This year would have been William Burroughs’ 100th birthday. He died in 1997 at the age of 83, which was still pretty good going for a man who spent the majority of his adult life treating his body like a pin cushion. While he wasn’t travelling the world, trying new drugs or accidentally shooting his wife dead in a failed William Tell trick, he wrote books that are now sold next to Jack Kerouac’s and Allen Ginsberg’s, and read by every teenager who’s outgrown Salinger and wants to look like a maverick on public transport.
Perhaps his most well-known is 1959’s Naked Lunch, a chronicle of heroin visions that’s partly set in the dreamlike “Interzone”, an imagined city based on his experiences of living in Tangiers’ lawless international zone after World War II. Parties in the Interzone tend to be pretty chastening affairs, where madmen “go about with a water pistol shooting jism up career women”.
When I heard that something called Guerrilla Zoo was going to recreate one of these near the O2 Arena to celebrate Burroughs’ birthday, I thought it would be impossible, owing to stuff like laws and common decency. But I didn’t want to write them off without seeing it for myself first, so I got a ticket and went along.