The people of Pointy Town were once asked, in a referendum, if they wanted William S Burroughs as their writer-in-residence. Sensibly, they rejected him, arguing en masse that he was a gun-toting drug-addled nincompoop who took himself far too seriously and was, in turn, taken far too seriously by the kind of people who don’t actually read many books. That cut-up business may have won him some fashionable fans, but it’s just pictures of Jap girls in synthesis, innit? No, the Pointy Towners prefer their prose sequential and sparky, which is why they picked Pebblehead. But the bestselling paperbackist turned them down, for he was loth to live in Pointy Town, and residence therein was obviously a sine qua non for the position. There was a half-hearted plot to abduct Pebblehead from his “chalet o’ prose” high in the Swiss Alps and forcibly remove him to Pointy Town, but it fell apart by dint of timidity and awe.
The people then called for the appointment of Christopher Smart, author of Jubilate Agno. That great poem had recently become popular in Pointy Town as a method of organising civic behaviour. A line or two would be chosen at random each day, much in the manner of bibliomancy, but rather than foretelling the future the chosen text was, as far as possible, “acted out” by all literate Pointy Towners, and used as a sort of guide to their public conduct in the streets and boulevards. It had to be gently pointed out to them that Smart was long dead, and that while, at a pinch, it may have been possible to exhume whatever remained of him and have it reinterred in L’Etoile Du Pointy Town Cemetery, there could be no expectation of any new writing being done.
Pointy Town being a town without art, the panel next made the curious suggestion that the writer-in-residence post be offered to art critic Cosmo Hoxtonwanker. The thinking was that he might be able to identify this or that which could be considered as art, or could become art if viewed through artistic lenses. This idea was dismissed as foolhardy even faster than the rejection of Burroughs.
The next name out of the hat, as it were, though there was not actually a physical hat as such, was that of Jeanette Winterson. Although it was thought by many that she was far too important a writer to be persuaded to bother herself with a dismal provincial backwater like Pointy Town, initial inquiries proved positive. The people were divided, but a slim majority found in her favour, and the panel had gone so far as to evict all the guests from the Grand Hotel on the seafront so the even grander novelist could be installed there and have the building and its lovely gardens all to herself. Alas, negotiations fell through when the great author said she would refuse to write with the Pointy Pencil Of Pointy Town, considering it to be a phallocentric symbol.
At this point, quite unexpectedly, William S Burroughs, having heard the rumours, turned up in the town. He lurked on pathways like a ghoul of dreadful countenance, injecting himself with heroin and clearly lapping up being the cynosure of a certain cast of impressionable teenperson devoted to the “edgy”. His presence grew so tiresome that eventually he was pelted with pebbles and laughed at until he left town.
Still, though, Pointy Town was without a writer-in-residence. Even twee versifier Dennis Beerpint could not be persuaded to take on the job. And so the plan was quietly dropped… on the very day that, hoving into view on the horizon, huge and terrible and drooling, the Grunty Man approached! Could he wield the Pointy Pencil in his great clumsy fist? Inside that lumpen head, were there actually any thoughts that could be put down on paper, or even any thoughts at all? Was there in all Pointy Town a barn big enough to contain him in comfort?
Read on next week in Episode Two, in which the Grunty Man wrests editorship of the Pointy Town Clarion & Big Thumping Iron Hammer from milquetoast fop Gervase Weed!
Good old Burroughs. i saw a documentary about him many years ago in which he shows the interviewer his cache of weapons – flick knives, knuckle dusters, coshes, an expandable baton, guns.
i really liked Burroughs when i was 20. i skimmed through Naked Lunch before leaving England last autumn, and found it…not as amusing i’d remembered.
I thought that the Grunty Man would have slashed all writings into rotten bark deep in the woods, thousands of years ago. Not his own writings, but all things that need be written, ever. Even if that is not the case, handing the Grunty man a pencil and asking him to write something down for you still sounds like a terrible mistake.