Books by William S. Burroughs

ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Sept. 10, 2018

"As Burroughs-iana, marginal. As satire, flat. As agitprop, clumsy and outdated."
A surrealistic action plan for would-be revolutionaries from the literary provocateur, prescribing a dash of viral marketing and a lot of political assassination. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 7, 2012

"Each letter is a window that permits a fresh view of a most complex and revolutionary writer."
A continuation of the selected letters of the unique writer in the same format as editor Olivia Harris' The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1945-1959 (1993). Read full book review >
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

"More of interest as a literary curio than as a work of art, though shrewd neobopsters will probably want to be seen with copies in hand."
A potboiler by two noted authors written in 1945, long before they were famous, and published now for the first time. Read full book review >
THE PLACE OF DEAD ROADS by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 6, 2001

It becomes more and more difficult to believe that Burroughs can be seriously read by anyone much over 21, by anyone but a post-adolescent with a self-congratulatory streak of perversity. The Burroughs formula, after all, is by now dog-eared: a young, polymorphous, homosexual hero takes on the Manichean bad guys of the world, vanquishing them through various tricks of time-pleating, cunning, or drug-use—and, in this new installment, through a large-caliber dependence on (and fascination with) guns of all kinds. Here, then, backed by an honorable bunch of outlaws, young Kim Carson, pulp novelist and exquisite trigger-man, blasts away at his foes: the FDA (with their "legislation aimed at outlawing liquor, drugs, gambling, private sexual behavior or the possession of firearms"); the English; the Italian Mafia in America; and dogs—with repeated descriptions of assorted, grisly dog-executions. There are effective sequences now and again: Burroughs allows himself to write lyrically of his St. Louis boyhood in an impressionistic (if also familiar) clutch of passages; and there's an amusing, speculative science-fiction section on "language-shots'—by which a language can be inculcated through the body's cells by injection. The rest, however, is more of the usual nonsense—notched to Burroughs' own anarchic sensibility but ultimately no more convincing than the programmatic novels of an Ayn Rand, a Robert Rimmer. Routines and shticks—blackly comic—were what gave Burroughs his initial distinction; but now they have lost their spleen and have become mere eccentricity, puerility. In sum, then: only for the coterie. Read full book review >
CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 6, 2001

As long as the Beat Generation continues to engage self-styled hipsters, counter-culturalists, and transgressors, the work of the late Burroughs (1914-97) will continue to waste precious wood pulp. Admired for what we now know to be something of a group effort—Naked Lunch—Burroughs never repeated its critical success, though extraliterary scandal (and constant marketing by Allen Ginsberg) helped keep him in the public eye. First published in 1981, Cities of the Red Night was no exception: Kirkus pronounced it DOA. Meandering and full of "neo-Reichian crackpottery," we dismissed it as "ponderous, self-anesthetized," and dealing in "pursy anarcho-pietisms and tennis-shoe philosophy." Worst of all, it's "not at all funny"—"a sad come-down" for a writer who once seemed to have an almost vaudevillian sense of shtick and surprise. What's left, then and now? Kirkus's view still holds: "a dry schist of pornographic semi-moralism so flavorlessly numbing that we can't really imagine it offending" anyone, puritans or plain-old readers. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

