New Dutch Swing book cover

Back in No Time

The Brion Gysin Reader

Jason Weiss
Wesleyan University Press, 2001

- 15 cm x 23 cm (6 x 9")
- 354 pages
- 18 illust.


The first anthology of writings of a brilliant avant-garde figure.

Brion Gysin (1916–1986) was a visual artist, historian, novelist, and an experimental poet credited with the discovery of the ‘cut-up’ technique—a collage of texts, not pictures—which his longtime collaborator William S. Burroughs put to more extensive use. He is also considered one of the early innovators of sound poetry, which he defines as ‘getting poetry back off the page and into performance.’ Back in No Time gathers materials from the entire Gysin oeuvre: scholarly historical study, baroque fiction, permutated and cut-up poetry, unsettling memoir, selections from The Process and The Last Museum, and his unproduced screenplay of Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch. In addition, the Reader contains complete texts of several Gysin pieces that are difficult to find, including “Poem of Poems,” “The Pipes of Pan,” and “A Quick Trip to Alamut.”

more on the Wesleyan University Press site


Chapter One

* That Secret Look

"That Secret Look" (1941) first appeared in the journal View, edited by Charles Henri Ford. Like Gysin's early work as a visual artist, his writing here shows the general influence of surrealism. More important, as a skeptical portrayal of New York, city of technological advances and endless gimmicks, this piece reflects his perspective as an outsider—one whose experience was formed both by the "wilds" of western Canada, in childhood, and the "civilized" refinements of his English public school education, in adolescence, as well as by the vanguard aesthetics of 1930s Paris.

When the city grew beyond Washington Square it seems to have stopped, drawn breath and then stretched out ahead a scaffolding of streets and avenues, a blueprint laid over the face of the island to the Harlem River. These streets today are the erosions on the hard-baked shell of the Aristotelian turtle that bore the world. Anchored deep in his crusty back-armor are the towers and honeycombed brick and mortar cliffs from whose ledges the city at night glitters like a mirror drowned in a deep well. And lo! the poor refugee, the Marco Polo in reverse, preferring his little Venice to Xanadu, wouldn't buy the island with his trinkets and bright beads even if someone loaned him the $24 to conclude the deal. Traveling backward with the speed of an angry queen bee expelled from the hive, he cannot master the trick of putting on his clothes back to front as the natives do in order to give the impression of a more logical type of locomotion."

the whole chapter 1 can be read at Barnes & Nobles.

Steve Lacy's contribution



Wesleyan University Press is distributed by University Press of New England