The Electronic Revolution conveys the idea that the spoken language is a tool that can be used as a weapon. The first part of the work uses an active mixture of biblical imagery and historical destruction to illustrate the magnanimity of the range of ruin that spoken word can effect. Here we begin to see Burroughs’ style – he uses run-on sentences, repetition, and lack of punctuation to emphasize the horrible images he paints. Because of the sense of urgency and clashing that this evokes, my overall feeling in reading Burroughs was anxiety and disgust, especially as I first read The Soft Machine, but after reading The Electronic Revolution, I rethought the intentions behind the visuals that he provides. The second portion of the essay especially addresses censorship by showing just how easy it is to “scramble” or “cutup” others’ words for malicious intent, and it is evident that he is provoking his audience to challenge and defy censorship and to reject accepted standards of morality in regard to what can be said or shown.
Yet even with the view of Burroughs as possibly being a satirical writer, it is not hard to cringe when reading The Soft Machine. I felt almost beat over the head with violent and grotesque images, and the intense fixation on sex – especially cruel or sadistic sex, or orgasm released from excitement over violence – evoked all sorts of negative feelings. Yet perhaps this is, as already stated, meant to provoke the accepted norm of sexuality; the Beat writers definitely had an interested in the human condition and sex, and Burroughs writes in The Electronic Revolution, “[sex is] good for young and old man and beast… It is also known to have a direct connection with what is known as life.” The constant chaos and impersonalization of the interactions between the characters are meant to cause tension in the reader and to provoke. At times it seems that he has taken the ideals of futurism to heart and yet at others, it does not quite seem that the reader is meant to assimilate those views.
– Jennifer Hung