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Cities of the Red Night (original 1981; edition 1981)

by William S. Burroughs (Author)

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Member:randoymwords
Title:Cities of the Red Night
Authors:William S. Burroughs (Author)
Info:New York, N.Y. : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, c1981.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs (1981)

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Burroughs can introduce himself:

"The usual costume is boots and chaps, bare ass and crotch. Some have tight-fitting chamois pants up to midthigh and shirts that come to the navel. Many are naked except for boots, gun belts, and hang-noose scarves. Nooses dangle every ten feet from a beam down the center of the room."

"Streaks of phosphorescent shit, a smell like rotten solder, burning shivering sick, he needs the Blue Stuff. Dry blue crystals of snow on the floor stir in an eddy of wind and a crystal spark boy takes shape, naked, radiant, his long needle fingertips dripping the deadly Joy Juice, bright red hair floating about his head, disk eyes flashing erogenous luminescence, his erect phallus smooth as seashell with a tip of pink crystal, he is like some dazzlingly beautiful undersea creature dripping deadly venom."

"Cities of the Red Night" is perpetually climaxing. Whereas, for other authors, it might prove a diverting or comical (unwritten) pastime to imagine what it might be like if all of their characters--from every time and space--were to meet over drinks, Burroughs can't seem to resist transporting his entire cast into hallucinatory, ritualistic, gay bacchanals, frequently spiced up with hangings or gun play and always featuring copious technicolor (and sometimes poisonous) ejaculations. During and in between these sensory explosions, his sex-ready, fringe-inhabiting adolescents wage war against the establishments that Burroughs doesn't like, for instance, the church, imperial forces and women.

The stories that drive the first two "books" of this novel are both gripping (and comparatively light on the orgies). A detective involves himself more and more deeply in the globe-trotting hunt for a missing rich boy and a trio of young men join a collective of revolutionaries in Central America who are fighting in the name of freedom (sexual and otherwise) to expel Spain and the Catholic church from the hemisphere.
Burroughs' prose is totally appropriate to the tough guy detective and the military strategizing of his commundards. But then, in book three, from which the novel takes its name, drugs start writing the book, which shifts into a world of five (entirely fictional) dueling cities. The anchors of the first 243 pages come loose and swirl around with fever victims, imaginary drugs, vendettas, hangings and sodomy. For a Burroughs purist, this might be quite satisfactory, since his dissociative methods and provocative subject matter trump representative story-telling. But, I was let down and disengaged.

Still, this was worth the read for the simple fact that Burroughs pulled together more than 200 consecutive pages of relatively logical and linear prose and he is a skillful, imaginative writer with an entirely decadent sense of humor. For anyone who wishes to continue from where this book leaves off, "The Place of Dead Roads" offers a sequel in the same vein that is not at all disappointing. ( )
5 vote fieldnotes | Jan 5, 2009 |
Burroughs' best. Incendiary. Lunatic. Surreal. Anyone who doubts the man's intrinsic genius or associates him with cut-ups, dissing him as an "experimenter" should read the first thirty or forty pages of COTRN. This is the grand ol' mugwump at the top of his game... ( )
  CliffBurns | Nov 24, 2008 |
Worst book I've ever read. It's the most discombobulated thing ever. I wish people wouldn't think of this crap as art. ( )
  Sigualicious | Aug 31, 2007 |
I've been a fan of Burroughs' work since college, but it occurs to me that I'm not sure I've ever read any of his books straight through, from cover to cover. Nor does it seem as though it really matters whether you do, or whether you just pick up a book and read at random. I've previously read bits and pieces of Naked Lunch, The Soft Boys, and several others. Burroughs is often hard to read, and the subject matter can be icky, but as works of pure imagination he's unequalled.

I found this novel at the library, having never heard of it before, and decided, for a change, to read it whole. Unfortunately, my memory's not what it used to be, and it took me so long to get through it, I can't really say whether it made any difference. I enjoyed it, though, and would like to give it a try again sometime when I've got time to spend more time with it. ( )
  codyne | May 18, 2007 |
"Time collapses in on itself, such that all times are present. The Cities of the Red Night exist a hundred thousand years ago, yet the armies that battle there consist of seventeenth-century pirates, modern police and military forces, creatures from the future, gods of the golden age."

Read it all at http://troysworktable.blogspot.com/2007/04/cities-of-red-night-2.html ( )
  troysworktable | May 2, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burroughs, William S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mikriammos, PhilippeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312278462, Paperback)

While young men wage war against an evil empire of zealous mutants, the population of this modern inferno is afflicted with the epidemic of a radioactive virus. An opium-infused apocalyptic vision from the legendary author of Naked Lunch is the first of the trilogy with The Places of the Dead Roads and his final novel, The Western Plains.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Clem Snide, a private detective, has to solve a case of ritual murder. In the Gobi Desert 100,000 years ago, a red virus has erupted. And in the 18th century, gay pirates have set up their own republics in South America and are at war with the conquistadors. All three stories are merged at the end in a giant trans-time, trans-space battle.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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