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The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945-1959

The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945-1959

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by William S. Burroughs, Oliver Harris (Editor)

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Between July 1945 and October 1959, Burroughs, the future author of Naked Lunch , kept up a voluminous correspondence with beat compatriots Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and, to a lesser extent, with Neal Cassady, Paul Bowles and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The 180 letters presented here in chronological order tell of his drug and sex habits, day-to-day existence and developing writing technique. In the correspondence, Harris, a British university lecturer on American literature, finds ``mandarin intellect and hipster humor'' emerging from ``a life that was often deluged by disaster.'' Several times, for example, police intercepted letters and used them to bring drug charges against Burroughs. Mailed from self-imposed isolation in outposts such as New Orleans, East Texas, Mexico City and Tangier, Burroughs's letters are full of despair and myopic worldviews. Still, this correspondence yields valuable insights into Burroughs's literary development. (July)
Library Journal
The first of a projected two volumes, these letters cover the activities of Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac in the years that gave birth to the Beat Generation. Written mostly to Ginsberg or Kerouac, the letters provide a rare glimpse into Burroughs's psyche, revealing his struggle with drug addiction, his confusion over his sexual identity, and his search for a form fluid enough to mirror his mind and art. Although much of this correspondence first appeared in Letters to Allen Ginsberg 1953-1957 (1982) and in The Yage Letters (1963), this new collection is highly recommended both for the additional letters it contains and for its detailed explanatory notes.-- William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.31(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.48(d)

Meet the Author

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was one of the foremost writers of the Beat Generation. He is best known for his experimental novel Naked Lunch, a subversive and highly controversial book that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 he was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. In addition to writing, he also collaborated on numerous projects and recordings.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 4, 1914
Date of Death:
August 2, 1997
Place of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
Place of Death:
Lawrence, Kansas
Los Alamos Ranch School; A.B., Harvard University, 1936; graduate study, 1938

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