This last testament by American cultural icon Burroughs (Ghost of Chance, 1995, etc.) comprises the disjointed diary entries the terminally ill author jotted down between November 14, 1996, and August 1, 1997. In one diatribe after another, the self-described writer, scribe, and—by ancient analogy—priest addresses a host of topics from US drug policy to feline purring habits. While most of his ramblings are incoherent, one message is heard loud and clear: What the American Narcotics Department is doing is pure Evil. Burroughs tirelessly extols the benefits of cannabis as a painkiller and an aphrodisiac, attributing his own best writing to its stimulating effect. Disposing of political leaders as "certifiably insane," he goes on to attack "American values" for their blunt hypocrisy, psychoanalysis for shifting responsibility and overlooking the organic causes of many disorders, Bible Belt Christianity for "ignorance, stupidity, and barely-hidden bigotry," and feminists for humorless self-righteousness. When Burroughs shows rare signs of affection, it is directed either to his house cats or to friends like Allen Ginsberg, whom he lauds for publicly addressing "explicit homo-sex." Despite citations of Keats, Verlaine, Villon, Stein, and Fitzgerald, literary matters rank low on Burroughs's priority list. He shows some concern for the future of writing, but his brief remarks about his own reading material—ranging from spy novels to The New Yorker—are uninspiring. His bodily functions preoccupy him far more, and the reader will be repeatedly informed about "the toll Chinese food took" on his gut, and his sensations after a cataract operation. Dreams about sex (often with strangers), insects, and pets are central to most entries. The telegraphic style is mitigated by epigrammatic witticisms ("As for Humanity, most of them is only good to feed cats") and puns ("Gingrich, Squeaker of the House"). Perhaps not intended for the public eye and definitely in need of heavy editing, these notes may disappoint even the most fervent Burroughs fans. Read full book review >
GHOST OF CHANCE by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

From the strange and venerable Burroughs, a tiny slip of a book (to include 17 illustrations by the author) that becomes a cri de coeur for ecological sanity. In his spare, comic-hook style, Burroughs opens by telling—or telegraphing—the story of one Captain Mission who, in the 18th century, founded a "free pirate settlement, Libertatia, on the west coast of Madagascar." The settlement's self-imposed laws forbade harming the lemurs that dwelled on the island—although these kind and sensitive creatures ("lemur" meant "ghost" in the native tongue), needless to say, were to face calamitous treatment anyhow, by marauders from within and without—as was the mysterious stone temple that Captain Mission had discovered, known by him to be "the entrance to the biological Garden of lost Chances." When the temple is destroyed, and with it the lemurs' opportunity of developing into a yet more sensitive and wondrous species, "Mission knows that a chance that occurs only once in a hundred sixty million years has been lost forever." "Beauty is always doomed," writes Burroughs, placing the blame flatly on "Homo Sap with his weapons,...his insatiable greed, and ignorance so hideous it can never see its own face." And thus—for the balance of the book—is unleashed the formidable power of Burroughs the essayist of conscience, agony, and vitriol: chronicling Homo Sap's ravaging of other species ("The humans belch out the last passenger pigeon"), self-deluding opportunism and greed (including "the Christ Sickness" and the "war against drugs"), and the species' folly-laden susceptibility to certain revenge through increasingly vile, unimaginable new diseases and viruses, their effects described in ways calculated to chill the very blood of "Homo Sap, the Ugly Animal." Burroughs, in all, as the high lyric poet of wretched lost hopes. Or maybe not wholly lost: At book's end is an address, with an appeal for funds to help save the lemurs. Read full book review >
MY EDUCATION by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 1995

As Burroughs's last book of prose (The Cat Inside, 1992) demonstrated, his publishers will print anything by the octogenarian hipster, even a silly cat book. This latest purports to be a novel, but it's really more random scribbling by the Nike sneaker shill, whose media image far exceeds his achievement as a writer. These ragged, disjointed paragraphs chronicle a year or so of Burroughs's dream life, which is much less lurid than one would expect. Sure, there are drugs (hash, heroin, morphine, laudanum, etc.) and cameos by all his friends living and dead (Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, Ian Somerville, etc.). But the sex is nondescript ("sex with James" or "made it with Ian"); the places all familiar to Beat groupies (Tangier, Paris, London, and Lawrence, Kans.); and the familial stuff, which has passed into legend, is just alluded to (shot wife playing Wm. Tell; son dead at an early age). Burroughs likes to show his knowledge of guns (".45 Ruger APC and Long Colt Cylinder") and frequently expresses his preference for cats over dogs and people. Some vintage moments include a dream of a cockroach stuck in his ear and of a man scooping his brains from his skull to eat. Burroughs really comes alive, though, when he leaves his dreamscapes to explicate. A dream of a "shitting woman" leads to a long and sordid anecdote about a "queen" friend married to a wealthy woman with a severe colon problem. Burroughs's political commentary amounts to some dated rants about Anita Bryant, Ronald Reagan, and the CIA. His claim to total honesty and authenticity leads him to debunk Ted Morgan's view of him as a "literary outlaw." His waking thoughts dwell sentimentally on cats, with occasional riffs that remind one of the old Burroughs. Die-hard fans will no doubt scoop this up, others need not go beyond Naked Lunch, preferably in David Cronenberg's movie version. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: June 1, 1993

