On one evening in 1978, Frank Zappa took to the stage of New York City’s Entermedia Theatre to read a passage from William Burroughs’ 1959 novel Naked Lunch. Zappa was one of many well-known figures taking part in the Nova Convention, a three-day exploration of Burroughs’ work that included film screenings, readings, performances and discussions about the writer and his extensive career.
At the time of the convention, The New York Times reported after the event that “the convention drew an interesting cross-section of people, and one suspected that only Mr. Burroughs could have brought them together. There were more or less conventional poets, novelists, performing artists, composers as diverse as John Cage and Philip Glass, rock musicians, serious students of American literature, street types and others.”
Zappa, perhaps unsurprisingly, decided to read a particularly humorous passage from Naked Lunch which has been referred to by Burroughs’ fans as ‘The Talking Asshole’ for obvious reasons. Taking to the stage, Zappa began: “Hiya. How you doin’ tonight? Alright, um, as you know, I’m not the kind of a person that reads books, I’ve said this before many times, I’m not fond of reading.”
He continued: “But, I do, I have in the past made exceptions, and uh, one of these exceptions was this part of the, the book that, I’m sure you know, called Naked Lunch, and I’ve received permission to read the part about the talking asshole. So…”
The recordings from the Nova Convention were collected and made into a rare double LP which included the likes of Patti Smith, John Cage, Burroughs himself and more.
For now though, Zappa.