Saturday, November 03, 2007

the vomiter

I'd be interested to try ayahuasca, and likely in my medical kit have the necessary trimmings of banisteriopsis caapi and chacruna. What I lack is the fortitude for such an experiment. The idea of puking and shitting myself for ten hours in exchange for conversations with moon men and croc-headed Pleiadians is not as appealing as it once might have been.

But I can look at Pablo Amaringo's paintings of his yage experiences, and can read Burroughs' letters to Allen Ginsberg about finding and taking the brew in Columbia and Peru. The book is only about yage in a tiny way; mostly it's a charming travelogue by a first-rate cynic who seduces young mestizo boys and tries to score junk in rural Amazonian villages. The only beat novel I hate more than Naked Lunch is On the Road; the Yage Letters makes Burrough's reputation as a writer of merit more credible.

This new "Redux" edition contains Ginsberg's letters back to Burroughs, after Ginsberg takes the same trip and tries the same brew in the jungle. It also contains an interesting scholarly essay proving that Burrough's 'letters' were in fact fictional creations based in part on journal entries, correspondence, and notes Burroughs made for planned and never accomplished articles on the vine and its hallucinogenic properties.

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