The MTV generation's idea of an outlaw-writer, Burroughs finds himself a minor/grand old man of sorts—which is why, presumably, this book. These letters were mostly to Allen Ginsberg (whom for a surprisingly long time Burroughs knew only through correspondence), and they're chocked with complaints about the availability of drugs in the US or Mexico, about the fickleness of Tangier boy prostitutes, about publishing Junkie, Burroughs's first book. Very little is made of Burroughs's shooting his common-law wife in the head in 1951 (an "accident"), very little about the several agonizing heroin cures that he was forced into—experiences that might serve as staining moral crises in another writer's life here seem lightly, affectlessly catalogued. Post-mod scholars will have a field day, however, with the accretion in the letters of the "sketches" that would make up Naked Lunch—bits and shticks so easily capsulized to friends in these letters that they call into question the honesty of ever having considered as a "novel" the book made out of them. Looking for artistic influences and wellsprings for Burroughs himself will come harder: Burroughs was more interested in the paranoid fringes, in Wilhelm Reich, Westbrook Pegler, and L. Ron Hubbard. He hardly situated himself as a literary fella at all. Early documents from the Godfather of Grunge. Read full book review >
THE CAT INSIDE by William S. Burroughs
NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

The septuagenarian beatnik would seem to be the least likely author of a cat book, but Burroughs has clearly mellowed some and here celebrates his favorite "psychic companions." Full of sentimental anecdotes and bizarre pseudo-scholarly lore, his slim essay is, in his view, "an allegory, in which the writer's past life is presented to him in a cat charade." Fans will indeed appreciate the references to beat legend, and the cats who witnessed those days in Tangier, Morocco, and Mexico City. The usual gang of suspects makes the briefest of cameos, from Allen Ginsberg to Jane Bowles. And then there are Burroughs's cats—Ruski, Fletch, Horatio, Wimpy, et al.—none of whom does anything beyond acting like a cat. Of course, Burroughs adds some incoherent stuff about dogs (with their "vilest coprographic perversions") and about cats as natural enemies of the State. Lurid dreams of hybrids and mutants fill out a book also concerned with "cuteness ratings." The hipster's (and hepcat's) answer to Cleveland Amory. Read full book review >
THE WESTERN LANDS by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 1, 1987

The conclusion of a trilogy incorporating Cities of the Red Night (1981) and The Place of Dead Roads (1984)—and, like its predecessors, a chaotic, sometimes nauseating, fitfully funny melange of gore, sexual perversion, and surreal science fiction. For once, Burroughs begins in a sedate minor key: William S. Hall, an old writer living on welfare who "forty years ago. . .had published a novel which had made a stir," lies on his bed "watching grids of typewritten words in front of his eyes." Presumably, Hall is modeled on Burroughs; one settles in for some poignant autobiography. No such luck. In less time than it takes to say "avant-garde," the narrative decays into gibber-speak: "He unscrewed capitalism, snake shedding its skin. Change terminal. Bought a ticket to offer a chance of outhouse. Hour souls." But the industrious literary sleuth can discern a plot line here, something about a search for the Western Lands beyond the Land of the Dead, where immortality awaits. Kim Carson, Hassan i Sabbah, and other reptilian misfits from earlier Burroughs novels stir the murky soup, which bubbles up chunks of Egyptian mythology, Reichian psychology, drug lore, futuristic vision (the president hunkers in an underground bunker), biological mutation (Burroughs believes that genetic experimentation may be our species' salvation), blasts at book reviewers, and oodles of info about centipede venom. Lots of great quirky ideas here; but the imagery is repellent and the delivery helter-skelter from—some may feel—the Hieronymus Bosch of fiction. Read full book review >
QUEER by William S. Burroughs
Released: Nov. 1, 1985

