language is a virus


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“The cut-up is actually closer to the facts of perception than representational painting. Take a walk down a city street and put down what you have just seen on canvas. You have seen a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows - a montage of fragments. Writing is still confined to the representational straitjacket of the novel … consciousness is a cut up. Every time you walk down the street or look out of the window, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors.”

The cutup is a mechanical method of juxtaposition in which Burroughs literally cuts up passages of prose by himself and other writers and then pastes them back together at random. This literary version of the collage technique is also supplemented by literary use of other media. Burroughs transcribes taped cutups (several tapes spliced into each other), film cutups (montage), and mixed media experiments (results of combining tapes with television, movies, or actual events). Thus Burroughs’ use of cutups develops his juxtaposition technique to its logical conclusion as an experimental prose method, and he also makes use of all contemporary media, expanding his use of popular culture.

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