A Thanksgiving Prayer by William S. Burroughs

In keeping with our holiday tradition, we now bow our heads as Uncle Bill leads us in A Thanksgiving Prayer.


  1. March 9 1961
    9 Rue Git Le Coeur
    Paris 6, France

    Dear Allen:

      I received the mushroom from Leary. Great but I think not as far out as mescaline. In any case I reached an interesting area and will present the maps in my current novel. I enclose a short piece in a light vein for Metronome or whatever. The Green Boys with purple fungoid gills I saw with the mushroom and have written a long section on these curious regions and the practices of the natives. I enclose also a brief article on The Cut Up Method of Brion Gysin which I read on Thanksgiving Day to The Heretics Society in Cambridge. (Feeling rather like Gertrude Stein). For Yugen or whatever. How is Huncke? Give him my best regards and I hope he stays off. I still think apomorphine is the best treatment for addiction. Taken orally it is not unpleasant and need not involve actual nausea. I think that bad experience with the apomorphine treatment results from lack of experience on the part of the physician. Tell Huncke to drop me a line if he finds time and inclination. Mason was around about two weeks ago just after cure sound too and looking very much like Huncke some how synchronized you understand? I am writing to Leary in some detail. Please let me hear from you soon. Have you ever seen Jerry Newman by the way?


      Bill B.

  2. I swear, this vid is like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the insufferable.

    Whatevs, Bill. I say any excuse to get together with your pals and share food is probably a good one.  Your table for one is over there in the corner.

  3. I couldn’t help but notice that this ode to the destruction of individuality and the american dream is brought to us this year by VEVO.

  4. It isn’t really Thanksgiving until I’ve heard this, and then it’s not Christmas until I hear Bing Crosby and Bowie singing little drummer boy.  And lately (the last few years), I have to hear Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, too.

    Hope all you happy mutants had a good one!  Or are having a good one… You know what I mean.   

  5. He forgot to say thanks for murdering his wife, and for the corrupt law system that let him get away with it.

      1. Soooo?

        I guess if we want to make sure we’re attacking american institutions, both people involved, Burroughs and his wife were american citizens. It was also common knowledge that he fled the murder conviction. How incompetent is the american criminal system if nothing was done to follow up on that?

    1. She seems like a real piece of work as well (using speed while pregnant).   Seems like they were meant for each other – both junkies. 

    2. Burroughs was many things, and if he had just remained a junkie scion and never written a word we’d know nothing about him. He was a wrecked and tortured fellow, in no small part because of the events of 09/06/51. Read his work, the letters, and the history. You’ll not find any romanticism there. This isn’t Tarantino-style heroin chic, this is addiction, and addicts. It’s a miserable scene. Flashes of brilliance. But miserable and full of crime.

      I write this as someone who rolls his eyes every Thanksgiving when this old routine gets rolled out, mostly because Yes, we know that, thank you very much. However: there are folks who haven’t really thought about the holiday from that perspective, and just doing that much is valuable, regardless of whether they end up rejecting the perspective. Burroughs wrote the piece in the midst of Reagan’s America, when the Mythic American Kool-Aid was even more plentiful than during Bush II. Yes, it’s a cudgel. The man wasn’t known for subtlety.

      So, perhaps read the work instead of Wikipedia. It’s not all like this. Most of it is…well, less accessible.

      Which probably isn’t a strong selling point. But there it is.

      1.  “Read the work instead of Wikipedia” should be on big banners at the top of every page instead of Jimmy Wales’ face asking for cash.

      2. I hate the fact that the first thing people react to when being introduced to Burroughs is the queer / junky controversy. This is entirely his fault for being such a controversial counter culture figure and pushing the boundaries at that time. However, if you read his autobiographical material (Junky and Queer) you will find some of the most truthful and human moments found in pretty much all literature. I still take time out of every year to read those two books back to back and am still blown away by their brutal honestly every time. His other surreal Tangier year works like Naked Lunch should be read for the same reason you go to see a concert, a carnival or a freak show. The pure spectacle of it all.

        Secondly, I hate the fact that people wouldn’t read an author because he is/was an asshole/bad person. If you actually follow this rule you can pretty much burn all your favourite books. Most nice unselfish people don’t make good writers.

        1. I agree. With a bit less vehemence, but a nodding head. Particularly with your second paragraph.

          You might enjoy wading into these and these now and again, if you haven’t already. I’m working my way through the latter at the moment (which is why the man is so much on my mind these days). The letters are short, so you can just peck at the volumes here and there, and the cumulative effect is interesting, adding detailed dimension to everything else. If you really want to dig into things, check out Grauerholz’s paper on Joan Vollmer’s death [.PDF]. If nothing else, read the very last page.

  6. A part of my Thanksgiving set list:

    “Thanksgiving Dinner”, Todd Barry
    “Eat Myself To Death”, Billy Dankert
    “Pumpkin Pie”, Kid Congo Powers & the Pink Monkey Birds
    “Turkey Dinner”, the Hoodoo Gurus
    “Black Friday”, Steely Dan

    “Thanksgiving Prayer”, William S. Burroughs
    “Thanksgiving Day”, Ray Davies
    “The Thanksgiving Filter” the Drive-By Truckers (For Quinn)
    “Thankful N’ Thoughtful”, Bettye LaVette

    Acceptable ?

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