Literary Anarchists


Charles Baudelaire [1821-67]

"I have cultivated my hysteria with delight and terror . . . I have received a singular warning, I have felt the wind of the wing of madness pass over me." —journal entry, ca. 1865

Samuel Beckett [1906-89]

"To be buried in lava and not turn a hair, it is then a man shows what he is made of. To know he can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with." —Malone Dies, 1951

William Blake [1757-1827]

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." —"Proverbs of Hell," The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1793

Paul Bowles [1910-99]

"He awoke, opened his eyes. The room meant very little to him; he was deeply immersed in the non-being from which he had just come . . . there was the certitude of an infinite sadness at the core of his consciousness, but the sadness was reassuring, because alone it was familiar." —The Sheltering Sky, 1948

Charles Bukowski [1920-94]

“There was nothing really as glorious as a good beer shit—I mean after drinking twenty or twenty-five beers the night before. The odor of a beer shit like that spread all around and stayed for a good hour-and-a-half. It made you realize that you were really alive.” —Ham on Rye, 1982

William S. Burroughs [1914-97]

"Ever see a hot shot hit, kid? I saw the Gimp catch one in Philly. We rigged his room with a one-way whorehouse mirror and charged a sawski to watch it. He never got the needle out of his arm. They don’t if the shot is right. That’s the way they find them, dropper full of clotted blood hanging out of a blue arm. The look in his eyes when it hit—Kid, it was tasty . . ." —Naked Lunch, 1959

Albert Camus [1913-60]

"I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day." —The Fall, 1956

Louis-Ferdinand Celine [1894-1961]

"True, we have got into the habit of admiring colossal bandits, whose opulence is revered by the entire world, yet whose existence, once we stop to examine it, proves to be one long crime repeated ad infinitum, but those same bandits are heaped with glory, honors, and power, their crimes are hallowed by the law of the land, whereas, as far back in history as the eye can see—and history, as you know, is my business—everything conspires to show that a venial theft, especially of inglorious foodstuffs, such as bread crusts, ham, or cheese, unfailingly subjects its perpetrator to irreparable opprobium, the automatic dishonor, and inexpiable shame, and this for two reasons, first because the perpetrator of such an offense is usually poor, which in itself connotes basic unworthiness, and secondly because his act implies, as it were, a tacit reproach to the community."
—Journey to the End of the Night, 1934

Harry Crews [1935- ]

"Hell came right along with God, hand in hand. The stink of sulfur swirled in the air of the church, fire burned in the aisles, and brimstone rained out of the rafters. From the evangelist's oven mouth spewed images of a place with pitchforks, and devils, and lakes of fire that burned forever. God had fixed a place like that because he loved us so much." —A Childhood: The Biography of A Place, 1978

Thomas De Quincey [1785-1859]

"Opium gives and takes away. It defeats the steady habit of exertion, but it creates spasms of irregular exertion! It ruins the natural power of life; but it develops preternatural paroxysms of intermitting power." —Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1821

Philip K. Dick [1928-82]

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." —Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968

Fyodor Dostoyevsky[1821-81]

"It's a burden to us even to be human beings—men with our own real body and blood; we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalized man." —Notes from the Underground, 1864

Frederick Exley [1929-1992]

"I fought because I understood, and could not bear to understand, that is was my destiny—unlike that of my father, whose fate it was to hear the roar of the crowd—to sit in the stands with most men and acclaim others. It was my fate, my destiny, my end, to be a fan." —A Fan's Notes, 1968

William Lindsay Gresham [1909-62]

"How helpless they all looked in the ugliness of sleep. A third of life spent unconscious and corpselike. And some, the great majority, stumbled through their waking hours scarcely more awake, helpless in the face of destiny. They stumbled down a dark alley toward their deaths. They sent exploring feelers into the light and met fire and writhed back again into the darkness of their blind groping." —Nightmare Alley, 1946

Alfred Jarry [1873-1907]

"It is because the public are a mass—inert, obtuse, and passive—that they need to be shaken up from time to time so that we can tell from their bear-like grunts where they are—and also where they stand. They are pretty harmless, in spite of their numbers, because they are fighting against intelligence." —"Theater Questions," La Revue Blanche, 1897

Franz Kafka [1883-1924]

"The other day I wrote down the following wish: 'When passing a house, to be pulled in through the ground-floor window by a rope tied around one's neck and to be hauled up, bloody and ragged, through all the ceilings, furniture, walls, and attics, without consideration, as if by a person who is paying no attention, until the empty noose, dropping the last shreds of me when breaking through the roof tiles, appears on the roof." —letter, September 2, 1915

Jack Kerouac [1922-69]

". . . I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes Awww!" —On the Road, 2007

Ken Kesey [1935-2001]

"I been silent so long now it's gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy tellng this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It's still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it's the truth even if it didn't happen." —One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1962

Malcolm Lowry [1909-57]

"Where are the children I might have wanted? You may suppose I might have wanted them. Drowned. To the accompaniment of the rattling of a thousand douche bags." —Under the Volcano, 1947

Henry Miller [1891-1980]

"What if at the last moment, when the banquet table is set and the cymbals clash, there should appear suddenly, and wholly without warning, a silver platter on which even the blind could see that there is nothing more, and nothing less, than two enormous lumps of shit. That, I believe would be more miraculous than anything which man has looked forward to. It would be miraculous because it would be undreamed of. It would be more miraculous than even the wildest dream because anybody could imagine the possibility but nobody ever has, and probably nobody ever again will." —Tropic of Cancer, 1934

John O'Brien [1960-94]

"He sits at the filthy bar, amidst the leather vested fat guys, the worn and weary pool tables, the smelly sluts who are much harder and drunker than he'll ever be, the puke-piss-spit-blood encrusted carpeting, the brain-damaged human carcasses who have held their heads below their shoulders for longer than he's been alive, the slimy sidewalk penny-loafers who wanna be his pal, and the rest of the supporting cast with heads vacuous and pant seats full . . . He sits as the last remnants of today and all that came before it slip into the void of blackout." —Leaving Las Vegas, 1990

Chuck Palahniuk [1962- ]

"Tyler says I'm nowhere near hitting the bottom, yet. And if I don't fall all the way, I can't be saved. Jesus did it with his crucifixion thing. I shouldn't just abandon money and property and knowledge. This isn't just a weekend retreat. I should run from self-improvement, and I should be running toward disaster. I can't just play it safe anymore." —Fight Club, 1996

Robert M. Pirsig [1928- ]

"To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as 'the system' is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all their meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There's no villain, no 'mean guy' who wants them to live meaningless lives, it's just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless." —Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974

Arthur Rimbaud [1854-91]

"The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, and keeps only their quintessences." —letter, May 15, 1871

Henry David Thoreau [1817-62]

"But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before." —Walden, 1854

Hunter S. Thompson [1937-2005]

"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine and a whole multicolored collection of uppers, downers, laughers, screamers . . . Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge and I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon . . ." —Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [1998]

Kurt Vonnegut [1922-2007]

"I wrote the Air Force back then, asking for details about the raid on Dresden, who ordered it, how many planes did it, what desirable results they had been and so on. I was answered by a man who, like myself, was in public relations. He said that he was sorry, but that the information was top secret still. I read the letter out loud to my wife, and I said, ‘Secret? My God—from whom?’" —Slaughterhouse Five, 1966

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