Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959-1974

( 1 )


A long anticipated collection of over 300 of Burroughs’s letters from the early ’60s through the mid ’70s, written to such recipients as Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles, and the surrealist artist Brion Gysin, these letters shed remarkable light on the writer’s artistic process and literary experimentation, as well as his complex personal life, in this formative period. An intimate glimpse into the private life of an often misunderstood artist, Rub Out the Words is also an indelible portrait of one of the twentieth ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $4.15   
  • New (3) from $21.50   
  • Used (10) from $4.15   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2007

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.


Ships from: Avenel, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
2012 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. New. Brand New~Never Opened! Might have some shelf wear and/or minor remainder mark. Fast Delivery from our Canadian or American ... warehouses*Satisfaction Guarantee! International Orders are Welcome! Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 444 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

Ships from: New Hope, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
NY 2012 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. 12mo-over 6?-7?" tall. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing)

Ships from: South Portland, ME

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1959-1974

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.99 price


A long anticipated collection of over 300 of Burroughs’s letters from the early ’60s through the mid ’70s, written to such recipients as Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles, and the surrealist artist Brion Gysin, these letters shed remarkable light on the writer’s artistic process and literary experimentation, as well as his complex personal life, in this formative period. An intimate glimpse into the private life of an often misunderstood artist, Rub Out the Words is also an indelible portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most uncompromising literary figures.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Playful, obscene, engrossing at times, these 300 letters by Burroughs, from 1959, when The Naked Lunch (before the definite article was dropped) was issued in Paris, to 1974 when he accepted a teaching position at the City College of New York, cast a light on the writer’s eventful life. Edited by beat expert Bill Morgan (The Typewriter Is Holy), this volume picks up where 1993’s The Letters of William Burroughs, vol. 1: 1945–1959 left off. Of special interest is Burroughs’s work with surrealist painter and cutup artist Brion Gysin and the influence that visual method had on the writings. Through Burroughs, we catch glimpses of writers and figures as diverse as Anatole France, Timothy Leary, L. Ron Hubbard, Truman Capote, Carlos Castaneda, Frank Herbert, and Mario Puzo. Burroughs was no Scout Master, but in these letters, he comes across as reasonable and quite tame. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In 1993, The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959, edited by Oliver Harris, was published. Now we have the next volume, ably edited by Beat generation scholar Morgan (The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation). It contains over 300 subsequent letters written mostly to friends, family, and business associates between the publication of Naked Lunch and Burroughs's return to New York City to teach at City College. While old friends like Allen Ginsberg are among the recipients, more of the letters are addressed to newer companions whom Burroughs met while living abroad, including Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, and Alex Trocchi. Many letters evidence Burroughs's obsessions with the cut-up method, Scientology, and the effectiveness of apomorphine as a cure for addiction; others reveal a caring father concerned about his son's well-being and financial security. Readers of these diverse letters will meet a writer intent on moving beyond his assigned role as a Beat icon. Morgan includes helpful explanatory notes, a chronology, and a list of sources identifying the repositories holding the letters. VERDICT Overall, the portrait of Burroughs that emerges from these pages is one of a professional writer striving to make a living without compromising his art. Highly recommended.—William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Kirkus Reviews
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.
The Barnes & Noble Review

This volume of selected letters written by the novelist and counterculture icon William Burroughs, during the period from 1959 to 1974, is a remarkable testament, since it manages to confirm Burroughs's legendary public persona while simultaneously shattering it. In other words, we get the whole picture of the man, not just the usual cropped and etiolated snapshot.

The author's epistles — brilliantly selected and annotated by editor Bill Morgan from a thousand candidates — are alternately scabrous and demure, tender and lashing, profane and reverential, contrarian and conventional, funny and dire. Viewed from one angle, they paint the familiar portrait his ardent fans expect: an emotionally distant expatriate visionary and hedonist, disdainful, drug-fueled, and primed with brilliant, almost alien insights into culture and the human psyche, always ready to experiment and pioneer new literary territory. Viewed from another coign, the letters show us the loving son, father, and steadfast friend; a homebody and cautionary anti-druggie, moralist and ascetic. He's even a sensible, all-American businessman and careerist. Letter of May 4 1964: "One has to think of writing as any other job. You work at it all day and every day if you expect to make a living." And Burroughs figured it would be swell to place an article with Reader's Digest or The Saturday Evening Post! Put the two spheres of overlapping activity together, and you begin to sense the three-dimensional depths of Burroughs's true nature.

