Categories: Reviews

Jeff Nuttall: British Beat

I was looking through my old books today and stumbled upon a first edition, numbered copy of Jeff Nuttall’s Pig. Published in 1969, this weird little book of cut-up prose-poetry features a glowing preface from none other than the master of the cut-up, William S. Burroughs.

I don’t really know where I got this book, or when. It must have come along in my last blurry years at university. Possibly it was gift from my favourite tutor, or quite possibly I purchased it on his recommendation. He was a Burroughs fan and a lover of Beat literature and odd poetry.

Jeff Nuttall was considered by some to be a sort of later, British member of the Beat Generation. In spite of the sometimes wide ranging focus of Beatdom I’m not really comfortable with the term “Beat” being bandied around so readily. One may possess some of the Beat spirit, but that doesn’t make one part of the Beat Generation.

Nonetheless it is hard to overlook a certain Beat influence in Nuttall’s work. In the structure of his poems one recalls Gregory Corso; in the cut-up narrative, William S. Burroughs; in certain phrasing there’s a weird British version of Kerouac or Ginsberg…

Moreover it seems Nuttall is attempting to capture the rhythm of some kind of music in his words. The cut-up technique seems to have been used to great effect in producing a rhythmical, often cyclical pattern to the prose.

Here’s what Burroughs had to say on the matter:

“Jeff Nuttall is one of the few writers today who actually handles his medium. He moves pieces of it from here to there using the repetition techniques of recurring themes in music. His structures are essentially musical as is his prose… This is a beautiful and unique structure. Jeff Nuttall touches his words.”

*

If you can get your hands on a copy of his work, I’d strongly recommend doing so. If you’re already familiar with him, please let us know what you think.

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

View Comments

  • Musical is right. This is definitely something i'd read aloud, for the sound of it, rather than the meaning.

    • Yes, I was into collecting books for a while. Nowadays I'd rather buy a cheap copy and read it. I move about too much to build a collection.

  • I know the feeling. I bought a first edition of Kerouac's Dr Sax and the cover came when my backpack got wet in South America.

    • That sucks, man. I had a bunch of firsts by HST and the Beats, and I had them sent over when I was living in Korea. It was the only package that got lost in the mail. Never got them back.

  • i always buy books and then read the copy from the library to keep my copy fresh and new.
    sounds stupid but i hate to have books on the shelf unless i really read them but i like them to look nice, too.

    jeff nuttall sounds really familiar for some reason. i wonder if he did magazine work, too, maybe..

    • Yeah, when I found the book I wondered, "Who?" But having looked online he's not exactly the most obscure name around. He worked with Ginsberg and was friends with Burroughs. He seems to have been a fairly respected poet in his own right.

  • David - I'm preparing a basic introduction to the Beat Generation Literature for a local Education Centre course here in Bedford, aimed at 50+ age group- due to run in Summer 2021, but who knows now whether that will happen! I'd like your advice on what you would consider the best of the general introductions to Ginsberg; Kerouac & Burroughs that course members could read as a follow up- I did my English dissertation on Beat Literature back in 1971, at Newman University, Birmingham, so this is like a nostalgia trip as well - back in 1970 it was Lawrence F at City Lights Books who was the best source- I contacted him to wish him well on his 100th. birthday & he said the bookshop was closed because of the virus, but gave me their lists, however I would appreciate your views on what you consider the best. All the best - Graham

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