William S. Burroughs looking serious, sad lover’s eyes, afternoon light in window (Photo by Ginsberg)
“How to Write a Novel” by Gordon Lish
First make sure you have enough time. It is crucial that you have enough time to make things up. Myself, I do not have time enough for anything like that.
But I’ll tell you what’s what. It will not be hard for you to follow me doing it.
I’m composing these instructions on an I.B.M. Selectric. I got it back in 1961. I did not buy it. I finessed it or I finagled it or I stole it.
The person who is the unexpressed direct object of one or the other of these verbs was rich. He said you can borrow this thing, use it for a while. Then he stuck his other thing in my wife’s thing. They still have their things and I have this thing and I’m not giving it up.
It’s given tip-top service. I really loved it when I first saw it, and I still love it just as much.
I never cover it over with anything. I don’t cover it over with anything like a cover or anything—because I like to look at it—the shape. I.B.M. is good at giving a thing a nice shape. I always look at the shape of things before I snap of the light in a room.
I think 1961 was the Selectric’s first year.
I talk to engineers whenever I get a chance. I don’t mean the kind that build bridges. I mean the fellows that service things. Those are the engineers I talk to.
You know what one of those fellows once told me once? Buy the first of whatever it is! He said buy the first one of whatever it is because the maker of it is never going to knock himself out like that again—making, you know, all of the others after that. That’s why this one’s still going fine after so many wonderful, wonderful years.
The same goes for the Polaroid camera I’ve got. I’ve got the oldest one there is. You know how old that is? Here’s how old it is. It’s called, they call it, the Polaroid Land Camera.
That’s how goddamn old it is!
No shit, it was a first one—it was the very first Polaroid the Polaroid people made!
You want to see pictures? Look at these pictures! Tell me when in your life you ever saw in your life pictures as sharp as these pictures!
Because they’e this big when I start out with them. You see how big? Next to nothing, right? But then what? But then I go get them all blown up as big as life! See them? Look at them all over the walls if you don’t know what I mean!
That’s resolution for you , isn’t it?
Well, that’s my second wife, okay?
They’re framed all over the place.
People come in here and then they look at them and then they smack their heads.
My God, they say, such pictures!
I say, original issue, a maker knows his game.
I’m about 60 pages away from finishing Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous magnum opus, 2666, an astounding, shocking book that you should pick up right now and start reading, unless, of course, you hate the idea of getting hopelessly addicted to a book that coerces you to read it, that lingers in the back of your mind and gut, beckoning, calling you, even as you should be working or spending time with your family or doing errands or chores, etc. But otherwise: read it. A proper review forthcoming.
Anyway. The backbone of the plot, or, rather, the peripheral story that haunts the plot(s) of this massive, heavy novel, involves a seemingly endless string of largely unsolved murders in the fictional Mexican border city of Santa Teresa. An ugly industrial town in the Sonora Desert, Santa Teresa is a thinly disguised stand-in for Ciudad Juárez, where over the past 15 years over 400 young women have been raped and killed, their murders unsolved. While searching the gruesome real-life back story that informs Bolaño’s masterpiece, I came across Fadek’s eerie and sympathetic images of Juárez (this background story on Fadek and the Juárez photos is also quite good). Fadek aims clearly to draw attention to these underreported crimes, but his photographs also capture the doom and foreboding that looms in the blood of 2666. Those who’ve read the novel will no doubt find them evocative of the fourth book of 2666, “The Part About the Crimes,” and those who are flirting with undertaking Bolaño’s big book may find their interest redoubled. In any case, Fadek’s photojournalism is well worth a look. Great stuff.