The prior volume in this series, covering the period from 1945 to 1959, was edited by a different curator, Oliver Harris, and appeared way back in 1993. But Morgan picks up seamlessly after such a long delay. "The final letter in the first volume of correspondence—was written to Allen Ginsberg on October 29, 1959. It is fitting that the first letter in this volume should be the one that was written the very next day to the very same person." With that, we're off and running, following Burroughs through Europe, North Africa, and the USA as he restlessly seeks the perfect environment to foster his artistic productivity, and the camaraderie of his fellow outcasts, rebels, lovers, and dreamers. He cadges mescaline from Ginsberg and dollars from his shady publishers, Maurice Girodias and Barney Rosset. He offers fatherly advice to his wayward son, Billy Jr. He tries to reassure his parents that his unconventional career amounts to something, and that his life deserves a last will and testament. Letter of June 21, 1964: "There is a considerable sum of money tied up in the books I have published and books waiting to be published. This could mean over the years a comfortable income for Billy." And this filial nervousness comes from a son aged fifty!

Always a seeker, Burroughs conducts enthusiastic experiments with Scientology, which ultimately prove futile, as do his LSD trials with Timothy Leary, whom he deems a sloppy wacko. Then, perhaps influenced by the Buddhism of pals Ginsberg and Kerouac, he develops a merciless Zen mindfulness practice of his own that stands him in better stead. Letter of November 1960: "Now look at the tree. and [lowercase sic] you will see the tree not the word tree. You will begin to see everything sharp and clear like after a rain. When you are in a restaurant Listen Out? When you walk down your Western streets defaced by signs, look at the signs." Of course, Burroughs was no saint, and there's plenty of snark and bitchiness in these pages, including the writer's consistent misogyny: Letter of June 18, 1969: "You see what you call WOMAN is simply a biologic weapon like whisky or smallpox employed to destroy resistance in growth areas."

Many personages flit into and out of Burroughs's letters, but none more significant than the invaluable comrade-in-scissors, poet Brion Gysin. His discovery of the cut-up technique stoked Burroughs's experimental ardor for years. Some letters here are composed in that delphic manner, but the vast majority are clear and linear. Some, such as that of April 8, 1961, even contain flash fictions as Burroughs works out kinks in whatever novel he's then composing. (And these letters span what is arguably the zenith of his accomplishments, though his later works are not inconsequential.)

Burroughs's passions for films, comics, lowbrow genres (he groks Dune early in that novel's arc), and multimedia presentations mark him as a quintessential postmodernist, sure to resonate with any hipster today. He even foresees a slice of our Internet-dominated visual world. Letter of April 28, 1972: "Any sex act can now be shown on the public screen with beautiful actors and that's a powerful sight. In fact not altogether to my advantage since when you can see it you are not so interested to read about it."

Finally, two great narrative arcs happen across these pages: the transition of the counterculture from beatnik- to hippie-centric; and Burroughs's ascent from obscurity and poverty and no audience to fame and relative financial well-being and a following. By the book's end, when Burroughs is sixty years old, the reader sees this flinty, zesty, sourpuss prophet accorded a little honor in his native land.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061711428
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1914 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, William S. Burroughs was one of the most significant people in twentieth-century American popular culture and literature. A novelist, poet, and essayist, he was a primary member of the Beat Generation, influential upon such writers as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs was the author of eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories, and four collections of essays, among them the 1959 classic Naked Lunch. After living in Mexico City, Tangier, Paris, and London, Burroughs finally returned to America in 1974. He died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1997.

Bill Morgan is a writer and archival consultant. His previous books include The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation; I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg; and Beat Atlas: A State by State Guide to the Beat Generation in America. He has edited several collections of letters by Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. Morgan has worked as the archivist of many writers, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Oliver Sacks, Michael McClure, Abbie Hoffman, and Arthur Miller. He currently lives with his wife in an old farmhouse at the base of a Vermont mountain.