Written in 1952, Queer remained unprinted all these years, its publishers tell us, because of its "candid homosexual content, and. . .its author's own reluctance to make public the painful events it recounts." So now, in our latter-day age of liberation, we get to see it at last: a faded-trendy piece of 1950s hip arcana that preserves, if anything, a thin, petulant narcissism of feeling that might once upon a time have passed fleetingly for depth, however it may or may not be related to the development of the later Burroughs. Lee, American expatriate in Mexico City in the late 1940s, falls in love with the reluctant young Allerton, and, from the start, we're in for an affair that reads often now like one of the lesser forms of genre romance ("Lee watched the thin hands, the beautiful violet eyes, the flush of excitement on the boy's face"). As for feeling, we know it's deep, because the author says so, time and again, when Allerton holds back from Lee: "Lee was deeply hurt"; "Lee was depressed and shattered"; "He felt a deep hurt. . . Tears ran down his face." A ludicrous, comic-strip shorthand becomes more apparent in the narrative after Allerton agrees to serve as Lee's companion on a trip to South America, a trip that becomes a search for Yage, a thought-control drug: "'A Colombian scientist who lives in Bogota isolated Telepathine from Yage. We must find that scientist.'" Later, another clue takes them deep into the jungle: "'A botanist! What a break. He is our man. We will go tomorrow.'" What happens? The search for the drug is futile. Allerton drops Lee. Lee drifts back to Mexico City. Lee is cosmically sad. Burroughs explains in his introduction that all of this occurs while Lee is withdrawing from junk, and that's one reason (read the introduction to find out the other) why "a smog of menace and evil rises from the pages" of the book. It's a good thing he mentions the smog, so you'll be sure to notice it when you go back; what Burroughs doesn't do, though, is say much about why the book now reads so artificial, posed, thin, contrived, and silly, albeit with some effective travelogue footage. First printing of 30,000. Certainly more than enough. Read full book review >
INTERZONE by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 1, 1982

Reading this collection of Burroughs' unpublished work from 1953 to 1958, "you are present at the beginning" of his career, as his editor gushes. When finished, though, you're much less certain you wanted to be there, for these fugitive pieces of mostly questionable merit will interest only dedicated Burroughs fans. Except for an amateurish story co-written in college ("Twilight's Last Gleamings"), the writings collected here fall between Burroughs' first novel, Junky—a straightforward account of life as a drug addict—and Naked Lunch, the wild anti-novel that eventually brought him fame. Anyone who's read Ted Morgan's recent, adulatory biography (Literary Outlaw, p. 1452) will recognize the autobiographical basis for many of the stories. "The Finger," about a Van Gogh-like act of desperation, and "Driving Lesson," about two drunken young men smashing up Daddy's car, both derive from memorable episodes in Burroughs' early days. "The Junky's Christmas," a simply told tale of trying to score drugs on the holiday, ends with a Beat variation of an O. Henry twist. Other stories concern the decadent life Burroughs was to discover in Tangier; the endless drugs and willing young boys of "Lee and the Boys"; and the pathetic old queens and nasty whores of "In the Cafe Central." Much of the remaining prose is drawn from journals kept during those years in Morocco, and from letters to Allen Ginsberg that are now on deposit at Columbia. Included are portraits (of Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles); observations (on failure, cats, Arabs, and crime); memoirs (of sex, drugs, dreams, and writing habits); and comic vignettes (a blackmail scenario, and a TV ad for a bug repellent for buggers). Also found among Ginsberg's papers was the longish "Interzone," originally part of Naked Lunch, and accurately described by Grauerholz as "a manic, surreal, willfully disgusting and violently purgative regurgitation" of Burroughs' graphic imagery. In all, food for doubt that adds little to the Burroughs reputation. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: May 25, 1981

