novel by William S. Burroughs

Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict is a novel by American beat generation writer William S. Burroughs, published initially under the pseudonym William Lee in 1953. His first published work, it is semi-autobiographical and focuses on Burroughs' life as a drug user and dealer. It has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s.

Dr. Benway is the name of a recurring character in many of William S. Burroughs' novels, including Naked Lunch and Nova Express. He is referred to only as "Dr. Benway" or "Doc Benway". He lacks a conscience and is more interested in his surgical performance than his patients' well-being.

<i>The Ticket That Exploded</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

The Ticket That Exploded is a 1962 novel by American author William S. Burroughs, published by Olympia Press and later by Grove Press in 1967. Together with The Soft Machine and Nova Express it is part of a trilogy, referred to as The Nova Trilogy, created using the cut-up technique, although for this book Burroughs used a variant called 'the fold-in' method. The novel is an anarchic tale concerning mind control by psychic, electronic, sexual, pharmaceutical, subliminal, and other means. Passages from the other two books and even from this book show up in rearranged form and are often repeated. This work is significant for fans of Burroughs, in that it describes his idea of language as a virus and his philosophy of the cut-up technique. Also, it features the cut-up technique being used by characters within the story. The Ticket That Exploded lays the groundwork for Burroughs' ideas of social revolution through technology, which he would later detail in his book-length essay The Electronic Revolution.

<i>Interzone</i> (book) collection of short stories by William S. Burroughs

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<i>Dead Fingers Talk</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

Dead Fingers Talk, first published in 1963, was the fifth novel published by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs. The book was originally published by John Calder in association with Olympia Press.

The Word Hoard was a large body of text produced by author William S. Burroughs between roughly 1954 and 1958.

The Nova Trilogy or The Cut-up Trilogy is a name commonly given by critics to a series of three experimental novels by William S. Burroughs.

<i>The Western Lands</i> novel by William S. Burroughs

The Western Lands is a 1987 novel by William S. Burroughs. The final book of the trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night (1981) and continues with The Place of Dead Roads (1983), its title refers to the western bank of the Nile River, which in Egyptian mythology is the Land of the Dead. Inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Burroughs explores the after-death state by means of dream scenarios, hallucinatory passages, talismanic magic, occultism, superstition, and his characteristic view of the nature of reality.

<i>Alis Smile: Naked Scientology</i> book by William S. Burroughs II

Ali's Smile: Naked Scientology is a collection of essays and a short story by American Beat writer William S. Burroughs (1914–97). First published in 1971 as the short story "Ali's Smile", the book eventually contained a group of previously published newspaper articles as well, all of which address Scientology. Burroughs had been interested in Scientology throughout the 1960s, believing that its methods might help combat a controlling society. He joined the Church of Scientology later in the decade. However, he became disenchanted with the authoritarian nature of the organization. In 1970 Burroughs had published a "considered statement" on Scientology's methods because he felt they were significant enough to warrant commentary. These pieces were later gathered together into Ali's Smile: Naked Scientology, which religious studies scholar Hugh B. Urban describes as a "nonscholarly popular exposé of Scientology". Burroughs's texts argue that while some of Scientology's therapies are worthwhile, the dogmatic nature of the group and its secrecy are harmful.

This is a bibliography of the works of William S. Burroughs.

<i>Call Me Burroughs</i> 1965 studio album by William S. Burroughs

Call Me Burroughs is a spoken word album by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, which was released on LP by The English Bookshop, Paris, in June 1965, and then issued in the United States by ESP-Disk, New York, in 1966. Rhino Word Beat reissued the album on Compact Disc in 1995, the company's first ever reissue.

References

  1. Elliott, George P. (November 8, 1964). "Speaking of Books: Nihilism". The New York Times : BR2. With the novel 'Nova Express,' published tomorrow...
  2. Burroughs, William S. Nova Express. New York: Grove, 1992. p. 68
  3. Murphy, Timothy S. Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs. New York: University of California, 1998. p. 110
  4. Burroughs. Nova Express. p. 51
  5. Murphy. p. 131
  6. Murphy, ibid
  7. Burroughs. Nova Express. p. 14
  8. Hibbard, Allen, ed. Conversations with William S. Burroughs. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 1999. p. 12
  9. "Books", F&SF , May 1965, p.74