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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Hans Christian Andersen/William Burroughs

The American novelist, Francine Prose, has a fascinating take on the similarities of these two:

Anyone with a casual knowledge of the lives and works of Andersen and Burroughs could compile a superficial list of surface similarities. Both men were misfits, eccentrics of a certain sort, who were fortunate enough to find acceptance in large or small circles that would tolerate (and even celebrate) certain sorts of eccentricity. Had they consulted a present-day psychotherapist, both might have left the practice with a daunting range of acronymic diagnoses, a list of syndromes and conditions. Both travelled widely, in part because they felt ever so slightly more comfortable or truer to their authentic selves in direct proportion to the exoticism (and even the discomfort) of their physical and geographical surroundings. Both wrote works set in theatres (surgical and dramaturgical): fictions in which it is nearly always possible to hear Death chortling away ominously in the wings or in the front row. Both were fascinated by the complex interrelationship between freedom and obligation, the rococo interweavings of autonomy, creativity, social pressure and control. Both were profoundly subversive in their nervy determination to mine the subconscious for its fascinating or appalling treasures. Both had a predilection for what is generally called dark humour, and they shared an odd interest in hanging – a theme that surfaces in Andersen’s paper-cuttings and, with increasingly upsetting intensity, in Burroughs’s later fiction. Both felt a compulsion to explore the scary, attractive borderland between beauty and terror. One wrote for children, but both of them knew, and knew well, exactly what frightens adults.

This quotation is extracted from Brick Magazine

One Response to “Hans Christian Andersen/William Burroughs”

  1. Lily says:

    Your Murakami excerpt (the one about the Great Gatsby) came from Brick magazine too, didn’t it? Clearly, I am going to have to subscribe. Thanks for this very interesting observation. I like Francine Prose — she’s a good reader and has a very fine brain.

    jb says: Hey, Lily, subscribing to Brick will be one of the things you won’t regret.