After the resounding thud made by Burroughs' last novel, Cities of the Red Night, these transcriptions of table-talk serve some rehabilitative purpose, presenting a picture of an aging, conservative, serious man who, with his best work perhaps now behind him, admits himself that he may have come to sound "like some sort of great nineteenth-century crank who thought that brown sugar was the answer to everything and was practicing something he called brain breathing." It has to be said, in fairness, that the range of Burroughs' intellect seems hardly tested by his interlocutors here: editor Bockris ("Burroughs is similar to Muhammad All and Andy Warhol, two of the other stars [sic] I've written portraits of. All three are exactly what they appear to be"); rock starlets like Patti Smith and Deborah Harry; a particularly shrill Allen Ginsberg; an at-less-than-full-tilt Susan Sontag. We learn that Burroughs hates muggers (he would like to form a private vigilante group, "The Cane Brigade" or "Order of the Grey Gentlemen"); that he has some interesting ideas about succubi and incubi, despises the Iranian mullahs, and lives in a windowless downtown Manhattan apartment called "The Bunker." Only one tape is unequivocally wonderful: the hilarious Terry Southern sifting through, with Burroughs, a shopping-bag filled with various drug-samples a pharmacist-friend had given him ("'Pain!'—look for the word 'pain' . . . that's the key"). Otherwise, this is more a portrait of others' need for Burroughs to be an elder Great than of the more modest (and more engaging) actuality. Read full book review >
Released: March 9, 1981

Burroughs worked over ten years on this novel, we're told; it's being touted as a companion-piece worthy of Naked Lunch. In fact, however, the book is a dud: ponderous, self-anesthetized, full of pursy anarcho-pietisms and tennis-shoe philosophy—and (most disappointing of all) not at all funny. Dedicated to "the nameless gods of dispersal and emptiness," the novel has three major, interwoven parts: the story of the Cities of the Red Night, ur-Sodoms in the Gobi desert in which hanging seems to be the general pastime; a mock-detective story featuring (as in Naked Lunch) Clem Snide, a "private asshole" on the trail of disappeared boys who turn out to have been infected with a radiation virus that leads to a sex/death obsession (this theme, involving hanging and orgasms and soul transference, amounts only to a large portion of neo-Reichian crackpottery); and a flashed-back scenario involving utopian/anarchist pirates in the early 18th century fighting for liberty and equality and opium addiction. Burroughs' ever-present "wild boys" scamper all over, their pants eternally sticking out at the fly and their eyes boiling over with silver spots of lust; they romp through each of the three plot strands, copulating and stringing each other up. In sum, it's a sad come-down for a writer whose early books contained great measures of nihilistic surprise and vaudeville. All of that seems to be gone now, alas, leaving only a dry schist of pornographic semi-moralism so flavorlessly numbing that we can't really imagine it offending puritans. . . or interesting readers of any persuasion whatsoever. Read full book review >
PORT OF SAINTS by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 1, 1980

A revised version of a 1973 work, this is avant-gardist Burroughs once again with his "wild boys"—a punishingly pornographic fantasy of amoral, extraterrestrial, vengeful, homosexual youths wreaking havoc on the heterosexuality, political repression, and general awfulness of American society. The sci-fi elements involve cloning via anum, out-of-body travel, hideous mutations, and a death vaccine. There are the predictable Burroughs settings—Mexico and Marrakesh. The operative verb as always is "to explode." Yet, amid all this fetid, familiar material, a gentler and more attractive note occasionally surfaces: the autobiographical character of the "wild boy" leader Audrey Conley—a lonely 1928 St. Louis lad who writes adventure stories for himself, who vacations at exclusive summer colonies on Lake Huron. Burroughs has increasingly used this autobiographical persona in recent work, and through it he has limned a very specific WASP, Twenties, homosexual rich-boy atmosphere that can be very touching: "Audrey knew that all the boys were lying there looking at the stars and moonlight and sunny afternoons and the little peep shows here and there with flickering silver titles and others with bright colors and odors and raw naked flesh tight nuts crinkle to autumn leaves and spurt the Milky Way. His father points to Betelgeuse in the night sky above St. Louis." This sweet quiet of memory can sometimes be found beneath the metallic fury and comic wrath—but the bulk and surface here remain incorrigibly repellent. Read full book review >
THE THIRD MIND by William S. Burroughs
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1978

