William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989

By Jennie Skerl; Robin Lydenberg | Go to book overview

23
The Postmodern Anus Parody and Utopia in Two Recent Novels by William Burroughs

Wayne Pounds

T o speak of a postmodern asshole is to raise the question of a predecessor, a modern asshole, of which I will mention three. In the first of the Hell Cantos, Canto XIV, Pound shows the usurers orating through their fundaments:

Faces smeared on their rumps, wide eye on flat buttock Bush hanging for beard, Addressing crowds through their arse-holes. (14.61)1

As a good modernist, Pound uses Dante as his authority for the scatological details of his hell.

The second example I take from the Calypso section of Ulysses. Bloom at his morning elimination, "asquat on the crapstool," leisurely folds out his newspaper and enjoys a kingly repose. Momentarily, he is monarch of the conflicting impulses of the self, now centered on the pleasures of elimination. "Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently. . . . Hope it's not too big to bring on piles again. No, just right. So. Ah!"2 Bloom's anal pleasures will return to him in the Circe section in an extreme and masochistic form when the Sins of the Past, in chorus, denounce his predilection for anal delights.

The third is from Georges Bataille, from a short novel called The Story of theEye

____________________

Wayne Pounds, "The Postmodern Anus: Parody and Utopia in Two Recent Novels by William Burroughs," Poetics Today 8.3-4 ( 1987): 611-29. Copyright © 1987 by Poetics Today. Reprinted by permission.

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