William S. Burroughs
Overview
William Seward Burroughs II (icon; also known by his pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

 William Lee; 5 February 1914 – ) was an American novelist, poet, essayist  and spoken word
Spoken word
Spoken word is a form of poetry that often uses alliterated prose or verse and occasionally uses metered verse to express social commentary. Traditionally it is in the first person, is from the poet’s point of view and is themed in current events....

 performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 and a major postmodernist
Postmodern literature
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain characteristics of post–World War II literature and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact...

 author, 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.
Quotations

A ghost in daylight on a crowded street.

Junkie (1953)

The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

"Letter from a Master Addict to Dangerous Drugs", written in 1956, first published in The British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 52, No. 2 (January 1957), p. 1 and later used as footnotes in Naked Lunch|Naked Lunch

Cut word lines — Cut music lines — Smash the control images — Smash the control machine — Burn the books — Kill the priests — Kill! Kill! Kill!

The Soft Machine (1961)

Communication must become total and conscious before we can stop it.

The Ticket That Exploded (1962)

1. Never give anything away for nothing. 2. Never give more than you have to (always catch the buyer hungry and always make him wait). 3. Always take back everything if you possibly can.

On drug dealing, quoted in The Daily Telegraph (1964)

You know, they ask me if I were on a desert island and I knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing. My answer is most emphatically yes. I would go on writing for company. Because I'm creating an imaginary — it's always imaginary — world in which I would like to live.

Quoted in interview, The Paris Review (Fall 1965)

The hallucinogens produce visionary states, sort of, but morphine and its derivatives decrease awareness of inner processes, thoughts and feelings. They are pain killers; pure and simple. They are absolutely contraindicated for creative work, and I include in the lot alcohol, morphine, barbiturates, tranquilizers — the whole spectrum of sedative drugs.

Quoted in interview, The Paris Review (Fall 1965), in response to "The visions of drugs and the visions of art don't mix?"

A paranoid man is a man who knows a little about what's going on.

Quoted in Friend magazine (1970)

As a young child Audrey Carsons wanted to be writers because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.

Exterminator! (1979), "The Lemon Kid"

Encyclopedia
William Seward Burroughs II (icon; also known by his pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

 William Lee; 5 February 1914 – ) was an American novelist, poet, essayist  and spoken word
Spoken word
Spoken word is a form of poetry that often uses alliterated prose or verse and occasionally uses metered verse to express social commentary. Traditionally it is in the first person, is from the poet’s point of view and is themed in current events....

 performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 and a major postmodernist
Postmodern literature
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain characteristics of post–World War II literature and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact...

 author, 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 18 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 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, grandson of the inventor and founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I was an American inventor born in Rochester, New York.Burroughs was the son of a mechanic and worked with machines throughout his childhood. While he was still a small boy, his parents moved to Auburn, New York, where he and his brothers were educated in the public school...

, and nephew of public relations manager Ivy Lee
Ivy Lee
Ivy Ledbetter Lee is considered by some to be the founder of modern public relations. The term Public Relations is to be found for the first time in the preface of the 1897 Yearbook of Railway Literature....

. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, studying English, and anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 as a postgraduate, and later attending medical school in Vienna. After being turned down by the Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 and U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 in 1942 to serve in World War II, he dropped out and became afflicted with 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
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

 and Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

, the mutually influential foundation of what became the countercultural movement of the Beat Generation.

Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, the South American Amazon
Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest , also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America...

 and Tangier
Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

 in Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

. Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie
Junkie (novel)
Junkie is a 1953 semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs. It was his first published novel and has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s. Burroughs' working title was Junk.-Inspiration:The novel was considered unpublishable more than...

 (1953), Burroughs is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

 (1959), a work fraught with controversy that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws
Sodomy laws in the United States
Sodomy laws in the United States, which outlawed a variety of sexual acts, were historically universal. While they often targeted sexual acts between persons of the same sex, many statutes employed definitions broad enough to outlaw certain sexual acts between persons of different sexes as well,...

. With Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique, used by his friend, the novelist William S. Burroughs...

, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique
Cut-up technique
The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Most commonly, cut-ups are used to offer a non-linear alternative to traditional reading and writing....

 in works such as The Nova Trilogy
The Nova Trilogy
The Nova Trilogy, The Nova Epic or The Cut-up Trilogy is a name commonly given by critics to a series of three experimental prose novels by William S. Burroughs...

 (1961–64). 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
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is an Order of France, established on 2 May 1957 by the Minister of Culture, and confirmed as part of the Ordre national du Mérite by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963...

 by France. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 writer since Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

," 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
Sardonicism
Sardonicism is the expression of derision, cynicism or skeptical humor variously through comment, gesture or writing.- Origin :...

. J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

 considered Burroughs to be "the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War," while Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

 declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius."

Burroughs had one child in 1947, William Seward Burroughs III
William S. Burroughs, Jr.
William Seward Burroughs III was an American novelist, also known as William S. Burroughs, Jr. and Billy Burroughs. He bears the name of both his father and his great grandfather, William Seward Burroughs I, the original inventor of the Burroughs adding machine...

, with his second wife Joan Vollmer
Joan Vollmer
Joan Vollmer was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College she became the roommate of Edie Parker and their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all...

 who died in 1951 in Mexico City. Burroughs was convicted of manslaughter in Vollmer's death, an event that deeply permeated all of his writings. Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Lawrence is the sixth largest city in the U.S. State of Kansas and the county seat of Douglas County. Located in northeastern Kansas, Lawrence is the anchor city of the Lawrence, Kansas, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Douglas County...

 after suffering a heart attack in 1997.

Early life and education

Burroughs was born in 1914, the younger of two sons born to Mortimer Perry Burroughs (June 16, 1885 – January 5, 1965) and Laura Hammon Lee (August 5, 1888 – October 20, 1970). The Burroughses were a prominent family of English ancestry
English American
English Americans are citizens or residents of the United States whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England....

 in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

. His grandfather, William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I was an American inventor born in Rochester, New York.Burroughs was the son of a mechanic and worked with machines throughout his childhood. While he was still a small boy, his parents moved to Auburn, New York, where he and his brothers were educated in the public school...

, founded the Burroughs Adding Machine company, which evolved into the Burroughs Corporation. Burroughs' mother, Laura Hammon Lee, was the daughter of a minister whose family claimed to be related to Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

. His maternal uncle, Ivy Lee
Ivy Lee
Ivy Ledbetter Lee is considered by some to be the founder of modern public relations. The term Public Relations is to be found for the first time in the preface of the 1897 Yearbook of Railway Literature....

, was an advertising pioneer later employed as a publicist for the Rockefellers. His father ran an antique and gift shop, Cobblestone Gardens; first in St. Louis, then in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth...

.

As a boy, Burroughs lived on Pershing Ave. in St. Louis's Central West End
Central West End, St. Louis
The Central West End is an affluent neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, stretching from Midtown's western edge to Union Boulevard and bordering on Forest Park with its outstanding array of free cultural institutions. It includes the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on Lindell Boulevard at...

. He attended John Burroughs School
John Burroughs School
Founded in 1923, John Burroughs School is a private, non-sectarian preparatory school with nearly 600 students in grades 7-12. Its 47.5 acre campus is located in Ladue, Missouri , an affluent suburb of Saint Louis. It is named for U.S...

 in St. Louis where his first published essay, "Personal Magnetism," was printed in the John Burroughs Review in 1929. He then attended the Los Alamos Ranch School
Los Alamos Ranch School
Los Alamos Ranch School was a private boarding school for boys in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, near Otowi, in what would eventually become Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 in New Mexico, which was stressful for him. The school was a boarding school
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

 for the wealthy, "where the spindly sons of the rich could be transformed into manly specimens." Burroughs kept journals
Diary
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone...

 documenting an erotic attachment to another boy. According to his own account, he destroyed these later, ashamed of their content. Due to the repressive context where he grew up, and from which he fled, that is, a "family where displays of affection were considered embarrassing," he kept his sexual orientation concealed well into adulthood when he became a well known homosexual writer after the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959. Some say that he was expelled from Los Alamos after taking chloral hydrate
Chloral hydrate
Chloral hydrate is a sedative and hypnotic drug as well as a chemical reagent and precursor. The name chloral hydrate indicates that it is formed from chloral by the addition of one molecule of water. Its chemical formula is C2H3Cl3O2....

 in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

 with a fellow student. Yet, according to his own account, he left voluntarily: "During the Easter vacation of my second year I persuaded my family to let me stay in St. Louis."

Harvard University

He finished high school at Taylor School in St. Louis and, in 1932, left home to pursue an arts degree at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. During the summers, he worked as a cub reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the major city-wide newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri. Although written to serve Greater St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch is one of the largest newspapers in the Midwestern United States, and is available and read as far west as Kansas City, Missouri, as far south as...

, covering the police docket. He disliked the work, and refused to cover some events, like the death of a drowned child. He lost his virginity in an East St. Louis brothel
Brothel
Brothels are business establishments where patrons can engage in sexual activities with prostitutes. Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of prostitution, and bawdy house...

 that summer with a female prostitute he regularly patronized. While at Harvard, Burroughs made trips to New York City and was introduced to the gay subculture there. He visited lesbian
Lesbian
Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

 dives, piano bars, and the Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 and Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

 homosexual underground with Richard Stern, a wealthy friend from Kansas City
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

. They would drive from Boston to New York in a reckless fashion. Once, Stern scared Burroughs so much, he asked to be let out of the vehicle.

Burroughs graduated from Harvard in 1936. According to Ted Morgan's Literary Outlaw,

His parents, upon his graduation, had decided to give him a monthly allowance of $200 out of their earnings from Cobblestone Gardens, a tidy sum in those days. It was enough to keep him going, and indeed it guaranteed his survival for the next twenty-five years, arriving with welcome regularity. The allowance was a ticket to freedom; it allowed him to live where he wanted to and to forgo employment.


Burroughs's parents sold the rights to his grandfather's invention and had no share in the Burroughs Corporation. Shortly before the 1929 stock market crash
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 , also known as the Great Crash, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout...

 they sold their stock for $200,000.

Europe

After leaving Harvard, Burroughs's formal education ended, except for brief flirtations as a graduate student of anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 at Harvard and as a medical student in Vienna, Austria. He traveled to Europe, which proved a window into Austrian and Hungarian Weimar
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

-era homosexuality; he picked up boys in steam baths in Vienna, and moved in a circle of exiles, homosexuals, and runaways. There, he met Ilse Klapper, a Jewish woman fleeing the country's Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 government. The two were never romantically involved, but Burroughs married her, in Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, against the wishes of his parents, to allow her to gain a visa to the United States. She made her way to New York City, and eventually divorced Burroughs, although they remained friends for many years. After returning to the U.S., he held a string of uninteresting jobs. In 1939, his emotional health became a concern for his parents, especially after he deliberately severed the last joint of his left little finger, right at the knuckle, to impress a man with whom he was infatuated. This event made its way into his early fiction as the short story "The Finger."

