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About William Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II (/ˈbʌroʊz/; also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, satirist, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author who wrote in the paranoid fiction genre, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century". His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.
He was born into a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, grandson of the inventor and founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs I, and nephew of public relations manager Ivy Lee. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence, but did not begin publicizing his writing until his thirties. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University, studied English, and anthropology as a postgraduate, and later attended medical school in Vienna. In 1942 Burroughs enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve during World War II, but was turned down by the Office of Strategic Services and Navy, after which he picked up the drug addiction that affected him for the rest of his life, while working a variety of jobs. In 1943 while living in New York City, he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the mutually influential foundation of which grew into the Beat Generation, which was later a defining influence on the 1960s counterculture.
Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris and Tangier in Morocco, as well as from his travels in the South American Amazon. Burroughs accidentally killed his second wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951 in Mexico City, and was consequently convicted of manslaughter. Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie (1953), Burroughs is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch (1959), a highly controversial work that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. With Brion Gysin, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy (1961–1964).
In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift", a reputation he owes to his "lifelong subversion" of the moral, political and economic systems of modern American society, articulated in often darkly humorous sardonicism. J. G. Ballard considered Burroughs to be "the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War", while Norman Mailer declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius".
Burroughs had one child, William S. Burroughs, Jr. (1947–1981), with his second wife Joan Vollmer. William Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, after suffering a heart attack in 1997.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Allen_Ginsberg_and_William_S._Burroughs.jpg: Marcelo Noah derivative work: Сдобников Андрей [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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In his debut novel, Junky, Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others. For this definitive edition, renowned Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris has gone back to archival typescripts to re-created the author's original text word by word. From the tenements of New York to the queer bars of New Orleans, Junky takes the reader into a world at once long-forgotten and still with us today. Burroughs’s first novel is a cult classic and a critical part of his oeuvre.
Originally written in 1952 but not published until 1985, Queer is an enigma—both an unflinching autobiographical self-portrait and a coruscatingly political novel, Burroughs' only realist love story and a montage of comic-grotesque fantasies that paved the way for his masterpiece, Naked Lunch.
Edited from the original manuscripts and introduced by renowned Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris, Queer is a haunting tale of possession and exorcism, a key to the Burroughsian oeuvre, and a novel with a history of secrets.
While young men wage war against an evil empire of zealous mutants, the population of this modern inferno is afflicted with the epidemic of a radioactive virus. An opium-infused apocalyptic vision from the legendary author of Naked Lunch is the first of the trilogy with The Places of the Dead Roads and his final novel, The Western Plains.
The Revised Boy Scout Manual was a work Burroughs revisited many times, but which has never before been published in its complete form. Based primarily on recordings of a performance of the complete piece found in the archives at the OSU libraries, as well as various incomplete versions of the typescript found at Arizona State University and the New York Public Library archives, this lost masterpiece of satiric subversion is finally available in its entirety.
You Can’t Win, the beloved memoir of real lowdown Americana by criminal hobo Jack Black, was first published in 1926, then reprinted in 1988 by Adam Parfrey’s Amok Press, featuring an introduction by William S. Burroughs.
After its Amok Press edition went out of print, You Can’t Win found popularity once again with the AK Press edition.
Feral House’s new version will take this classic American narrative a lot further, including two remarkable nonfiction articles by Jack Black written for Harper's Magazine in the 1920s. Remarkable illustrations by Joe Coleman and new biographical revelations by Donald Kennison will round out the new edition.
A full-length feature film of You Can’t Win starring Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt is expected to be released in spring 2013.
During the 1970s, William Burroughs, author of Junky and Naked Lunch, lived in a loft on the Bowery in New York City’s Lower East Side. Christened “The Bunker,” his apartment became a modern-day literary salon with people like Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, and fellow beat poet Allen Ginsberg passing through for a drink or a joint and the promise of stimulating conversation with the ingenious and eccentric Burroughs.
Among Burroughs’s entourage was author Victor Bockris, whose tape recorder was always running to capture meandering dinner party conversations and electric late-night sessions in the Bunker. In these moments, Bockris captures Burroughs’s desires, anxieties, and thoughts on writing, photography, punk rock, and more. The recordings and recollections in With William Burroughs create an unprecedentedly multidimensional portrait of a man who is often overshadowed by his reputation.