Tag Archives: Dream Machine

The Dream Machine part II

Early in this blog, I wrote about the Dream Machine, and now, with the expert assistance of Alan Govenar and Doumentary Arts, I can show you how our Dream Machine works:

You’ll all be able to see our Dream Machine in person this October when we’ll exhibit it along with the original manuscript for Naked Lunch. It’s all part of a 3 day conference:

October 8: New York University, Fales Library
Panel discussion on the influence of Naked Lunch: “The Children of William S. Burroughs”

October 9: Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library

“Fifty Years of Naked Lunch: from the Interzone to the Archive… and back.”

All sessions at the Columbia University Faculty House
1:00PM: Keynote “From Dr Mabuse to Doc Benway: The Myths and Manuscripts of Naked Lunch”
Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature, American Studies, Keele University

2:30PM: Short papers
Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library
“William S. Burroughs: The Writer as Avant-Garde Archivist”

Brian E. C. Schottlaender, Audrey Geisel University Librarian, University of California, San Diego
“Manifestations, Multiple Versions, and Showstoppers: Collecting the Various Guises of Naked Lunch”

Regina Weinreich, Professor in Humanities & Sciences, School of Visual Arts, New York City
“Honing the Word Hoard: Kerouac, Tangier and Naked Lunch”

4:30PM
Panel Discussion: “From the Bunker and Beyond: firsthand encounters with William S. Burroughs & Naked Lunch”
Moderator: Ann Douglas, Parr Professor of Comparative Literature, Columbia University
Speakers: Barry Miles, Author; Visiting Fellow, Liverpool School of Art and Design, John Moores University
Bradford Morrow, Novelist; Editor, Conjunctions; Professor of Literature, Bard College; and
Barney Rosset, Publisher, Evergreen Review and founding publisher, Grove Press

6:00pm
Reception and viewing of the exhibition: Naked Lunch: the First Fifty Years in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 6th floor Butler Library
October 10, the School of Visual Arts
SVA will host an evening of film and performances, including a screening of The Beat Hotel, a new documentary by Alan Govenar. Poet Anne Waldman and others (to be announced) will read from Naked Lunch.

William S. Burroughs’ Dream Machine

RBML collects more than just books and manuscripts; we also have a lot of what librarians call realia—real life objects. Pictured here is our Dream Machine, which comes from William S. Burroughs, via his collaborator & one time assistant Steven Lowe.

The Dream Machine is a simple device: a slotted cardboard cylinder is mounted on an old phonographic turntable, and sits like a lampshade over a lightbulb. Power it up and the spinning cylinder creates a flickering light that oscillates at a rhythm corresponding to alpha waves in the brain, thus creating a psychedelic effect for the observer.1

Brion Gysin & Ian Sommerville, two of WSB’s artistic collaborators, are credited as the Dream Machine’s creators. Ted Morgan, author of Literary Outlaw: Life and Times of William S Burroughs, writes that WSB “thought the Dream Machine was terrific, and had strange visions peering at it.”

As many Burroughs readers and scholars know, RBML is home to several significant Burroughs manuscripts—the Junkie typescript is here and so is the “Interzone” typescript, which WSB scholar Oliver Harris calls the largest and most significant Naked Lunch manuscript extant. In Fall 2009 our Dream Machine will exhibited alongside these manuscripts for the fiftieth anniversary of Naked Lunch. Stay tuned for details…

1 In the name of scholarship, one of our curators tested both the mechanical and visual integrity of this device, and we can report that sitting in front of a spinning Dream Machine, even with eyes closed, produced colorful flashes of dizzying effect.