Beginning of the Beats

Burroughs enlisted in the U.S. Army early in 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 brought the U.S. into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. But when he was classified as a 1-A Infantry, not an officer, he became dejected. His mother recognized her son's depression and got Burroughs a civilian disability discharge — a release from duty based on the premise he should have not been allowed to enlist due to previous mental instability. After being evaluated by a family friend, who was also a neurologist at a psychiatric treatment center, Burroughs waited five months in limbo at Jefferson Barracks outside St. Louis before being discharged. During that time he met a Chicago soldier also awaiting release, and once Burroughs was free, he moved to Chicago and held a variety of jobs, including one as an exterminator
Pest control
Pest control refers to the regulation or management of a species defined as a pest, usually because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person's health, the ecology or the economy.-History:...

. When two of his friends from St. Louis, Lucien Carr
Lucien Carr
Lucien Carr was a key member of the original New York City circle of the Beat Generation in the 1940s; later he worked for many years as an editor for United Press International.-Early life:...

, a University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 student, and David Kammerer, Carr's homosexual admirer, left for New York City, Burroughs followed.

Joan Vollmer

In 1944, Burroughs began living with Joan Vollmer Adams
Joan Vollmer
Joan Vollmer was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College she became the roommate of Edie Parker and their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all...

 in an apartment they shared with Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

 and Edie Parker
Edie Parker
Edie Kerouac-Parker was the author of her memoir, "You'll Be Okay" from the Beat Generation, and the first wife of Jack Kerouac. She and Joan Vollmer shared an apartment on 118th Street in New York City, frequented by many Beats, among them Vollmer's eventual husband William S. Burroughs.Parker...

, Kerouac's first wife. Vollmer Adams was married to a GI with whom she had a young daughter, Julie Adams. Burroughs and Kerouac got into trouble with the law for failing to report a murder involving Lucien Carr
Lucien Carr
Lucien Carr was a key member of the original New York City circle of the Beat Generation in the 1940s; later he worked for many years as an editor for United Press International.-Early life:...

, who had killed David Kammerer in a confrontation over Kammerer's incessant and unwanted advances. This incident inspired Burroughs and Kerouac to collaborate on a novel titled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is a novel by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. It was written in 1945, a full decade before the two authors became famous as leading figures of the Beat Generation, and remained unpublished for many years....

, completed in 1945. The two fledgling authors were unable to get it published, but the manuscript was eventually published in November 2008 by Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its...

 and Penguin Books
Penguin Books
Penguin Books is a publisher founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane and V.K. Krishna Menon. Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence. Penguin's success demonstrated that large...

.

During this time, Burroughs began using morphine
Morphine
Morphine is a potent opiate analgesic medication and is considered to be the prototypical opioid. It was first isolated in 1804 by Friedrich Sertürner, first distributed by same in 1817, and first commercially sold by Merck in 1827, which at the time was a single small chemists' shop. It was more...

 and quickly became addicted. He eventually sold heroin in Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

 to support his habit.

Vollmer also became an addict, but her drug of choice was Benzedrine
Benzedrine
Benzedrine is the trade name of the racemic mixture of amphetamine . It was marketed under this brandname in the USA by Smith, Kline & French in the form of inhalers, starting in 1928...

, an amphetamine
Amphetamine
Amphetamine or amfetamine is a psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class which produces increased wakefulness and focus in association with decreased fatigue and appetite.Brand names of medications that contain, or metabolize into, amphetamine include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat,...

 sold over the counter at that time. Because of her addiction and social circle, her husband immediately divorced her after returning from the war. Vollmer would become Burroughs’ common-law wife
Common-law marriage
Common-law marriage, sometimes called sui juris marriage, informal marriage or marriage by habit and repute, is a form of interpersonal status that is legally recognized in limited jurisdictions as a marriage even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage...

. Burroughs was soon arrested for forging a narcotics prescription and was sentenced to return to his parents' care in St. Louis. Vollmer's addiction led to a temporary psychosis, which resulted in her admission to a hospital, and the custody of her child was endangered. Yet after Burroughs completed his "house arrest" in St. Louis, he returned to New York, released Vollmer from the psychiatric ward of Bellevue Hospital, and moved with her and her daughter to Texas. Vollmer soon became pregnant with Burroughs's child. Their son, William S. Burroughs, Jr.
William S. Burroughs, Jr.
William Seward Burroughs III was an American novelist, also known as William S. Burroughs, Jr. and Billy Burroughs. He bears the name of both his father and his great grandfather, William Seward Burroughs I, the original inventor of the Burroughs adding machine...

, was born in 1947. The family moved briefly to New Orleans in 1948.

Burroughs was arrested after police searched his home and found letters between him and Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

 referring to a possible delivery of marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

.

Mexico and South America

Burroughs fled to Mexico to escape possible detention in Louisiana's Angola state prison
Louisiana State Penitentiary
The Louisiana State Penitentiary is a prison farm in Louisiana operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. It is the largest maximum security prison in the United States with 5,000 offenders and 1,800 staff...

. Vollmer and their children followed him. Burroughs planned to stay in Mexico for at least five years, the length of his charge's statute of limitations
Statute of limitations
A statute of limitations is an enactment in a common law legal system that sets the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated...

. Burroughs also attended classes at the Mexico City College
Mexico City College
Mexico City College was founded in 1940, as an English speaking junior college in Mexico City, Mexico.In 1946 the college switched to a 4 year Bachelor of Arts degree-awarding institution, then changed its name to University of the Americas in 1963 and in 1968 to Universidad de las Americas,...

 in 1950 studying Spanish as well as "Mexican picture writing" (codices
Aztec codices
Aztec codices are books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture....

) and the Mayan language with R. H. Barlow
R. H. Barlow
Robert Hayward Barlow was an American author, avant-garde poet, anthropologist and historian of early Mexico, and expert in the Nahuatl language....

.

In 1951, Burroughs shot and killed Vollmer in a drunken game of "William Tell" at a party above the American-owned Bounty Bar in Mexico City. He spent 13 days in jail before his brother came to Mexico City and bribed Mexican lawyers and officials to release Burroughs on bail while he awaited trial for the killing, which was ruled culpable homicide
Culpable homicide
Culpable homicide is a specific offence in various jurisdictions within the Commonwealth of Nations which involves the illegal killing of a person either with or without an intention to kill depending upon how a particular jurisdiction has defined the offence...

. Vollmer’s daughter, Julie Adams, went to live with her grandmother, and William S. Burroughs, Jr. went to St. Louis to live with his grandparents. Burroughs reported every Monday morning to the jail in Mexico City while his prominent Mexican attorney worked to resolve the case. According to James Grauerholz
James Grauerholz
James Grauerholz is a writer and editor. He is most famous as the bibliographer and literary executor of the estate of William S. Burroughs. He was born in Kansas and attended the University of Kansas for a year before dropping out and traveling to New York City...

 two witnesses had agreed to testify that the gun had gone off accidentally while he was checking to see if it was loaded, and the ballistics experts were bribed to support this story. Nevertheless, the trial was continuously delayed and Burroughs began to write what would eventually become the short novel Queer
Queer (novel)
Queer is the title of an early short novel by William S. Burroughs. It is partially a sequel to his earlier novel, Junkie. That novel ends with the stated ambition of finding the ultimate ‘high’- a drug called Yage...

 while awaiting his trial. However, when his attorney fled Mexico after his own legal problems involving a car accident and altercation with the son of a government official, Burroughs decided, according to Ted Morgan, to "skip" and return to the United States. He was convicted in absentia of homicide and sentenced to two years, which was suspended. Although Burroughs was writing before the shooting of Joan Vollmer, this event marked him and, biographers argue, his work for the rest of his life.

After leaving Mexico, Burroughs drifted through South America for several months, looking for a drug called yagé
Ayahuasca
Ayahuasca is any of various psychoactive infusions or decoctions prepared from the Banisteriopsis spp. vine, usually mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine-containing species of shrubs from the Psychotria genus...

, which promised the user telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

. A book, composed of letters between Burroughs and Ginsberg, The Yage Letters
The Yage Letters
The Yage Letters, first published in 1963, is a collection of correspondence and other writings by Beat Generation authors William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg...

, was published in 1963 by City Lights Books.

Beginning of literary career

Burroughs later said that shooting Vollmer was a pivotal event in his life, and one which provoked his writing:
"I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out."


Yet he had begun to write in 1945. Burroughs and Kerouac collaborated on And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is a novel by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. It was written in 1945, a full decade before the two authors became famous as leading figures of the Beat Generation, and remained unpublished for many years....

, a mystery novel loosely based on the Carr/Kammerer situation that was left unpublished. Years later, in the documentary What Happened to Kerouac?, Burroughs described it as "not a very distinguished work." An excerpt of this work, in which Burroughs and Kerouac wrote alternating chapters, was finally published in Word Virus, a compendium of William Burroughs's writing that was published by his biographer after his death in 1997.

Before Vollmer died, Burroughs had largely completed his first two novels in Mexico, although Queer was not published until 1985. Junkie
Junkie (novel)
Junkie is a 1953 semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs. It was his first published novel and has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s. Burroughs' working title was Junk.-Inspiration:The novel was considered unpublishable more than...

 was written at the urging of Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

, who was instrumental in getting the work published, even as a cheap mass market paperback. Ace Books
Ace Books
Ace Books is the oldest active specialty publisher of science fiction and fantasy books. The company was founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn, and began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns...

 published the novel in 1953 as part of an Ace Double under the pen name William Lee, retitling it Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict. (it was later republished as Junkie or Junky).

Naked Lunch

During 1953, Burroughs was at loose ends. Due to legal problems, he was unable to live in the cities towards which he was most inclined. He spent time with his parents in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
The Town of Palm Beach is an incorporated town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. The Intracoastal Waterway separates it from the neighboring cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth...

, and New York City with Allen Ginsberg. When Ginsberg refused his romantic advances, Burroughs went to Rome to meet Alan Ansen
Alan Ansen
Alan Ansen was an American poet, playwright, and associate of Beat Generation writers. He was a widely-read scholar who knew many languages. Ansen grew up on Long Island and was educated at Harvard. He worked as W. H...

 on a vacation financed from his parents' continuing support. When he found Rome and Ansen’s company dreary, inspired by Paul Bowles
Paul Bowles
Paul Frederic Bowles was an American expatriate composer, author, and translator.Following a cultured middle-class upbringing in New York City, during which he displayed a talent for music and writing, Bowles pursued his education at the University of Virginia before making various trips to Paris...

