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).
Beat Generation expert Morgan (The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, 2010, etc.) has assembled a representative selection from the 1,000-plus letters that Burroughs (1914–1997) wrote during the 15 years the collection comprises. Most are to three correspondents: his son, Billy; his friends and colleagues Allen Ginsberg and Brion Gysin. Billy, we learn through the letters, had adolescent troubles with drugs (are we surprised?), including several arrests—but by the end of these letters he was married and having some publishing success as William Burroughs Jr. Ginsberg’s role as principal confidante was soon assumed by Gysin, to whom Burroughs wrote most frankly about everything from gay porn to drugs and Timothy Leary (whom he grew to revile) to philosophies of composition to books he liked (Dune, The Godfather) or despised (In Cold Blood). Included is a vicious letter Burroughs wrote in 1970 to Truman Capote, accusing Capote of betraying, even killing, his talent. Many of the letters deal with the process first employed by Gysin and then adopted and championed by Burroughs—the “cut-up” process. For years Burroughs was enamored of this technique of snipping passages from publications and pasting them up in novel arrangements. He tried the technique with photographs, motion pictures and audio recordings as well—all discussed at length in the letters. Burroughs also followed some complex choreography with scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, whom he later accused of creating a “fascist cosmos.” Perhaps most surprising: Burroughs’ phenomenal work ethic and assiduousness.
Each letter is a window that permits a fresh view of a most complex and revolutionary writer.