Fergus Henderson

Depthless Ruminations on The Ticket That Exploded

It is hinted at points in this novel that words are a virus preventing people from inner silence. If this is indeed the case then it seems like Mr Burroughs is gleefully using this principle to abuse us. When any single paragraph might have hundreds of meanings and is loaded with incidental poetry, grotesque imagery and apparent nonsense, it is hard to retain any peace of mind.

The Ticket That Exploded is the second in a trilogy in which Burroughs applies the technique of writing a paragraph then cutting up sentences from it, cutting the sentences in half, doing this multiple times and then forcing the half sentence in with an accidental partner. Thus he creates discordant bastard sentences that at best can be beautiful, provocative and intriguing, and at worst are a violent nonsensical mess that will make your brain ache trying to work out what’s happening. I think Burroughs knew this: that by using this experimental idea he would create a joyful obstruction of sense. 

I consulted the internet community of wonderful nerds on how to enjoy this book. This may sound pretty stupid and indicative of someone with low intelligence (oh anonymous reader, you cold thing!), but I received rather sage advice: if you find yourself straining to find some meaning in the jumbled craziness of this trilogy, just let it wash over you. This works immensely. Sometimes Burroughs will riff on a motif that one must view as a whole. Individual sentences may not make sense but taken as an entire paragraph becomes food for yer brain. I’m still not at all sure if the actual ending of the book was at the end. This gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with and how little point there is in trying to explain the plot.

Maybe this enthusiasm sounds like the idiocy of a cult member; maybe I’ve fooled myself. Quite possibly true. From a cynic’s point of view this book is an exercise in incomprehensible indulgence filled with wilfully intense imagery. The last point certainly is true. With Burroughs it appears to be a rule of thumb that an anus must appear on every second page, ideally with many things (frog spawn, penises) in or near it. It is a self-flagellating process at times, reading this book, I admit. However, with The Soft Machine and Nova Express still to be read, there’s no time for anaesthetic.