' fiction, he decided to head for Tangier
Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

, Morocco. In a home owned by a known procurer of homosexual prostitutes for visiting American and English men, he rented a room and began to write a large body of text that he personally referred to as Interzone
Interzone (book)
Interzone is a collection of short stories and other early works by William S. Burroughs. The collection was first published by Viking Penguin in 1989, although several of the stories had already been printed elsewhere, including an earlier publication entitled Early Routines...

. Burroughs lived in Tangier for several months, before returning to the United States where he suffered several personal indignities—Ginsberg was in California and refused to see him, A. A. Wyn
A. A. Wyn
Aaron A. Wyn , born Aaron Weinstein, was an American publisher. He edited pulp magazines for Harold Hersey's Magazine Publishers. When Hersey departed the company in the summer of 1929, Wyn, after a brief interlude from Harold S. Goldsmith, took charge of the company. Hersey's swastika logo was...

, the publisher of Junkie, was not forthcoming with his royalties and his parents were threatening to cut off his allowance.

All signs pointed him back to Tangier, a place where his parents would have to continue the support and one where drugs were freely available. He left in November 1954 and spent the next four years there working on the fiction that would later become Naked Lunch, as well as attempting to write commercial articles about Tangier. He sent these writings to Ginsberg, his literary agent for Junkie, but none were published until 1989 when Interzone, a collection of short stories, was published. Under the strong influence of a marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 confection known as majoun and a German-made opioid
Opioid
An opioid is a psychoactive chemical that works by binding to opioid receptors, which are found principally in the central and peripheral nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract...

 called Eukodol
Oxycodone
Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic medication synthesized from opium-derived thebaine. It was developed in 1916 in Germany, as one of several new semi-synthetic opioids in an attempt to improve on the existing opioids: morphine, diacetylmorphine , and codeine.Oxycodone oral medications are generally...

, Burroughs settled in to write. Eventually, Ginsberg and Kerouac, who had traveled to Tangier in 1957, helped Burroughs type, edit, and arrange these episodes into Naked Lunch.

Whereas Junkie and Queer were conventional in style, Naked Lunch was his first venture into a non-linear
Nonlinear (arts)
Nonlinear narrative, disjointed narrative or disrupted narrative is a narrative technique, sometimes used in literature, film, hypertext websites and other narratives, wherein events are portrayed out of chronological order...

 style. After the publication of Naked Lunch, a book whose creation was to a certain extent the result of a series of contingencies, Burroughs was exposed to Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique, used by his friend, the novelist William S. Burroughs...

's cut-up technique
Cut-up technique
The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Most commonly, cut-ups are used to offer a non-linear alternative to traditional reading and writing....

 at the Beat Hotel
Beat Hotel
The Beat Hotel was a small, run-down hotel of 42 rooms at 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur in the Latin Quarter of Paris, notable chiefly as a residence for members of the Beat poetry movement of the mid-20th century -Overview:...

 in Paris in September 1959. He began slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences. At the Beat Hotel Burroughs discovered "a port of entry" into Gysin's canvases: "I don't think I had ever seen painting until I saw the painting of Brion Gysin." The two would cultivate a long-term friendship that revolved around a mutual interest in artworks and cut-up techniques. Scenes were slid together with little care for narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

. Perhaps thinking of his crazed physician, Dr Benway, he described Naked Lunch as a book that could be cut into at any point. Although not considered science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, the book does seem to forecast—with eerie prescience — such later phenomena as AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

, liposuction
Liposuction
Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty , liposculpture suction lipectomy or simply lipo is a cosmetic surgery operation that removes fat from many different sites on the human body...

, autoerotic fatalities, and the crack
Crack cocaine
Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine that can be smoked. It may also be termed rock, hard, iron, cavvy, base, or just crack; it is the most addictive form of cocaine. Crack rocks offer a short but intense high to smokers...

 pandemic.

Excerpts from Naked Lunch were first published in the United States in 1958. The novel was initially rejected by City Lights Books, the publisher of Ginsberg's Howl, and Olympia Press
Olympia Press
Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebranded version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane...

 publisher Maurice Girodias
Maurice Girodias
Maurice Girodias was the founder of the Olympia Press. At one time he was the owner of his father's Obelisk Press, and spent most of his productive years in Paris.-Early life:...

, who had published English language novels in France that were controversial for their subjective views of sex and anti-social characters. But Allen Ginsberg worked to get excerpts published in Black Mountain Review and Chicago Review in 1958. Irving Rosenthal, student editor of Chicago Review, a quarterly journal partially subsidized by the university, promised to publish more excerpts from Naked Lunch, but he was fired from his position in 1958 after Chicago Daily News columnist Jack Mabley
Jack Mabley
Jack Mabley was an American newspaper reporter and columnist.John Arnold Mabley was born on October 26, 1915 in Binghamton, New York State to Clarence Ware Mabley and Mabelle née Howe, a concert pianist....

 called the first excerpt obscene. Rosenthal went on to publish more in his newly created literary journal Big Table No. 1; however, these copies elicited such contempt, the editors were accused of sending obscene material through the United States Mail by the United States Postmaster General
United States Postmaster General
The United States Postmaster General is the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Postal Service. The office, in one form or another, is older than both the United States Constitution and the United States Declaration of Independence...

, who ruled that copies could not be mailed to subscribers. This controversy made Naked Lunch interesting to Girodias again, and he published the novel in 1959.

After the novel was published, it slowly became notorious across Europe and the United States, garnering interest from not just members of the counterculture of the 1960s
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

, but literary critics such as Mary McCarthy
Mary McCarthy (author)
Mary Therese McCarthy was an American author, critic and political activist.- Early life :Born in Seattle, Washington, to Roy Winfield McCarthy and his wife, the former Therese Preston, McCarthy was orphaned at the age of six when both her parents died in the great flu epidemic of 1918...

. Once published in the United States, Naked Lunch was prosecuted as obscene
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, followed by other states. In 1966 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The SJC has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.-History:...

 declared the work "not obscene" on the basis of criteria developed largely to defend the book. The case against Burroughs's novel still stands as the last obscenity trial against a work of literature—that is, a work consisting of words only, and not including illustrations or photographs — prosecuted in the United States.

The manuscripts that produced Naked Lunch also produced the later works The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine is a novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1961, two years after his groundbreaking Naked Lunch. It was originally composed using the cut-up and fold-in techniques from manuscripts belonging to The Word Hoard...

 (1961), The Ticket That Exploded
The Ticket That Exploded
The Ticket That Exploded is a novel by William S. Burroughs first published in 1962 by Olympia Press and later published in the United States by Grove Press in 1967. It is the second book in a trilogy created using the cut-up technique, often referred to as The Nova Trilogy...

 (1962), and Nova Express
Nova Express
Nova Express is a 1964 novel by William S. Burroughs. It was written using the cut-up method, developed by Burroughs with Brion Gysin, of enfolding snippets of different texts into the novel. It is the third book in The Nova Trilogy, preceded by The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded...

 (1963). These novels feature extensive use of the cut-up technique, which influenced all of Burroughs' subsequent fiction to a degree. During his friendship and artistic collaborations with Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville
Ian Sommerville (technician)
Ian Sommerville was an electronics technician and computer programmer. He is primarily known through his association with William S. Burroughs's circle of Beat Generation figures, and lived at Paris's so-called "Beat Hotel" by 1960, when they were regulars there, becoming Burroughs's lover and...

 the technique was combined with images, Gysin's paintings, and sound, via Somerville's tape recorders. Burroughs was so dedicated to the cut-up method that he often defended his use of the technique before editors and publishers, most notably Dick Seaver at Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its...

 in the 1960s and Holt, Rinehart & Winston in the 1980s. The cut-up method, because of its random or mechanical basis for text generation, combined with the possibilities of mixing in text written by other writers, deemphasizes the traditional role of the writer as creator or originator of a string of words, while simultaneously exalting the importance of the writer's sensibility as an editor. In this sense the cut-up method may be considered as analogous to the collage
Collage
A collage is a work of formal art, primarily in the visual arts, made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole....

 method in the visual arts.

Paris and the 'Beat Hotel'

Burroughs moved into a rundown hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris in 1959 when Naked Lunch was still looking for a publisher. Tangier
Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

 with its easy access to drugs, small groups of homosexuals, growing political unrest and odd collection of criminals became increasingly unhealthy for Burroughs. He went to Paris to meet Ginsberg and talk with Olympia Press
Olympia Press
Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebranded version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane...

. In so doing, he left a brewing legal problem, which eventually transferred itself to Paris. Paul Lund, a former British career criminal and cigarette smuggler whom Burroughs met in Tangier, was arrested on suspicion of importing narcotics into France. Lund gave up Burroughs and some evidence implicated Burroughs in the possible importation into France of narcotics. Once again, the man faced criminal charges, this time in Paris for conspiracy to import opiates, when the Moroccan authorities forwarded their investigation to French officials. Yet it was under this impending threat of criminal sanction that Maurice Girodias published Naked Lunch, and it was helpful in getting Burroughs a suspended sentence, as a literary career, according to Ted Morgan, is a respected profession in France.

The 'Beat Hotel
Beat Hotel
The Beat Hotel was a small, run-down hotel of 42 rooms at 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur in the Latin Quarter of Paris, notable chiefly as a residence for members of the Beat poetry movement of the mid-20th century -Overview:...

' was a typical European-style rooming house hotel, with common toilets on every floor, and a small place for personal cooking in the room. Life there was documented by the photographer Harold Chapman
Harold Chapman
Harold Stephen Chapman is a photographer noted for chronicalling the 1950s in Paris.He has produced a large body of work over many years, but his most significant period was from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, when he lived in a backstreet Left Bank guesthouse in Paris later nicknamed ‘the...

, who lived in the attic room. This shabby, inexpensive hotel was populated by Gregory Corso
Gregory Corso
Gregory Nunzio Corso was an American poet, youngest of the inner circle of Beat Generation writers...

, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky
Peter Orlovsky
Peter Anton Orlovsky was an American poet.-Life and work:Orlovsky was born in the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Katherine and Oleg Orlovsky, a Russian immigrant. He was raised in poverty and was forced to drop out of Newtown High School in his senior year so he could support his...

 for several months after Naked Lunch first appeared. The actual process of publication was partly a function of its 'cut-up' presentation to the printer. Girodias had given Burroughs only ten days to prepare the manuscript for print galleys, and Burroughs sent over the manuscript in pieces, preparing the parts in no particular order. When it was published in this authentically random manner, Burroughs liked it better than the initial plan. International rights to the work were sold soon after, and Burroughs used the $3,000 advance from Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its...

 to buy drugs. Naked Lunch was featured in a 1959 Life
Life (magazine)
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....

 magazine cover story, partly as an article that highlighted the growing Beat literary movement.

During this time Burroughs found outlet for material otherwise rendered unpublishable in Jeff Nuttall's My Own Mag
My Own Mag
My Own Mag was an independent publication, or zine, published by Jeff Nuttall from 1960 to 1967.The influential, but rather unknown, publication is in retrospect most heralded for being a platform for William S...