Not the vast raw "scrapbook" it was originally designed to be (which was probably unpublishable), this anthology of Burroughs and Gysin's use of the "cut-up" method details a way to go beyond collaboration in writing and into "new connections between images." Rip apart a page from any book or magazine, paste the strips together randomly, read the results: time-schemes and sense-webs are broken. But evidenced by the cut-ups here, the method seems more puerile and coincidental than truly revelatory: the original idea is much better than the result. It's all the more obvious when you read a really written piece like "In the Present Time," which is Burroughs more or less straight, a marvelous carny comic with a wonderful rat-ta-tat delivery; the collages—and the essays about how to make them—seem gray and tendentious by comparison. Read full book review >
THE LAST WORDS OF DUTCH SCHULTZ by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 6, 1975

This is Burroughs' most accessible, tightly knit work of fiction—a gruesome, hallucinatory exposition of the dying words of Prohibition mobster Dutch Schultz. Laid out as a stripped-down movie script it's almost as if this is the form that Burroughs has always needed—an enforced brevity which keeps the poetry of banality (weary evil) from becoming unendurably tiresome. After Dutch Schultz, a non-Mafia leader, was shot down in the Palace Chop House men's room by a syndicate hit man, he remained alive under police guard in a hospital for many hours. Doped with morphine, he rattled on deliriously while a police stenographer took down his every word—about 2000 of them—none of which made much sense to anyone. The "last words" are a kind of demented aria, full of unconscious gutter poetry ("A boy has never wept or dashed a thousand Kim"—what are Kim? we never learn). The Film-fiction however links up much of their weird outflow with incidents from Dutch's career and childhood, and there's a surprising aptness to Burroughs' interpretative guesses. Even more striking is his technical finesse in evoking the bloodsoaked era, the bullseye dialogue, the ghostly photomontage.? Read full book review >
EXTERMINATOR! by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 22, 1973

Another compendium of sci-fi, horror-erotica, and general culture-snuffing by America's richest ex-junkie. Familiar albeit new is "The Lemon Kid" who puts the whammy on show-biz folk; "Johnny 23" that offs hostile vibes (and unfortunately people) via "virus replication outside the body"; Bently the kiss of death; scientologists galore; the Purple Better One ("a friend to all good Darkies everywhere"); pictures that cause visual stigmata by visual power; plus endless sodomistic adolescents, sadistic cops, doped-out freaks — skeletons of ten movies Burroughs will only give stage directions for. He may be our only writer whose socio-political apocalyptica transcend both paranoia and triviality; his imagination is superb, his ear savagely satiric, but something is missing...missing...the parts are better than the whole...we need the novel Burroughs is never going to write. Read full book review >
THE WILD BOYS by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 1, 1971

Burroughs has always had an avidity for freaks and circuses, show biz types and Hollywood, so it is no surprise that in his latest work "the camera is the eye of a cruising vulture flying over an area of scrub, rubble and unfinished buildings on the outskirts of a Mexican city," or that a number of scenes take place in a Penny Arcade Show where the fevered teenagers are "naked except for blue steel helmets" and are being buggered left and right, or that among the perennial grotesques scrambling across North Africa or the American suburbs we should meet CIA men with tape recorders or loony generals howling about "anarchy, vice, and foul corruption," or that, finally, with the Chinese and Russians nibbling away at the edges of consciousness, the excremental vision swallows the unwary: "Quite suddenly they were silent looking at each other and with one accord seized by uncontrollable diarrhea." This, of course, is Burroughs' familiar metaphor for the violence and aridity, the totalitarian farce of the modern world, done up in his usual deadpan hallucinatory crypto-realist style, full of "alien forces" and "random events," control systems and auras of intergalactic slaughter, where we are always in the future or the past, 1988 or 1989, the 1890's or a sentimental memory of something or other from the silent screen. All pleasantly perverse, no doubt, but it does go on rather too nuttily, or not nuttily enough. Burroughs simply doesn't have the sustaining force of the great maniacs of literature: the passionate hatreds of Celine or the pulsating philosophical sexology of Sade. In The Wild Boys he is weird and he is comic, but the pornography isn't at all inventive; there are abrupt successes, a few interesting failures, and a great deal of waste motion we used to call masturbatory in between. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: April 1, 1970

