Reading this collection of Burroughs' unpublished work from 1953 to 1958, "you are present at the beginning" of his career, as his editor gushes.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.