THE WATCHERS. ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (c. APRIL 1961). William S. BURROUGHS.
THE WATCHERS. ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (c. APRIL 1961).
THE WATCHERS. ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (c. APRIL 1961).
THE WATCHERS. ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (c. APRIL 1961).

6.

THE WATCHERS. ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (c. APRIL 1961).

An expanded, unpublished version of "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin". With three typed letters SIGNED to Conrad Rooks.


9pp. carbon typescript (Burroughs usually typed in triplicate), with several holograph emendations in ink. An additional 1pp. typescript entitled "Rearrange The Word And Image to other fields than writing" includes "a most important post script to The Watchers concerning a new application of the cut up method to photography".


Burroughs' three letters to Conrad Rooks, each one concerning the submission of his article to Rooks's magazine, are dated between April 25th and May 16th, 1961, while Burroughs was in Tangier: "Here is the manuscript of The Watchers…I must apologize for the sloppy typing but I have been working here under considerable pressure." Approx. 270 words in total.


The title of Rooks's magazine is unknown (although it was likely never published), nor is it known when he first made contact with Burroughs; however, the promotional book for his 1966 film "Chappaqua" (in which Burroughs featured as Opium Jones, the Symbol of Junk) states that "William Burroughs met Rooks in 1961 after carrying on a literary correspondence thru 1960."


In his first letter (dated April 25th, 1961), Burroughs writes that "it is most important that some of Mr Brion Gysin's calligraphic writing accompany this text", and he provides Rooks with Gysin's address at the Beat Hotel in Paris. In the second (May 6th, 1961), Burroughs refers to "some illustrative drawing I hope you can reproduce", and in the third letter (May 16th, 1961) he states that "Brion Gysin is sending along some drawings to illustrate the text." Finally, in the postscript (which accompanied the third letter), he writes: "Particularly interesting effects are obtained by using color film. I enclose two examples of Collage Concentrate to show possibilities and extensions of the method as applied to photography." Burroughs began experimenting with photo-collages and montages following his return to Tangier in March 1961, and started using colour photography shortly before May 16th, the date of the third letter.


The original version of Burroughs' article, "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin", was first published in abbreviated form in "A Casebook on the Beat" (pp.105-106. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1961). It was extended from six paragraphs to three pages in Yugen #8, its first magazine appearance (pp.31-33. NY: 1962), and the same text was subsequently published over four pages in "The Third Mind", (pp.29-33. NY: Viking Press, 1978). The first four pages of the manuscript follow the four pages of this version, but the remaining five pages, consisting of an extended cut-up text, plus the 1pp. postscript, are unpublished.


Burroughs first gave a reading of "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin" on November 24th, 1960 at Cambridge University in a talk arranged by Ian Sommerville with his student group, the Heretics Society, less than two months before its first appearance in print. The manuscript is a much-extended version, making thorough use of Gysin's cut-up technique that by then had effectively become Burroughs' own.


"The Watchers" carries the subtitle "Inquire onward from state to doer. Watching you have They thought debarred - Cut from the Koran by Cut Up Method of Brion Gysin". Its title derives from the concept of the guardian angel or watcher (raqib) in Islamic tradition, though the reason for Burroughs' choice is not clear, since the first part had already been published as "The Cup-Up Method of Brion Gysin" in January 1961. It seems plausible that Burroughs chose a different title for his article's intended appearance in Rooks's magazine because it had been substantially expanded, and perhaps in order to differentiate one text from the other.


The unpublished parts demonstrate Burroughs' thorough immersion in the cut-up method, and were probably written either just before or around the time of his initial work on the texts that were to become "The Ticket That Exploded". They reveal his Rimbaudian ideas on colour separation, discovered while living in Cambridge during the last few months of 1960: "You can cut as you walk the streets of all your cities…Now look at the colors in the street…Pick out I all the red in the sweaters and flowers and signs. Now cut to O blue. U green - - E white newspapers white clouds - - A black store windows and so forth start with Rimbaud's Color Of Vowels. You will find yourselves using color alphabet." This colour-coded psychogeography is followed by the further suggestion to "Cut scenes from movies into your walk you can make a movie", and continues in a dense, dream-like stream of Burroughsian mythology and imagery: "Lee The Agent of Hassan I Sabbah walked color lines silent as a fish through body rooms streets along newsprint Herald Tribune was weightless...Burning star tracks intersect Mr Bradly Mr Martin…Back seat dream streets drifting smoke - - Photo Falling - - Word Falling - - Break Through in Grey Room…"; and later, in less fragmented passages: "The Master had written books the letters in different colors and we learned his color alphabet and all gathered in the main court yard to read the books aloud pulling letters off the page as we chanted color notes to drum beats until the letters danced out into the sky and mist and the rising sun…".


Two old horizontal mailing folds to each sheet, and minor handling wear to one letter, o/w Near Fine.


Early Burroughs manuscripts seldom appear on the market, with most of any significance now in the hands of institutional libraries. This previously unseen, expanded version of "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin" illuminates Burroughs' experimental working methods and illustrates the rapid development of his ideas during this period.

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