 

The London years

Burroughs left Paris for London in 1966 to take the cure again with Dr. Dent, a well-known English medical doctor who spearheaded a painless heroin withdrawal treatment using an electronic box affixed to the patient's temple. Keith Richards
Keith Richards
Keith Richards is an English musician, songwriter, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone magazine said Richards had created "rock's greatest single body of riffs", and placed him as the "10th greatest guitarist of all time." Fourteen songs written by Richards and songwriting...

 and Anita Pallenberg
Anita Pallenberg
Anita Pallenberg is an Italian-born actress, model, and fashion designer. She was the romantic partner of Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist and guitarist Brian Jones and later the partner of the guitarist of the same band Keith Richards, from 1967 to 1979, by whom she has two surviving...

 would take this same cure over a decade later from Dr. Dent's nurse, Smitty. Though he ultimately relapsed, Burroughs ended up working out of London for six years, traveling back to the United States on several occasions, including one time escorting his son to Lexington Narcotics Farm and Prison after the younger Burroughs had been convicted of prescription fraud in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. In the "Afterward" to the compilation of his son's two previously published novels Speed and Kentucky Ham, Burroughs writes that he thought he had a "small habit" and left London quickly without any narcotics because he suspected the U.S. customs would search him very thoroughly on arrival. He claims he went through the most excruciating two months of opiate withdrawal while seeing his son through his trial and sentencing, traveling with Billy to Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

 from Miami to ensure his son entered the hospital he once spent time in as a volunteer admission. Earlier Burroughs revisited St. Louis, Missouri, taking a large advance from Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

 to write an article about his trip back to St. Louis that was eventually published in The Paris Review, after Burroughs refused to alter the style for Playboys publishers. In 1968 Burroughs joined Jean Genet
Jean Genet
Jean Genet was a prominent and controversial French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing...

, John Sack
John Sack
John Sack was an American literary journalist and war correspondent. He was the only journalist to cover each American war over half a century.-Biography:...

, and Terry Southern
Terry Southern
Terry Southern was an American author, essayist, screenwriter and university lecturer, noted for his distinctive satirical style...

 in covering the 1968 Democratic National Convention
1968 Democratic National Convention
The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1968. Because Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had announced he would not seek a second term, the purpose of the convention was to...

 for Esquire
Esquire (magazine)
Esquire is a men's magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation. Founded in 1932, it flourished during the Great Depression under the guidance of founder and editor Arnold Gingrich.-History:...

 magazine. Southern and Burroughs, who had first become acquainted in London, would remain lifelong friends and collaborators. In 1972, Burroughs and Southern unsuccessfully attempted to adapt Naked Lunch for the screen in conjunction with American game show producer Chuck Barris
Chuck Barris
Charles Hirsch "Chuck" Barris is an American game show producer, film director and presenter best known for hosting The Gong Show and creating The Dating Game. Barris, a survivor of lung cancer, is also an author and claims to have worked for the CIA.-Early career:Barris was born in Oakland, New...

.

Burroughs supported himself and his addiction by publishing pieces in small literary presses. His avant garde reputation grew internationally as the hippie counterculture discovered his earlier works. He developed a close friendship with Anthony Balch and lived with a young hustler named John Brady who continuously brought home young women despite Burroughs' protestations. In the midst of this personal turmoil, Burroughs managed to complete two works: a novel written in screen play format, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz is a novel by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, first published in 1970. Rather than use traditional chapters and text, however, Burroughs wrote the book in the form of a convoluted film screenplay....

 (1969); and the traditional prose-format novel The Wild Boys
The Wild Boys (novel)
The Wild Boys is a novel written by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs. It was first published in 1971 by Grove Press.-Introduction:...

 (1971).

Burroughs was a fan of Harold S. Schroeppel and passionately studied the manuscripts that were made available from the Institute for Advanced Perception. The teachings were known as the Lessons in Advanced Perception. Copies of these manuscripts, dated February 1960, along with four pages of notes exist in the William S. Burroughs archives at Ohio State University.

In the 1960s Burroughs joined and left the Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

. In talking about the experience, he claimed that the techniques and philosophy of Scientology helped him and that he felt that further study into Scientology would produce great results. He was skeptical of the organization itself, and felt that it fostered an environment that did not accept critical discussion. His subsequent critical writings about the church and his review of Inside Scientology by Robert Kaufman led to a battle of letters between Burroughs and Scientology supporters in the pages of Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

 magazine.

Return to U.S.

In 1974, concerned about his friend's well-being, Allen Ginsberg gained for Burroughs a contract to teach creative writing
Creative writing
Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature. Works which fall into this category include novels, epics, short stories, and poems...

 at the City College of New York
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

. Burroughs successfully withdrew from heroin use and moved to New York. He eventually found an apartment, affectionately dubbed "The Bunker," on the Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

 of Manhattan at 222 Bowery. The dwelling was a partially converted YMCA
YMCA
The Young Men's Christian Association is a worldwide organization of more than 45 million members from 125 national federations affiliated through the World Alliance of YMCAs...

 gym, complete with lockers and communal showers. The building fell within New York City rent control
Rent control
Rent control refers to laws or ordinances that set price controls on the renting of residential housing. It functions as a price ceiling.Rent control exists in approximately 40 countries around the world...

 policies that made it extremely cheap; it was only about four hundred dollars a month until 1981 when the rent control rules changed, doubling the rent overnight. Burroughs added "teacher" to the list of jobs he did not like, as he lasted only a semester as a professor; he found the students uninteresting and without much creative talent. Although he needed income desperately, he turned down a teaching position at the University at Buffalo
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, also commonly known as the University at Buffalo or UB, is a public research university and a "University Center" in the State University of New York system. The university was founded by Millard Fillmore in 1846. UB has multiple campuses...

 for $15,000 a semester. "The teaching gig was a lesson in never again. You were giving out all this energy and nothing was coming back." His savior was the newly arrived, twenty-one-year-old book seller and Beat Generation devotee James Grauerholz
James Grauerholz
James Grauerholz is a writer and editor. He is most famous as the bibliographer and literary executor of the estate of William S. Burroughs. He was born in Kansas and attended the University of Kansas for a year before dropping out and traveling to New York City...

, who worked for Burroughs part-time as a secretary as well as in a book store. It was Grauerholz who floated the idea of reading tours, something similar to rock and roll touring, or stand-up comedian dates in clubs across the country. Grauerholz had managed several rock bands in Kansas and took the lead in booking Burroughs reading tours that would help support him throughout the next two decades. It raised his public profile, which eventually aided in obtaining new publishing contracts. Through Grauerholz, Burroughs became a monthly columnist for the noted popular culture magazine Crawdaddy, for which he interviewed Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

's Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
James Patrick "Jimmy" Page, OBE is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.Jimmy Page...

 in 1975. Burroughs decided to relocate back to the United States permanently in 1976. He then began to associate with New York cultural players such as Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...

, John Giorno
John Giorno
John Giorno is an American poet and performance artist. He founded the not-for-profit production company Giorno Poetry Systems and organized a number of early multimedia poetry experiments and events, including Dial-A-Poem. He became prominent as the subject of Andy Warhol's film Sleep...

, Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed is an American rock musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, and for his successful solo career, which has spanned several decades...

, Patti Smith
Patti Smith
Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith is an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses....

, and Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag was an American author, literary theorist, feminist and political activist whose works include On Photography and Against Interpretation.-Life:...

, frequently entertaining them at the Bunker. Throughout early 1977, Burroughs collaborated with Southern and Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper
Dennis Lee Hopper was an American actor, filmmaker and artist. As a young man, Hopper became interested in acting and eventually became a student of the Actors' Studio. He made his first television appearance in 1954 and appeared in two films featuring James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant...

 on a screen adaptation of Junky. Financed by a reclusive acquaintance of Burroughs, the project lost traction after financial problems and creative disagreements between Hopper and Burroughs.

Organized by Columbia professor Sylvère Lotringer
Sylvère Lotringer
Sylvère Lotringer is a literary critic and cultural theorist. A younger contemporary of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio and Michel Foucault, he is best known for synthesizing French theory with American literary, cultural and architectural avant-garde movements...

, Giorno, and Grauerholz, the Nova Convention was a multimedia retrospective of Burroughs's work held from November 30 to December 2, 1978 at various locations throughout New York. The event included readings from Southern, Ginsberg, Smith, and Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed...

 (who filled in at the last minute for Keith Richards
Keith Richards
Keith Richards is an English musician, songwriter, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Rolling Stone magazine said Richards had created "rock's greatest single body of riffs", and placed him as the "10th greatest guitarist of all time." Fourteen songs written by Richards and songwriting...

, then entangled in a legal problem) in addition to panel discussions with Timothy Leary
Timothy Leary
Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs like LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison...

 & Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson , known to friends as "Bob", was an American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic...

 and concerts featuring The B-52's
The B-52's
The B-52's are an American rock band, formed in Athens, Georgia in 1976. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider , Kate Pierson , Cindy Wilson , Ricky Wilson , and Keith Strickland . Following Ricky Wilson's death in 1985 Strickland switched to guitar...

, Suicide
Suicide (band)
Suicide is an American electronic protopunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1970 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. They are an early synthesizer/vocal musical duo....

, Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

, and Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry
Deborah Ann "Debbie" Harry is an American singer-songwriter and actress, best known for being the lead singer of the punk rock and new wave band Blondie. She has also had success as a solo artist, and in the mid-1990s she performed and recorded as part of The Jazz Passengers...

 & Chris Stein
Chris Stein
Christopher "Chris" Stein is co-founder and guitarist in the New Wave band, Blondie. He is also a producer and performer for the classic soundtrack of the hip hop film Wild Style....

.

In 1976, Billy Burroughs was eating dinner with his father and Allen Ginsberg in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is the county seat and most populous city of Boulder County and the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Colorado. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of...

, at Ginsberg’s Buddhist poetry school (Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics) at Chogyam Trungpa
Chögyam Trungpa
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a Buddhist meditation master and holder of both the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, the eleventh Trungpa tülku, a tertön, supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries, scholar, teacher, poet, artist, and originator of a radical re-presentation of Shambhala vision.Recognized...

