Picture of William S Burroughs projected on the screen at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Pictures of a girl masturbating for an audience, a nude androgynous man being taken away by cops during Mardi Gras and one of William S. Burroughs, in front of a lie detector, were among the photographs shown at the San Francisco Art Institute, at the second of a three-day celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Naked Lunch, written by Burroughs.

The lie detector, was, of course, “to test if he was lying.” said Charles Gatewood, a friend of the author and a photographer of the underground scene that Burroughs wrote about.

The celebration, which started Friday with a round table discussion of the novel,  published in Paris, runs through Sunday. Contemporary writers will gather tonight at Amnesia Bar to read excerpts from Naked Lunch, considered a landmark in American literature because of its obscenity and the court case surrounding the story of a homosexual junkie.

At the Saturday event, Burroughs’ friends shared their photos, videos and anecdotes of the author.

“We both were junkies and liked getting high,” said Mel Clay, poet, play writer and Burroughs’ friend.  When Clay was 22, he went to Morocco with Burroughs.

On more than one occasion, Burroughs and Clay went from doctor to doctor pretending that Burroughs had kidney problems so they could get a Domorohl, a prescription drug.

“It is not the drugs that will kill you, it’s the lack of them,” said Clay, quoting Burroughs.

A Skype screen was widely projected in the auditorium so the audience could hear Kathelin Gray speak from New Mexico.

“William Burroughs was a shaman healer. That’s a side that not many people know,” said Gray, founder of the Theater of all Possibilities and close friend with Burroughs. Gray described personal moments, dreams, and supernatural events that connected them.

V. Vale, the publisher of RE/Search, a magazine on counterculture topics, said she had trouble reading Naked Lunch. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that he became a real fan after reading an interview with Burroughs at the Atlantic Monthly Review.

To close with the perfect finale, contemporary local authors will read excerpts of Naked Lunch Sunday night at Amnesia Bar, at 853 Valencia Street.

“It is going to be more like a party,” said Peter Maravelis, City Light Bookstore events coordinator, a North Beach store that has sponsored the anniversary celebration. Maravelis said that Amnesia Bar is an intimate setting, far from the academic world, where people can relax and have a drink while listening to the excerpts of the book.

Maravelis expects a younger crowd and likes closing the event at Amnesia because “it can evoke Burroughs spirit.

“He was also a performer who liked rock and roll and was friends with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page,” Maravelis said of Burroughs.

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Veronica Moscoso, is an Ecuadorian storyteller who narrates through radio, video, and short stories. She lived in the Middle East, South East Asia and now in California.

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1 Comment

  1. When I was 16 or so my grandma saw this book and a couple of others like catch 22 and freaked out and ratted me out to my mother who said “who cares?”

    Oddly my other set of grandparents would give me paperbacks, I remember the the Pappy Boyington book being far smuttier.

    The whole things here sound like a good time in theory.

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