Monday, October 29, 2012

William S. Burroughs, Cat Fancier

David Metcalfe on October 2, 2012

William S. Burroughs loved his cats. The outlaw author known for his unabashed avant-sexual space operas and hyper-spatial exploratory prose wasn’t one to apologize for his utter disgust over a society he saw crumbling under the iron claws of Control. However, behind the icy eyed visage of ‘El Hombre Invisible’ was a heart warmed with the gentle purrs of his coveted feline companions.

As Yony Leyser, director of the critically acclaimed bio-pic Williams S. Burroughs: A Man Within, discusses in an article for Vice, understanding Burroughs’ cats is central to understanding the man behind the myth:

“Author William S. Burroughs made his love for all things feline known in his book The Cat Inside, in which he refers to cats as “psychic companions” and innate “enemies of the state.” In his final journal entry, written just before he died, Burroughs discusses love as the ultimate cure-all. I feature the quote in my documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. What I fail to mention in the film is that the specific love he is referring to is what he felt for his cats. The more complete journal entry reads:

Only thing can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats present and past.
Love? What is it?
Most natural painkiller what there is.

Burroughs also subscribed to Cat Fancy for many years, saving hundreds of issues for his personal library. In May 2010, his manager, James Grauerholz, pitched a story to the pussy-friendly publication about the writer’s unwavering love for his kitties. The editors of the magazine must have been startled by the pitch, which began:

While William S. Burroughs is increasingly regarded as one of the most important writers of the 20th century, his artistic genius is often overshadowed by tales of his outlaw lifestyle: founder of the Beat movement; his drug addictions and homosexuality; the accidental shooting of his wife in a drunken William Tell routine; and, later in life, his unofficial status as the godfather of the punk rock movement. Of all the wild stories in Burroughs’s life, the best (and most secret), came last: That he did indeed find love and redemption before he died—through his cats.

The magazine’s editors (foolishly) said they would pass, and that was that. It seems Burroughs got the last laugh, though. A quick internet search for Cat Fancy’s HQ results in the address 3 Burroughs Drive in Irvine, California (the number 3 was thought to hold special powers by the author).

Head over to to read the rest of the article, and an in-depth interview with Roger Holden, the man who WSB entrusted with the care of his cats.

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