's Naropa University
Naropa University
Naropa University is a private American liberal arts university in Boulder, Colorado. Founded in 1974 by Tibetan Buddhist teacher and Oxford University scholar Chögyam Trungpa, it is named for the eleventh-century Indian Buddhist sage Naropa, an abbot of Nalanda.Naropa describes itself as...

 when he began to vomit blood. Burroughs senior had not seen his son for over a year and was alarmed at his appearance when Billy arrived at Ginsberg’s apartment. Although Billy had successfully published two short novels in the 1970s, and was deemed by literary critics like Ann Charters
Ann Charters
Ann Charters was born on November 10, 1936 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She is a professor of American Literature at the University of Connecticut at Storrs and has been interested in Beat Writers since 1956 when as an undergraduate English major she attended the repeat performance of the Six...

 as a bona fide "second generation beat writer", his brief marriage to a teenage waitress had disintegrated. Under his constant drinking, there were long periods where Billy was out of contact with any of his family or friends. The diagnosis was liver cirrhosis so complete that the only treatment was a rarely performed liver transplant operation. Fortunately, the University of Colorado Medical Center was one of two places in the nation that performed transplants under the pioneering work of Dr. Thomas Starzl
Thomas Starzl
Thomas E. Starzl is an American physician, researcher, and is an expert on organ transplants. He performed the first human liver transplants, and has often been referred to as "the father of modern transplantation."-Life:...

. Billy underwent the procedure and beat the thirty-percent survival odds. His father spent many months in 1976 and 1977 in Colorado, helping Billy through many additional surgeries and complications. Ted Morgan’s biography asserts that their relationship was not spontaneous and lacked real warmth or intimacy. Allen Ginsberg was supportive to both Burroughs and his son throughout the long period of recovery.

In London, he had begun to write what would become the first novel of a trilogy. Between 1981 and 1987 he published Cities of the Red Night
Cities of the Red Night
Cities of the Red Night is a novel by American author William S. Burroughs. It is part of his final trilogy of novels, known as The Red Night Trilogy, followed by The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands, and was first published in 1981. It was his first full-length novel since The Wild Boys a...

 (1981), The Place of Dead Roads
The Place of Dead Roads
The Place of Dead Roads by William S. Burroughs, published in 1983, is the second book of the trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night and concludes with The Western Lands...

 (1983) and The Western Lands
The Western Lands
The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs, published in 1987, is a novel which is the final part of the trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night and The Place of Dead Roads. The title refers to the western bank of the Nile River, which in Egyptian mythology is the Land of the Dead...

 (1987). Grauerholz helped edit Cities when it was first rejected by Burroughs' long-time editor Dick Seaver at Holt Rinehart, after it was deemed too disjointed. The novel was written as a straight narrative and then chopped up into a more random pattern, leaving the reader to sort through the characters and events. This technique was definitely different from the author's earlier cut-up methods, which were organically accidental from the start. Nevertheless, the novel was reassembled and published, still without a straight linear form, but with fewer breaks in the story. The back-and-forth sway of the read replicated the theme of the trilogy; time-travel adventures where Burroughs's narrators rewrite episodes in history and thus reform mankind. Reviews were mixed for Cities. Novelist and critic Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess
John Burgess Wilson  – who published under the pen name Anthony Burgess – was an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. The dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange is Burgess's most famous novel, though he dismissed it as one of his lesser works...

 panned the work in Saturday Review, saying Burroughs was boring readers with repetitive episodes of pederast fantasy and sexual strangulation that lacked any comprehensible world view
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

 or theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

; other reviewers, like J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

, argued that Burroughs was shaping a new literary "mythography".

In 1981, Billy Burroughs died in Florida. He had cut off contact with his father several years before, even publishing an article in Esquire magazine claiming the author had poisoned his life and revealing that he had been molested by one of his father's friends as a fourteen-year-old while visiting his father in Tangier, something that he had previously kept to himself. The liver transplant had not cured his urge to drink, and Billy suffered from serious health complications years after the operation. He had stopped taking his transplant rejection
Transplant rejection
Transplant rejection occurs when transplanted tissue is rejected by the recipient's immune system, which destroys the transplanted tissue. Transplant rejection can be lessened by determining the molecular similitude between donor and recipient and by use of immunosuppressant drugs after...

 drugs and was found near the side of a Florida highway by a stranger. He died shortly afterwards. Burroughs was in New York when he heard from Allen Ginsberg of the death.

Burroughs, by 1979, was once again addicted to heroin. The cheap heroin that was easily purchased outside his door on the Lower East Side "made its way" into his veins, coupled with "gifts" from the overzealous if well-intentioned admirers who frequently visited the Bunker. Although Burroughs would have episodes of being free from heroin, from this point until his death he was regularly addicted to the drug. He died in 1997 on a methadone
Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and a maintenance anti-addictive for use in patients with opioid dependency. It was developed in Germany in 1937...

 maintenance program. In an introduction to Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs
Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs
Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs is a collection of diary entries made by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs between November 16, 1996 and July 30, 1997, only a few days before his death on August 2 at the age of 83...

, James Grauerholz (who managed Burroughs's reading tours in the '80s and '90s) mentions that part of his job was to deal with the “underworld” in each city to secure the author’s needed drugs.

Later years in Kansas

Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Lawrence is the sixth largest city in the U.S. State of Kansas and the county seat of Douglas County. Located in northeastern Kansas, Lawrence is the anchor city of the Lawrence, Kansas, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Douglas County...

, in 1981 and lived the remainder of his life there, at 1927 Learnard Avenue. He once told a Wichita Eagle reporter that he was content to live in Kansas, saying, “The thing I like about Kansas is that it’s not nearly as violent, and it’s a helluva lot cheaper. And I can get out in the country and fish and shoot and whatnot.” In 1984 he signed a seven-book deal with Viking Press
Viking Press
Viking Press is an American publishing company owned by the Penguin Group, which has owned the company since 1975. It was founded in New York City on March 1, 1925, by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim...

 after he signed with literary agent Andrew Wylie. This deal included the publication rights to the 1953 unpublished novel Queer
Queer (novel)
Queer is the title of an early short novel by William S. Burroughs. It is partially a sequel to his earlier novel, Junkie. That novel ends with the stated ambition of finding the ultimate ‘high’- a drug called Yage...

. With this money he purchased a small bungalow for $29,000. He was finally inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1983 after several attempts by Allen Ginsberg to get him accepted. He attended the induction ceremony in May 1983. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, liberal activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers...

 remarked the induction of Burroughs into the Academy proved Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse was a German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory...

's point that capitalistic society had a great ability to incorporate its one-time outsiders.

Burroughs became a counterculture figure and inspired 1970’s proto punk rock band Doctors of Madness
Doctors of Madness
Doctors of Madness were a British protopunk art rock band formed in 1974 in a cellar in Brixton, south London by the composer and lead singer/guitarist Richard Strange, known as ‘Kid’ Strange...

 and in the 1980s collaborated with performers ranging from Bill Laswell
Bill Laswell
Bill Laswell is an American bassist, producer and record label owner....

's Material
Material (band)
For the rock band of the same name, see The MaterialMaterial is a musical group formed in 1979 and led by bass guitarist Bill Laswell.-1978-82: The band:...

 and Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson
Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson is an American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s...

 to Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle were an English industrial, avant-garde music and visual arts group that evolved from the performance art group COUM Transmissions...

, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Ministry
Ministry (band)
Ministry is an American industrial metal band founded by lead singer Al Jourgensen in 1981. Originally a synthpop outfit, Ministry changed its style to industrial metal in the late 1980s. Ministry found mainstream success in the early 1990s with its most successful album Psalm 69: The Way to...

, and in Gus Van Sant
Gus Van Sant
Gus Green Van Sant, Jr. is an American director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician, and author. He is a two time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director for his 1997 film Good Will Hunting and his 2008 film Milk, both of which were also nominated for Best Picture, and won the...

's 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy
Drugstore Cowboy
Drugstore Cowboy is a 1989 crime drama directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, based on a novel by James Fogle. Matt Dillon stars in the title role, and Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, and William S. Burroughs are also featured. Drugstore Cowboy was filmed mainly around...

, playing a character based on a short story he published in Exterminator!
Exterminator!
Exterminator! is a short story collection written by William S. Burroughs and first published in 1973. Early editions label the book a novel)....

, "The "Priest" They Called Him". In 1990, he released the spoken word album Dead City Radio
Dead City Radio (album)
Dead City Radio is a musical album by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, which was released by Island Records in 1990. It was dedicated to Keith Haring.The CD is a collection of readings by Burroughs set to a broad range of musical compositions...

, with musical back-up from producers Hal Willner
Hal Willner
Hal Willner is an American music producer working in recording, films, TV and live events. He is best known for assembling tribute albums and events featuring a wide variety of artists and musical styles...

 and Nelson Lyon, and alternative rock
Alternative rock
Alternative rock is a genre of rock music and a term used to describe a diverse musical movement that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular by the 1990s...

 band Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth is an American alternative rock band from New York City, formed in 1981. The current lineup consists of Thurston Moore , Kim Gordon , Lee Ranaldo , Steve Shelley , and Mark Ibold .In their early career, Sonic Youth was associated with the No Wave art and music scene in New York City...

. A collaboration with musicians Nick Cave
Nick Cave
Nicholas Edward "Nick" Cave is an Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, and occasional film actor.He is best known for his work as a frontman of the critically acclaimed rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, established in 1984, a group known for its eclectic influences and...

 and Tom Waits
Tom Waits
Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car."...

 resulted in a collection of short prose, Smack My Crack, later released as a spoken word album in 1987. He also collaborated with Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson (director)
Robert Wilson is an American avant-garde stage director and playwright who has been called "[America]'s — or even the world's — foremost vanguard 'theater artist'". Over the course of his wide-ranging career, he has also worked as a choreographer, performer, painter, sculptor, video...

 to create The Black Rider
The Black Rider
The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets is a self-billed "musical fable" in the avant-garde tradition created through the collaboration of theatre director Robert Wilson, musician Tom Waits, and writer William S. Burroughs. Wilson was largely responsible for the design and direction....

, a play which opened at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in 1990, to critical acclaim, and was later performed all over Europe and the U.S. In 1991, with Burroughs's sanction, director David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg
David Paul Cronenberg, OC, FRSC is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the...

 took on the seemingly impossible task of adapting Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

 into a full-length feature film. The film opened to critical acclaim.

In June 1991 Burroughs underwent triple bypass surgery
Coronary artery bypass surgery
Coronary artery bypass surgery, also coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and colloquially heart bypass or bypass surgery is a surgical procedure performed to relieve angina and reduce the risk of death from coronary artery disease...

.

He became a member of a chaos magic
Chaos magic
Chaos magic is a school of the modern magical tradition which emphasizes the pragmatic use of belief systems and the creation of new and unorthodox methods.-General principles:...

 organization, the Illuminates of Thanateros
Illuminates of Thanateros
The Illuminates of Thanateros is an international magical organization founded in 1978, focusing on practical group work in chaos magic. This fraternal magical society has been an important influence on some forms of modern occultism.- Name :...

, in 1993, a group whose very existence would not have been possible without his works.

During his later years in Kansas, Burroughs also developed a painting technique whereby he created abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans some distance in front of blank canvasses, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shotgun. These splattered canvasses were shown in a Chicago gallery in the late 1980s and a New York City gallery in the early 1990s. During this same period Burroughs spent more of his time making art for its own sake including a series of file-folders featuring "automatic calligraphy" inspired by Brion Gysin, which were later dubbed "life files." He originally used the folders to mix pigments before observing that they could be viewed as art in themselves.

