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William Burroughs (1914 - 1997)

Related: Beat Generation (literary movement) - drug literature - gay fiction - 1900s literature - American literature

Titles: Junkie (1953) - Naked Lunch (1959)

William Burroughs, photocredit unidentified

"Language is a virus from outer space."

"He was," as Salon's Gary Kamyia notes, "20th-century drug culture's Poe, its Artaud, its Baudelaire. He was the prophet of the literature of pure experience, a phenomenologist of dread.... Burroughs had the scary genius to turn the junk wasteland into a parallel universe, one as thoroughly and obsessively rendered as Blake's."

Burroughs, who is an admirer of Céline had this to say: "I think that [Céline] is in a very old tradition, and I myself am in a very old tradition, namely, that of the picaresque novel. People complain that my novels have no plot. Well, a picaresque novel has no plot. It is simply a series of incidents. And that tradition dates back to the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, and to one of the very early novels, The Unfortunate Traveler by Thomas Nashe. And I think Celine belongs to this same tradition. But remember that what we call the "novel" is a highly artificial form, which came in the nineteenth century. It's quite as arbitrary as the sonnet." --William Burroughs, 1974


William Seward Burroughs (February 5, 1914 - August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, essayist, social critic and spoken word performer. Much of Burroughs' work is semi-autobiographical drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict. But he often distorts his experiences using surreal or graphic imagery, experimental structures, and a strong satirical voice.

His early writing is often associated with the Beat Generation. Burroughs was close friends with beat authors Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and Herbert Huncke, but Burroughs’ influence extends beyond this movement and even literature in general. His work has been influential to several subsequent counterculture literary, music and art movements

Burroughs’s work has been quite controversial, especially during his lifetime. His most famous novel Naked Lunch was the subject of a landmark 1966 Massachusetts Supreme Court case that loosened obscenity laws to allow for artistic merit.

Burroughs produced a sizable amount of literature in over forty years of international publication. He was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1983. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Burroughs [Jan 2005]


Titles: Junkie (1953) - Naked Lunch (1959)

  • Queer (1953, 1985) - William S. Burroughs [Amazon.com]
    I found queer to be a dissapointment. I loved Junky, and it is one of my favorite books, but queer was a let down. It takes place after junky ends and we follow William Lee around with his fascination with Eugene Allerton and his trip to South America. But the story isn't that interesting. There is more of a plot here than there was in junky, but I found Lee's struggles with heroin much more fascinating than his obssession over the boring Allerton. queer is told from an outside narrator rather than from Lee's perspective, and as a result, the voice that helped make junky so great is missing. It just doesn't match with the standards Burroughs set when he wrote Junky. If you are a Beat scholar, then this is a book you should read (it is one of Burroughs important works) or if you study gay literature, then you should read this. If you're just looking for a good book, reread Junky... --adead_poet@hotmail.com for amazon.com [...]

  • Re/Search #4/5 : W.S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Throbbing Gristle - V. Vale [Amazon.com]
    The W.S. Burroughs photo in this issue was the late Dr. Timothy's favorite of Bill Burroughs--the great one with the gun in his hand. This alone is worth the price. Great photo, especially with the interview of Burroughs and the part about the murder of wife Joan in Mexico City. "There are no accidents" Burroughs liked to say all the rest of his life, after the 'accidental' shooting of Joan. -- a reader for amazon.com [...]

    "Interviews with pioneering cut-up artists William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Throbbing Gristle . . . proposes a ground-breaking, radical cultural agenda for the '80s and '90s." -- Jon Savage, London Observer

    Drugstore Cowboy (1989) - Gus Van Sant

  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) - Gus Van Sant [Amazon.com]

    See entry on Gus Van Sant

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