William S. Burroughs’ Scathing “Thanksgiving Prayer,” Shot by Gus Van Sant

“Thanks­giv­ing Day, Nov. 28, 1986” first appeared in print in Tor­na­do Alley, a chap­book pub­lished by William S. Bur­roughs in 1989. Two years lat­er, Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunt­ing, My Own Pri­vate Ida­ho, Milk) shot a mon­tage that brought the poem to film, mak­ing it at least the sec­ond time the direc­tor adapt­ed the beat writer to film.

If you’ve seen Bur­roughs use Shakepseare’s face for tar­get prac­tice, or if you’ve watched The Junky’s Christ­masyou’ll know that he was­n’t kind to con­ven­tion or tra­di­tion. And there are no pris­on­ers tak­en here, as you’ll see above.

For back­ground on Bur­roughs read the New York­er piece, “The Out­law, The extra­or­di­nary life of William S. Bur­roughs.” Find the text for “Thanks­giv­ing Prayer” here.

Now time for a lit­tle Thanks­giv­ing din­ner.…

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear a Great Radio Doc­u­men­tary on William S. Bur­roughs Nar­rat­ed by Iggy Pop

Gus Van Sant Adapts William S. Bur­roughs: An Ear­ly 16mm Short

William S. Bur­roughs’ Short Class on Cre­ative Read­ing

How to Jump­start Your Cre­ative Process with William S. Bur­roughs’ Cut-Up Tech­nique

William S. Bur­roughs’ Class on Writ­ing Sources (1976)

A Look Inside William S. Bur­roughs’ Bunker

A Short Visu­al His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, Accord­ing to the Irrev­er­ent Com­ic Satirist R. Crumb


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.