Burroughs's final filmed performance was in the music video for "Last Night on Earth" by Irish rock band U2
U2
U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin. Formed in 1976, the group consists of Bono , The Edge , Adam Clayton , and Larry Mullen, Jr. . U2's early sound was rooted in post-punk but eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music...

, filmed in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

, directed by Richie Smyth and also featuring Sophie Dahl
Sophie Dahl
Sophie Dahl , born Sophie Holloway, is an English author and former model. She was born in London, the daughter of actor Julian Holloway and writer Tessa Dahl. Her maternal grandparents were author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. Her paternal grandparents were actor Stanley Holloway and...

.

Death

Burroughs died in Lawrence, at 6:50 p.m. on August 2, 1997 from complications of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 he had suffered the previous day. He was interred in the family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, with a marker bearing his full name and the epitaph "American Writer." The grave lies to the right of the white granite obelisk of William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I
William Seward Burroughs I was an American inventor born in Rochester, New York.Burroughs was the son of a mechanic and worked with machines throughout his childhood. While he was still a small boy, his parents moved to Auburn, New York, where he and his brothers were educated in the public school...

 (1857–1898).

After his death

Since 1997, several posthumous collections of Burroughs's work have been published. A few months after his death, a collection of writings spanning his entire career, Word Virus, was published (according to the book's introduction, Burroughs himself approved its contents prior to his death). Aside from numerous previously released pieces, Word Virus also included one of the few surviving fragments of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is a novel by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. It was written in 1945, a full decade before the two authors became famous as leading figures of the Beat Generation, and remained unpublished for many years....

, an unpublished novel by Burroughs and Kerouac. A collection of journal entries written during the final months of Burroughs's life was published as the book Last Words in 2000. Publication of a memoir by Burroughs entitled Evil River by Viking Press
Viking Press
Viking Press is an American publishing company owned by the Penguin Group, which has owned the company since 1975. It was founded in New York City on March 1, 1925, by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim...

 has been delayed several times; after initially being announced for a 2005 release, Web retailers such as Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

 indicated a 2007 release, complete with an ISBN number (ISBN 0670813516), but no such release has, to date, occurred. In December 2007, Ohio State University Press
Ohio State University Press
The Ohio State University Press, founded in 1957, is a university press and a part of The Ohio State University.-External links:*...

 released Everything Lost: The Latin American Journals of William S. Burroughs. Edited by Oliver Harris, the book contains transcriptions of journal entries made by Burroughs during the time of composing Queer and The Yage Letters. In addition, special editions of The Yage Letters, Naked Lunch and Junkie/Junky have been published in recent years, all containing additional material and essays on the works.

The complete Kerouac/Burroughs manuscript And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is a novel by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. It was written in 1945, a full decade before the two authors became famous as leading figures of the Beat Generation, and remained unpublished for many years....

 was published for the first time in November 2008.

In September 2010, Telos Publishing, a UK publisher, is scheduled to release the novel Rules of Duel, a previously unpublished late-60s collaboration between Burroughs and Graham Masterton
Graham Masterton
Graham Masterton is a British horror author. Originally editor of Mayfair and the British edition of Penthouse, Graham Masterton's first novel The Manitou was released in 1976. This novel was adapted in 1978 for the film The Manitou...

.

Literary style and periods

Burroughs's major works can be divided into four different periods. The dates refer to the time of writing, not publication, which in some cases was not until decades later:
  • Early work (early 1950s): Junkie
    Junkie (novel)
    Junkie is a 1953 semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs. It was his first published novel and has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s. Burroughs' working title was Junk.-Inspiration:The novel was considered unpublishable more than...

    , Queer
    Queer (novel)
    Queer is the title of an early short novel by William S. Burroughs. It is partially a sequel to his earlier novel, Junkie. That novel ends with the stated ambition of finding the ultimate ‘high’- a drug called Yage...

     and The Yage Letters
    The Yage Letters
    The Yage Letters, first published in 1963, is a collection of correspondence and other writings by Beat Generation authors William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg...

     are relatively straightforward linear narratives, written in and about Burroughs's time in Mexico City and South America.
  • The cut-up period (mid 1950s to mid 1960s): Naked Lunch
    Naked Lunch
    Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

     is a fragmentary collection of "routines" from The Word Hoard
    The Word Hoard
    The Word Hoard also known as the trunk manuscripts was a large body of text produced by author William S. Burroughs between roughly 1953 and 1958...

     – manuscripts written in Tangier, Paris, London, as well as of some other texts written in South America such as "The Composite City", blending into the cut-up and fold-in
    Cut-up technique
    The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Most commonly, cut-ups are used to offer a non-linear alternative to traditional reading and writing....

     fiction also heavily drawn from The Word Hoard: The Soft Machine
    The Soft Machine
    The Soft Machine is a novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1961, two years after his groundbreaking Naked Lunch. It was originally composed using the cut-up and fold-in techniques from manuscripts belonging to The Word Hoard...

    , Nova Express
    Nova Express
    Nova Express is a 1964 novel by William S. Burroughs. It was written using the cut-up method, developed by Burroughs with Brion Gysin, of enfolding snippets of different texts into the novel. It is the third book in The Nova Trilogy, preceded by The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded...

    , The Ticket That Exploded
    The Ticket That Exploded
    The Ticket That Exploded is a novel by William S. Burroughs first published in 1962 by Olympia Press and later published in the United States by Grove Press in 1967. It is the second book in a trilogy created using the cut-up technique, often referred to as The Nova Trilogy...

    , also referred to as "The Nova Trilogy
    The Nova Trilogy
    The Nova Trilogy, The Nova Epic or The Cut-up Trilogy is a name commonly given by critics to a series of three experimental prose novels by William S. Burroughs...

    " or "the Nova Epic", self-described by Burroughs as an attempt to create "a mythology for the space age". Interzone
    Interzone (book)
    Interzone is a collection of short stories and other early works by William S. Burroughs. The collection was first published by Viking Penguin in 1989, although several of the stories had already been printed elsewhere, including an earlier publication entitled Early Routines...

     also derives from this period.
  • Experiment and subversion (mid 1960s to mid 1970s): This period saw Burroughs continue experimental writing with increased political content and branching into multimedia such as film and sound recording. The only major novel written in this period was The Wild Boys
    The Wild Boys (novel)
    The Wild Boys is a novel written by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs. It was first published in 1971 by Grove Press.-Introduction:...

    , but he also wrote dozens of published articles, short stories, scrap books and other works, several in collaboration with Brion Gyson. The major anthologies representing work from this period are The Burroughs File
    The Burroughs File
    The Burroughs File is a collection of short fiction and non-fiction writings by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs covering a period of more than 20 years...

    , The Adding Machine
    The Adding Machine: Collected Essays
    The Adding Machine is a collection of essays written by Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs. This collection was first published in the United Kingdom in 1985, followed by an American edition in 1986...

     and Exterminator!
    Exterminator!
    Exterminator! is a short story collection written by William S. Burroughs and first published in 1973. Early editions label the book a novel)....

    .
  • The Red Night trilogy (mid 1970s to mid 1980s): The books Cities of the Red Night
    Cities of the Red Night
    Cities of the Red Night is a novel by American author William S. Burroughs. It is part of his final trilogy of novels, known as The Red Night Trilogy, followed by The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands, and was first published in 1981. It was his first full-length novel since The Wild Boys a...

    , The Place of Dead Roads
    The Place of Dead Roads
    The Place of Dead Roads by William S. Burroughs, published in 1983, is the second book of the trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night and concludes with The Western Lands...

     and The Western Lands
    The Western Lands
    The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs, published in 1987, is a novel which is the final part of the trilogy that begins with Cities of the Red Night and The Place of Dead Roads. The title refers to the western bank of the Nile River, which in Egyptian mythology is the Land of the Dead...

     came from Burroughs in a final, mature stage, creating a complete mythology.


Burroughs also produced numerous essays and a large body of autobiographical material, including a book with a detailed account of his own dreams (My Education: A Book of Dreams).

Reaction to critics and view on criticism

Several literary critics
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 treated Burroughs's work harshly. For example Anatole Broyard
Anatole Broyard
Anatole Paul Broyard was an American writer, literary critic and editor for The New York Times. In addition to his many reviews and columns, he published short stories, essays and two books during his lifetime...

 and Philip Toynbee
Philip Toynbee
Theodore Philip Toynbee was a British writer and communist. He wrote experimental novels, and distinctive verse novels, one of which was an epic called Pantaloon, a work in several volumes, only some of which are published...

 wrote devastating reviews of some of his most important books. In a short essay entitled "A Review of the Reviewers", Burroughs answers his critics in this way:
Burroughs clearly indicates here that he prefers to be evaluated against such criteria over being reviewed based on the reviewer's personal reactions to a certain book. Always a contradictory figure, Burroughs nevertheless criticized Anatole Broyard
Anatole Broyard
Anatole Paul Broyard was an American writer, literary critic and editor for The New York Times. In addition to his many reviews and columns, he published short stories, essays and two books during his lifetime...

 for reading authorial intentionality
Authorial intentionality
In literary theory and aesthetics, authorial intent refers to an author's intent as it is encoded in his or her work.-Literary theory:In literary studies, the question of the validity of the methods of determining authorial intent has been debated since the early twentieth century. New Criticism,...

 into his works where there is none, which sets him at odds both with New Criticism and the old school as represented by Mathew Arnold.

Legacy

Burroughs is often called one of the greatest and most influential writers of the twentieth century, most notably by Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

 whose quote on Burroughs, "The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius," appears on many Burroughs publications. Others consider his concepts and attitude more influential than his prose
Prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

. Prominent admirers of Burroughs's work have included British critic and biographer Peter Ackroyd
Peter Ackroyd
Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English biographer, novelist and critic with a particular interest in the history and culture of London. For his novels about English history and culture and his biographies of, among others, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot and Sir Thomas More he won the Somerset Maugham Award...

, the rock critic Lester Bangs
Lester Bangs
Leslie Conway "Lester" Bangs was an American music journalist, author and musician. He wrote for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines, and was known for his leading influence in rock 'n' roll criticism....

 and the authors J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

, Angela Carter
Angela Carter
Angela Carter was an English novelist and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works...

, Jean Genet
Jean Genet
Jean Genet was a prominent and controversial French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing...

, William Gibson
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

, Alan Moore
Alan Moore
Alan Oswald Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell...

, and Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey
Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey was an American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , and as a counter-cultural figure who considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. "I was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a...

.

