LAST WORDS by William S. Burroughs

LAST WORDS

The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs

KIRKUS REVIEW

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.
Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8021-1657-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000




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