This story is over 5 years old.

The Fiction Issue 2012

And Here Is My Good Big Centipede

In four pages of raw transcript, Burroughs talks about his reoccurring centipede nightmares, falling in love, and Hemingway's brain damage.
June 11, 2012, 11:50am

Illustration by Marco Klefisch

In the summer of 1982, British novelist and journalist Duncan Fallowell went to Lawrence, Kansas, to spend time with William S. Burroughs at his new house. On Fallowell’s arrival, Burroughs was busy befriending the local locksmith, because, as Burroughs put it, “You can’t have too many locks.” Fallowell also remembers Burroughs wearing a “jacket of some awful synthetic blue material which he very proudly said he bought at the thrift shop for $8.” 


Over the course of their visit, Fallowell recorded three hours’ worth of formal interviews with Burroughs. On a very tight deadline, around 2,000 words of their conversation were compressed and edited into a Q&A for Time Out. This remained the sole publication of their discussion until the interview popped up once again in 1994’s Penguin Book of Interviews. The frenzied editing process, however, left pages and pages of annotated transcripts on the cutting-room floor, and the excised portions of their freewheeling discussion have remained unpublished and unseen for the past 30 years. Until now. 

What follows is four pages of that raw transcript, reproduced with Fallowell’s original annotations and irritable notes on the transcriber’s oversights. It covers a somewhat non sequitur meander. Fallowell often decorated his manuscripts and typescripts with doodles (the minimalist centipede scrawled in the margin is particularly worth noting), but he told us that, for whatever reason, the last time he did this in any extensive fashion was on the Burroughs typescripts. 

After the interview was completed, Burroughs told Fallowell that “it would be more interesting if journalists were allowed to print exactly what happened and what was said,” so we imagine he’d be in favor of this unedited excerpt being published. And if not, too bad, because we’re doing it anyway.