That nightcrawling grandmaster of inner space talking on tape about most of the trends he represents and has set: the new novel which will suggest multileveled experience; pornography (is there such a thing?); drugs; power; the general repulsiveness of the ordinary scene from which he is altogether disengaged; other writers (although he says he never heard of Wright Morris who called his Naked Lunch a hemorrhage of the imagination); words and imagery. And there are longer explanations on say the Mayan hermetic control calendar or the newer E. Meter, a deconditioning instrument which nullifies. Burroughs surfaces at all times with a remarkably permissive presence above the lonelier crowd but is he really giving any new directions or adding any new dimensions? For the acculturated who will want a further expansion of this mind. Read full book review >
THE SOFT MACHINE by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 15, 1966

Junk Mr. Burroughs knows and junk he writes. His latest embarrassment of scatological graffiti makes his Naked Lunch go down like an egg flip. The Soft Machine is picaresque pornography, obfuscated by sodomy, sado-masochism, pederasty, and necrophilia. It is also extremely boring. The title refers to the flaccid equipment of a homosexual and the scene is for the most part Peru, through which he travels. It is impossible to describe the book further except in terms of obscenity and opprobrium. Read full book review >
NOVA EXPRESS by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 23, 1964

echauffe. From the French, meaning a dish of food warmed over, a reash. Exit the Naked Lunch disguised as the Nova Express. Chef william Burroughs presents the menu. Soupe de jour sputters on and out though the interplanetary Crab Nebula. Various characters explode in kiddie ars in the scientific, philosophic, photographic montage. Diners eating steaks of insecurity watch as spirited junkies roll the Nova police, recite the Ave Maria, turn into the Nova mob. Now the maitre de, amidst the salads of yesterday, meets the Bureaucratic Big Butcher. Everything out of focus in focus. Diners wiping lipst. Blue show. Ectoplasmic socio-sexual exploitation experentation. And on a great cry of fold-in technique (Do you observe my Waste Land, my Karamazov, my Kafka?), Burroughs, acclaimed as the most original talent of out day, produces the final self-metamorphosis: a literary spitball. Ah, what a bonanza for the alka seltzer trade. Read full book review >
THE TICKET THAT EXPLODED by William S. Burroughs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 19, 1867

To produce an apocalyptic vision in the terms of a depraved Mack Sennett comedy, replete with vaudeville monologues on the absurd, is perhaps William Burroughs' thoroughly upsetting achievement, before which, to paraphrase Freud, any critic must lay down his arms. Drugs, homoeroticism, and science fiction provide the triad around which Burroughs spins his horrendous fantasies, the richest and most ghoulishly funny of these being his first major creation, The Naked Lunch. Since then we have had two duds, Nova Express and The Soft Machine, both using a frenzied method, a technique continued in The Ticket That Exploded. But here the linguistic contortions fortunately shift about against a vaguely recognizable narrative structure, including a quaint parody of a 19th century adventurer's journal. Parody, of course, is Burroughs' strongest asset and/or defense: he immerses himself in the destructive consciousness, the lunar madhouse where doctors run wild with computers, junkies shoot up for the greater glory of Id, and the fuzz and the solid citizen play an interchangeable game of cat and mouse. The Ticket That Exploded, then, is another anti-utopian cry against the future of "complete control," the horror beyond the picture window, clownish surrealism which speaks louder than fact. Read full book review >