Burroughs continues to be named as an influence by contemporary writers of fiction. Both the New Wave
New Wave (science fiction)
New Wave is a term applied to science fiction produced in the 1960s and 1970s and characterized by a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, a "literary" or artistic sensibility, and a focus on "soft" as opposed to hard science. The term "New Wave" is borrowed from the French...

 and, especially, the cyberpunk
Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name is a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk, and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983...

 schools of science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 are indebted to him. Admirers from the late 1970s—early 1980s milieu of this subgenre include William Gibson
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

 and John Shirley
John Shirley
John Shirley is an American fantasist, author of noir fiction, and science-fiction writer. Shirley is a prolific writer of novels and short stories, TV scripts and screenplays who has published over 30 books and 10 collections...

, to name only two. First published in 1982, the British slipstream fiction magazine Interzone
Interzone (magazine)
Interzone is an award-winning British fantasy and science fiction magazine. Published since 1982, Interzone is the eighth longest-running science fiction magazine in history and the longest-running British SF magazine...

 (which later evolved into a more traditional science fiction magazine
Science fiction magazine
A science fiction magazine is a publication that offers primarily science fiction, either in a hard copy periodical format or on the Internet....

) paid tribute to him with its choice of name. He is also cited as a major influence by musicians Roger Waters
Roger Waters
George Roger Waters is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. He was a founding member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, serving as bassist and co-lead vocalist. Following the departure of bandmate Syd Barrett in 1968, Waters became the band's lyricist, principal songwriter...

, Patti Smith
Patti Smith
Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith is an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses....

, Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is an English singer-songwriter, musician, writer and artist. P-Orridge's early confrontational performance work in COUM Transmissions in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, which dealt with subjects such as prostitution,...

, Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis
Ian Kevin Curtis was an English singer and lyricist, famous for leading the post-punk band Joy Division. Joy Division released their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and recorded their follow-up, Closer, in 1980...

, Lou Reed
Lou Reed
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed is an American rock musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, and for his successful solo career, which has spanned several decades...

, Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson
Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson is an American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s...

, Tom Waits
Tom Waits
Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car."...

 and Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain
Kurt Donald Cobain was an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana...

.

Drugs, homosexuality and death, common among Burroughs's themes, have been taken up by Dennis Cooper
Dennis Cooper
Dennis Cooper is an American novelist, poet, critic, editor and performance artist.-Career:Cooper grew up the son of a wealthy businessman in Arcadia, California. His first forays into literature came early, focusing on imitations of Rimbaud, Verlaine, de Sade, and Baudelaire...

, of whom Burroughs said, "Dennis Cooper, God help him, is a born writer." Cooper, in return, wrote, in his essay 'King Junk', "along with Jean Genet
Jean Genet
Jean Genet was a prominent and controversial French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing...

, John Rechy
John Rechy
John Francis Rechy, , is an American author, the child of a half-Scottish and half-Mexican father, Roberto Rechy, and a Mexican-American mother, Guadalupe Flores. In his novels he has written extensively about homosexual culture in Los Angeles and wider America, and is among the pioneers of modern...

, and Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

, [Burroughs] helped make homosexuality seem cool and highbrow, providing gay liberation with a delicious edge." Splatterpunk
Splatterpunk
Splatterpunk—a term coined in 1986 by David J. Schow at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island—refers to a movement within horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence and "hyperintensive horror with no limits." It is regarded as a revolt...

 writer Poppy Z. Brite
Poppy Z. Brite
Poppy Z. Brite is an American author. Brite initially achieved notoriety in the gothic horror genre of literature in the early 1990s after publishing a string of successful novels and short story collections...

 has frequently referenced this aspect of Burroughs's work. Burroughs's writing continues to be referenced years after his death; for example, a November 2004 episode of the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is an American crime drama television series, which premiered on CBS on October 6, 2000. The show was created by Anthony E. Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer...

 included an evil character named Dr. Benway (named for an amoral physician who appears in a number of Burroughs's works.) This is an echo of the hospital scene in the movie Repo Man, made during Burroughs's lifetime, in which both Dr. Benway and Mr. Lee (a Burroughs pen name) are paged.

Burroughs was cited by Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson , known to friends as "Bob", was an American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic...

 as the first person to notice the "23 Enigma":

In music

Burroughs appears on the cover of The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

' eighth studio album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band The Beatles, released on 1 June 1967 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin...

.

Burroughs participated on numerous album releases by Giorno Poetry Systems
Giorno Poetry Systems
Founded in 1965, Giorno Poetry Systems was an American artist collective, record label, and non-profit organisation founded by poet and performance artist John Giorno with the direct aim to connect poetry and related art forms to a larger audience using innovative ideas, such as communication...

, including The Nova Convention (featuring Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed...

, John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

, and Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

) and You're the Guy I Want to Share My Money With (with John Giorno
John Giorno
John Giorno is an American poet and performance artist. He founded the not-for-profit production company Giorno Poetry Systems and organized a number of early multimedia poetry experiments and events, including Dial-A-Poem. He became prominent as the subject of Andy Warhol's film Sleep...

 and Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson
Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson is an American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s...

). He is featured in a spoken word piece entitled "Sharkey's Night" on Laurie Anderson's album Mister Heartbreak
Mister Heartbreak
Mister Heartbreak is the second album by avant-garde artist, singer and composer Laurie Anderson, released in 1984.Considered more mainstream than its predecessor, Big Science, the album's lead track, "Sharkey's Day" formed the basis of a popular music video. Author William S...

. In addition, Burroughs provided vocal samples for the soundtrack of Anderson's 1986 concert film
Concert film
A concert movie, or concert film, is a type of documentary film, the subject of which is an extended live performance or concert by a musician ....

, Home of the Brave
Home of the Brave (1986 film)
Home of the Brave is a 1986 American concert film featuring the music of Laurie Anderson, who also directed the movie. The film's full on-screen title is Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson. The performances were filmed at the Park Theater in Union City, NJ during the summer of 1985.The...

, and made a cameo appearance in it. He also recites the lyrics of R.E.M.
R.E.M.
R.E.M. was an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry. One of the first popular alternative rock bands, R.E.M. gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's...

's "Star Me Kitten" for a special version of the song on the Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files soundtrack.

In 1990, Island Records
Island Records
Island Records is a record label that was founded by Chris Blackwell in Jamaica. It was based in the United Kingdom for many years and is now owned by Universal Music Group...

 released Dead City Radio, a collection of readings set to a broad range of musical compositions. It was produced by Hal Willner
Hal Willner
Hal Willner is an American music producer working in recording, films, TV and live events. He is best known for assembling tribute albums and events featuring a wide variety of artists and musical styles...

 and Nelson Lyon, with musical accompaniment from John Cale
John Cale
John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground....

, Donald Fagen
Donald Fagen
Donald Jay Fagen is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the co-founder, lead singer, and the principal songwriter of the rock band Steely Dan ....

, Lenny Pickett, Chris Stein
Chris Stein
Christopher "Chris" Stein is co-founder and guitarist in the New Wave band, Blondie. He is also a producer and performer for the classic soundtrack of the hip hop film Wild Style....

, Sonic Youth, and others. The remastered edition of Sonic Youth's album Goo
Goo (album)
Goo is the sixth album by the American alternative rock band Sonic Youth, released on June 26, 1990. Goo was the first album released after the band signed to major label Geffen Records.-Background and recording:...

 includes a longer version of "Dr. Benway's House," which had appeared, in shorter form, on Dead City Radio.

In 1992 he recorded "Quick Fix" with Ministry
Ministry (band)
Ministry is an American industrial metal band founded by lead singer Al Jourgensen in 1981. Originally a synthpop outfit, Ministry changed its style to industrial metal in the late 1980s. Ministry found mainstream success in the early 1990s with its most successful album Psalm 69: The Way to...

, which appeared on their single for "Just One Fix
Just One Fix
-Ministry:*Al Jourgensen – vocals , guitar, programming, production*Paul Barker – bass guitar, programming, production-Additional Personnel:*Bill Rieflin – drums*Mike Scaccia – guitar*Michael Balch – programming*William S...

." The single featured cover art by Burroughs and a remix of the song dubbed the "W.S.B. mix." Burroughs also made an appearance in the video for "Just One Fix." The same year he also recorded the EP The "Priest" They Called Him; Burroughs reads the short story of the same name
Exterminator!
Exterminator! is a short story collection written by William S. Burroughs and first published in 1973. Early editions label the book a novel)....

, while Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain
Kurt Donald Cobain was an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana...

 creates layers of guitar feedback and distortion. Nirvana
Nirvana (band)
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987...

 bassist Krist Novoselic
Krist Novoselic
Krist Anthony Novoselic II is a Croatian-American rock musician, best known for being the bassist and co-founder of the grunge band Nirvana. After Nirvana ended, Novoselic formed Sweet 75 and then Eyes Adrift, releasing one album with each band...

 is featured on the cover as the titular "Priest." In 1992 Burroughs worked with The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy was an American industrial hip-hop band, active during the early 1990s.The band was formed in 1990 by Michael Franti and Rono Tse, who had been in the Beatnigs, and introduced the work of guitarist Charlie Hunter...

 on Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales, with the duo providing musical background and accompaniment to Burroughs's spoken readings from several of his books.

Burroughs appears near the end of U2
U2
U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin. Formed in 1976, the group consists of Bono , The Edge , Adam Clayton , and Larry Mullen, Jr. . U2's early sound was rooted in post-punk but eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music...

's music video "Last Night on Earth", pushing a shopping cart with a large spotlight positioned inside it. The video ends with a close up of his eyes.

In 2000, Spring Heel Jack
Spring Heel Jack
Spring Heel Jack is an English electronic music group consisting of John Coxon and Ashley Wales.Formed in 1993 in London, England, Spring Heel Jack began their career exploring drum and bass and jungle, but have since branched out into free improvisation and jazz, collaborating with many acclaimed...

 released the album Oddities, on which appears the band's remix of Material's Road to the Western Lands, featuring Burroughs, which had originally appeared on the remix album Seven Souls.

Band names

Numerous bands have found their names in Burroughs's work. The most widely known of these is Steely Dan
Steely Dan
Steely Dan is an American rock band; its core members are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop...

, a group named after a dildo
Dildo
A dildo is a sex toy, often explicitly phallic in appearance, intended for bodily penetration during masturbation or sex with partners.- Description and uses :...

 in Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

. Also from Naked Lunch came the names The Mugwumps
The Mugwumps
The Mugwumps were a 1960s rock band. The Mugwumps made some recordings in the mid-60s, but the short-lived New York group, formed in 1964, is principally remembered for what its members did after they split up....

 and The Insect Trust
The Insect Trust
The Insect Trust was a rock band that formed in New York in 1967.The members of the band were Nancy Jeffries on vocals, Bill Barth on guitar, Luke Faust, formerly of the Holy Modal Rounders, on guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmonica, Trevor Koehler on saxophone, and Robert Palmer on clarinet and...

