THE LETTERS OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

1945-1959

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.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0141189886

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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