A little help with Twilight's Last Gleamings

Greetings to the community,

Name is George, 40. I have been what now seems to be a life long Bukowski fan, however this is not a Bukowski related topic, as denoted by the header.

Couple of days ago I started reading Burroughs' Interzone. About 30 pages in and to be perfectly honest I am having trouble understanding certain nuances of the passages. Specifically in Twilight's Last Gleamings the message of radio operator Finch has me scratching my head. I do not even know whether they are meant to be understood or if my nautical jargon is inadequate or just my English is (not a native speaker).

"S.O.S....S.S. America ... S.O.S. ... off Jersey coast ... S.O.S. ... son-of-a-bitching set ...S.O.S. might smell us ... S.O.S. son-of-a-bitching crew..."

I get the function of the first couple of phrases but no matter how hard I try, this - S.O.S. ... son-of-a-bitching set ...S.O.S. might smell us - remains a mystery to me.

Anybody familiar (or not) with the work that would be kind enough to enlighten me?

Kind regards

G.
 
After "Naked Lunch" which was pretty much raped by those typing it, Burroughs embraced the "cut up" method with his prose and pretty much destroyed his own work. If you're having troubles, it may not be your fault. What you are reading may never have been meant to be understood, sounds strange but it is true. Burroughs may have liked his mind altering substances but the actual writing, folding, cutting and mixing of his prose pages is most likely what is confusing. Guy would literally write a few pages of prose, fold them or cut them and shuffles the pieces of page. Love the guy when I can understand him but this is most likely the writer rather than you. if this isn't a "cut up" case it may be direct obfuscation . Even his contemporaries, Kerouac, disparage his cut up writing and stressed anything after "Naked Lunch" was trash.
My favorite work of his connected me with Dean Ripa, who is a legend with venomous snakes. After meeting with Dean several times and my consequential training for five years to handle dangerous snakes, Dean was murdered by his wife. But Burroughs described him as someone " out of a Joseph Conrad novel". All writing may not be designed to be understood, especially with Burroughs"s proclivity for drugs. I still work with venomous snakes but miss Dean and my offered spot working for him. I was also offered an unpaid apprenticeship with the country"s largest venom production lab but decided I enjoyed my fingers too much. Where did this post go? Burroughs doesnt always make sense, sometimes by design amd sometimes probably because of his indulgence.
 
Greetings and thank you for the response.
I realize that making sense is not a priority in B's work, however everything else in Twilight's Last Gleamings is coherent which is why I have been trying to decipher said line. Vainly so.
 
Sometimes his sentences form patterns over the course of an entire book....individual sentences or passages may only become comprehensible or completed later in the text. He was known to switch from one narrative to another very abruptly even in his non-cutup stuff. In his last trilogy, his assistant James Grauerholz suggested he not switch between story lines so quickly, make it less choppy; as a result the books become more readable.

I have an obscure cutup collection called The Travel Agency is on Fire and the intro states there are a couple large archives of B's cutup material out there, one of which contains 11k+ pages of cutups! From all accounts B was extremely rigorous and methodical in his approach, logging serious hours at the typer. Trying so many variations and permutations of the method. I think he might only pull one sentence out of an entire page. 11 thousand pages! Hard to fathom.

He also did things with formatting text like newspapers, or replacing letters with colored dots and symbols. Like a = &, b = ^ etc.

For all his avant-garde experiments he was really good at narrative. I re-read Junky recently and it's a pretty solid debut, pulpy and poetic. What might have he written had he not gotten turned on to the cutups...? He had real talent for a straight story. I like the experimental works, but none of them will entice me to read them more than once like Junky or a Bukowski novel. He's not to everyone's taste, but he's an interesting contrast to Bukowski as counterculture luminaries.

As for your SOS passages, not sure. Maybe he meant "set" literally. A scene being staged in the reality studio? And "might smell us" could refer to being discovered? B often writes about strong odors emanating from his characters. Might be a bit of a stretch. :)

Sorry if this response sounds pedantic. I'm a bit frazzled.

And sorry for Dean Ripa....
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Greetings and thank you for the response.
I realize that making sense is not a priority in B's work, however everything else in Twilight's Last Gleamings is coherent which is why I have been trying to decipher said line. Vainly so.

I have Interzone and you´re right about Twilights Last Gleamings being straight narrative. In James Grauerholtz foreword it says the story is often cited as Burroughs first attempt at writing. It says he wrote it in 1938 and written with the collaboration of his childhood friend, Kells Elvins, and that the story does not appear to be the original but a reconstruction from memory at some later point. So I think it´s safe to say it´s not part of his later cut up stories. I wish I could help you with the SOS part but I can´t. I´m not sure how to interpret it. There are some Burroughs groups on Facebook (one of them has almost 42.000 followers). Maybe some of those Burroughs fans know.
 
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