. The novel Nova Express
Nova Express
Nova Express is a 1964 novel by William S. Burroughs. It was written using the cut-up method, developed by Burroughs with Brion Gysin, of enfolding snippets of different texts into the novel. It is the third book in The Nova Trilogy, preceded by The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded...

 inspired the names of Grant Hart
Grant Hart
Grant Hart is an American musician, best known as the drummer and co-songwriter for the influential alternative rock and hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü. After the band's breakup in 1987, Hart formed the alternative rock trio Nova Mob, where he moved to vocals and guitar...

's post-Hüsker Dü
Hüsker Dü
Hüsker Dü was an American rock band formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1979. The band's continual members were guitarist Bob Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and drummer Grant Hart....

 band Nova Mob, as well as Australian 1960s R&B band Nova Express. British band Soft Machine
Soft Machine
Soft Machine were an English rock band from Canterbury, named after the book The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs. They were one of the central bands in the Canterbury scene, and helped pioneer the progressive rock genre...

 took its moniker from the Burroughs novel of the same name, as did protopunk
Protopunk
Protopunk is a term used retrospectively to describe a number of musicians who were important precursors of punk rock in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, or who have been cited by early punk musicians as influential...

 band Dead Fingers Talk, from Hull, England; their only album was titled Storm the Reality Studios, after a quote from Nova Express. Alt-country band Clem Snide
Clem Snide
Clem Snide is an alt-country band featuring Eef Barzelay , Brendan Fitzpatrick and Ben Martin .-History:"Clem Snide" is a character in several novels by William S. Burroughs, including Naked Lunch, The Ticket That Exploded, and Exterminator!...

 is named for a Burroughs character. Thin White Rope
Thin White Rope
Thin White Rope was an American rock band fronted by Guy Kyser and related to the desert rock and paisley underground sub-genres. It was formed in Davis, California in 1984, and released five albums to critical acclaim....

 took their name from Burroughs's euphemism for ejaculation.

The American extreme metal
Extreme metal
Extreme metal is a loosely defined umbrella term for a number of related heavy metal music subgenres that have developed since the early 1980s. The term usually refers to a more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style or sound nearly always associated with genres like black metal,...

 band Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky
Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky
Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky is an American extreme metal band from Tampa, Florida, formed in 2006. The group was founded by guitarists Aaron Haines and Ian Sturgill, shortly after the disbandment of their previous band, Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus. The band's name is...

 took their name from the 1989 text "Apocalypse", in which Burroughs describes "art and creative expression taking a literal and physical form."

In film and television

Burroughs played Opium Jones in the 1966 Conrad Rooks cult film
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

 Chappaqua
Chappaqua (film)
Chappaqua is a 1966 cult film written, directed by and starring Conrad Rooks. The films is based on Rooks' experiences with drug addiction and includes cameo appearances by a host of famous figures of the 1960s: author William S. Burroughs, guru Swami Satchidananda, beat poets Allen Ginsberg and...

, which also featured cameo roles by Allen Ginsberg, Moondog, and others. In 1968, an abbreviated—77 minutes as opposed to the original's 104 minutes—version of Benjamin Christensen
Benjamin Christensen
Benjamin Christensen was a Danish film director, screenwriter and an actor both in film and on the stage. As a director he is most well known for the 1922 film Häxan and as an actor, he is best known for his performance in the film Michael , in which he plays Claude Zoret, the jilted lover of the...

's 1922 film Häxan
Häxan
Häxan is a 1922 Swedish/Danish silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen...

 was released, subtitled Witchcraft Through The Ages. This version, produced by Anthony Balch, featured an eclectic jazz score by Daniel Humair
Daniel Humair
Daniel Humair is a drummer, jazz composer and painter.He is widely renowned and became Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1986.He has played with many jazz performers notably Martial Solal, Gerry Mulligan and Eric Dolphy....

 and narration by Burroughs. He also appeared alongside Brion Gysin in a number of short films in the 1960s directed by Balch. Jack Sargeant
Jack Sargeant
Jack Sargeant is a writer specialising in cult film, underground film, and independent film, as well as subcultures, true crime, and other aspects of the unusual. In addition he is a film programmer and an academic...

's book Naked Lens: Beat Cinema
Naked Lens: Beat Cinema
Naked Lens: Beat Cinema is a book by Jack Sargeant about the relationship between Beat culture and underground film. First published by Creation Books in 1997, the book has been subsequently republished in two different English language editions, by Creation Books in 2001 and Soft Skull in 2008...

 details Burroughs film work at length, covering his collaborations with Balch and Burroughs' theories of film.

Burroughs narrated part of the 1980 documentary Shamans of the Blind Country by anthropologist and filmmaker Michael Oppitz. He gave a reading on Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

 on November 7, 1981, in an episode hosted by Lauren Hutton
Lauren Hutton
Lauren Hutton is an American model and actress. She is best-known for her starring roles in the movies American Gigolo and Lassiter, and also for her fashion modeling career.-Personal life:...

.

Burroughs subsequently made cameo appearance
Cameo appearance
A cameo role or cameo appearance is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television...

s in a number of other films and videos, such as David Blair's Wax: or the Discovery of Television among the Bees, in which he plays a beekeeper, in an elliptic story about the first Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, and Decoder by Klaus Maeck. He played an aging junkie priest in Gus Van Sant
Gus Van Sant
Gus Green Van Sant, Jr. is an American director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician, and author. He is a two time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director for his 1997 film Good Will Hunting and his 2008 film Milk, both of which were also nominated for Best Picture, and won the...

's 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy
Drugstore Cowboy
Drugstore Cowboy is a 1989 crime drama directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, based on a novel by James Fogle. Matt Dillon stars in the title role, and Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, and William S. Burroughs are also featured. Drugstore Cowboy was filmed mainly around...

. He also appears briefly at the beginning of Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (film)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a 1993 American comedy-drama-romance film based on the 1976 Tom Robbins novel of the same name. The film was directed by Gus Van Sant, Jr. and starred Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, Pat Morita, Angie Dickinson, Keanu Reeves, John Hurt, Rain Phoenix, and Grace...

 (based on the Tom Robbins novel), in which he is seen crossing a city street; as the noise of the city rises around him he pauses in the middle of the intersection and speaks the single word "ominous". Van Sant's short film "Thanksgiving Prayer" features Burroughs reading the poem "Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986," from Tornado Alley
Tornado Alley (book)
Tornado Alley is a collection of short stories and one poem by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, written during the later years of his career and first published in 1989. The first edition of the book included illustrations by S. Clay Wilson....

, intercut with a collage of black and white images.

A documentary titled Burroughs, directed by Howard Brookner
Howard Brookner
Howard Brookner was an American film director. He produced and directed the documentary Burroughs about William S. Burroughs , and directed, co-produced and co-wrote Bloodhounds of Broadway ....

, was released in 1984. It included footage of Burroughs and many of his friends and colleagues.

Near the end of his life, recordings of Burroughs reading his short stories "A Junky's Christmas" and "Ah Pook is Here" were used on the soundtracks of two highly acclaimed animated films.

Filmmakers Lars Movin and Steen Moller Rasmussen used footage of Burroughs taken during a 1983 tour of Scandinavia in the documentary Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road
Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road
Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road, is a 2007 documentary about William S. Burroughs directed by Lars Movin and Steen Møller Rasmussen and produced in Denmark...

. A 2010 documentary, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, was made for Independent Lens
Independent Lens
Airing weekly on PBS through ITVS, the Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens introduces new drama and documentary films made by independent filmmakers. Past seasons of Independent Lens have been presented by hosts Angela Bassett, Don Cheadle, Susan Sarandon, Edie Falco, Terrence Howard, Maggie...

 on PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

.

As a fictional character

Burroughs was fictionalized in Jack Kerouac's autobiographical novel
Autobiographical novel
An autobiographical novel is a form of novel using autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fiction elements. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction...

 On the Road
On the Road
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, written in April 1951, and published by Viking Press in 1957. It is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of...

 as "Old Bull Lee." He also makes an appearance in J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

's semi-autobiographical 1991 novel The Kindness of Women
The Kindness of Women
The Kindness of Women is a 1991 novel by British author J.G. Ballard. A sequel to his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun, which drew on the author's boyhood in Shanghai during World War II, The Kindness of Women presents a lightly fictionalized treatment of Ballard's life from Shanghai through to...

. In the 2004 novel Move Under Ground
Move Under Ground
Move Under Ground is a horror novel by Nick Mamatas which combines the Beat style of Jack Kerouac with the cosmic horror of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. It was recently made available as a free download via a Creative Commons license at ....

, Burroughs, Kerouac, and Neal Cassady
Neal Cassady
Neal Leon Cassady was a major figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. He served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road....

 team up to defeat Cthulhu
Cthulhu
Cthulhu is a fictional character that first appeared in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928. The character was created by writer H. P...

.

Burroughs appears in the first part of The Illuminatus! Trilogy
The Illuminatus! Trilogy
The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a series of three novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson first published in 1975. The trilogy is a satirical, postmodern, science fiction-influenced adventure story; a drug-, sex-, and magick-laden trek through a number of conspiracy theories, both...

 by Robert Shea
Robert Shea
Robert Joseph Shea was an American novelist and former journalist best known as co-author with Robert Anton Wilson of the science fantasy trilogy Illuminatus!. It became a cult success and was later turned into a marathon-length stage show put on at the British National Theatre and elsewhere. In...

 and Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson , known to friends as "Bob", was an American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic...

 during the 1968 Democratic Convention riots
1968 Democratic National Convention
The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1968. Because Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had announced he would not seek a second term, the purpose of the convention was to...

 and is described as a person devoid of anger, passion, indignation, hope, or any other recognizable human emotion. He is presented as a polar opposite of Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. He vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression...

, as Ginsberg believed in everything and Burroughs believed in nothing. Wilson would recount in his Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth
Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth
Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth is the second book in the Cosmic Trigger series, a three-volume autobiographical and philosophical work by Robert Anton Wilson....

 having interviewed both Burroughs and Ginsberg for Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

 the day the riots began as well as his experiences with Shea during the riots, providing some detail on the creation of the fictional sequence.

Further reading

  • Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin Books, New York 1992. ISBN 0-670-83885-3 (hc); ISBN 0-14-015102-8 (pbk).
  • Gilmore, John. Laid Bare: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives and the Hollywood Death Trip. Searching for Rimbaud. Amok Books, 1997.
  • Harris, Oliver. William S. Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL 2003.
  • Miles, Barry. William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible, A Portrait. Hyperion, New York 1992.
  • Sargeant, Jack. "Naked Lens: Beat Cinema" Soft Skull, New York, 2009 (third edition).
  • Schneiderman, Davis and Philip Walsh. Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization. Pluto Press, LOndon 2004.
  • Stevens, Michael. The Road to Interzone: Reading William S. Burroughs Reading. suicide press, Archer City, Texas 2009.

External links

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