William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) -- guru of the Beat Generation, controversial éminence grise of the international avant-garde, dark prophet, and blackest of black humor satirists -- had a range of influence rivaled by few post-World War II writers. His many books include Naked Lunch, Queer, Exterminator!, The Cat Inside, The Western Lands, and Interzone.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Rub Out the Words

Letters of William Burroughs, 1959-1974
By William Burroughs and Bill Moran, Editor


Copyright © 2012 William Burroughs and Bill Moran, Editor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061711428

Chapter One

EDITOR'S NOTE: By the fall of 1959 William Burroughs had settled
into a comfortable daily routine in Paris. He was living in a small room
on the Rue Git-Le-Coeur at the time. His pension was an inexpensive
place that would attract so many of his old friends before long that it
became known as the Beat Hotel. Only a few months earlier his second
book, The Naked Lunch, had been published by the Olympia Press,
under the direction of the somewhat devious owner, Maurice Girodias.
Burroughs was deeply involved in experiments with his new friend,
Brion Gysin, who, on October 1, had discovered a unique method of
literary composition. Quite by accident, Gysin had sliced through a pile of
old newspapers and noticed that the words from one page could be lined
up with the words from the page beneath to create entirely new texts.
When he told Burroughs about it later that day, William began to look
at the random pages carefully. He believed that Gysin had, by rearranging
the words at random, uncovered previously unseen messages hidden
within the words on the page.
WSB [Paris] to Allen Ginsberg [New York]
Oct 30, 1959
(9) Rue Git-Le-Coeur
Paris (6)

Dear Allen,

Thanks a million for the mescaline..(1) Split it with Brion [Gysin] (2)
for a short trip home..
Yes, you did make me the most famous novelist Roumanian
born of a better Tyrone Power (3) up from a headline of penniless
migrants.. And believe me, Al, I won't forget it. What's this
Elsee?? (4) On the ice again..?? I'll catch her this time..
(1) Ginsberg occasionally sent small amounts of mescaline as a gift to
Burroughs from New York.
(2) Bryon Gysin (1916–1986). An experimental artist who, over the course of
these letters, would become Burroughs' best friend and collaborator.
(3) Tyrone Power (1914–1958). A matinee idol known for playing the
roles of swashbuckling heroes. He had just died in November 1958.
(4) This is probably a reference to Allen's friend Elise Cowen,
who may have been planning a trip to Europe.
I look all over and can't find my Wyn contract (5) follow me around
for years through jungles and deserts and perilous unknown boy
countries and couldn't lose it and now.. Well don't get mad and cut
off your left hand, I always say.. But it seems to me that the contract
should be outlawed by now. I will look again for the contract
but some Arab probably wiped his ass with it years ago and it blew
away to return in hepatitis fall out.. But would I like to latch onto
that (2) Gs (6) go to India most like.. Gregory Corso lost all his money
in the Venice casino.. Oh God!! Quel infant of the Sunday Supplement.
Bought a dinner jacket, too I hear.. (7)
And now the question panel: (1) Whatever they may be, the
suppressors are not amateurs.. Old Old Old pros and don't ever
forget it.. Make you think you are winning when you are not, oldest
trick in the industry and still works.. Hannibal beat the Romans
with it.. Room for one more inside.. MALRAUX??? (8) He's nothing
but a public Latah (9) for Crisakes!?
(2): I have had very practical contact with "these people" they
are very practical people.. Jack Stern (10) was one of them.. The book
itself is not interesting all important teckniques [sic] classified.. But
name dropping is unchic and very poor hygiene..
Of course Scientology attracts all the creeps of the cosmos.. You
see it works..
In closing I will tell you a little story that happened to a friend
of mine calls himself Micheaux sometimes..
It seems that M. was hurrying home after swallowing his
mescaline tablet with hot tea in a cafe—too cheap to support a hot
plate you dig—and he met B [Burroughs] in the market and he
(5) A. A. Wyn (1898–1967). The publisher of Ace Books, the company
that published Burroughs' first book, Junkie. Burroughs hoped that he could
regain control of that book and sell the rights to other publishers.
(6) Girodias was negotiating a contract for $2,000 for the American rights
to Naked Lunch.
(7) The painter Willem de Kooning had given Corso some money for a trip to Greece, but
Gregory lost it all at the casino.
(8) André Malraux (1901–1976). French novelist and minister of cultural affairs.
(9) Latah. A person in a trance who talks mechanically or repeats motions
and is seemingly not in control of himself.
(10) Jack "Jacques" Stern was a young man, crippled by polio, who the
Beat group associated with in Paris. He claimed to be a member of the
Rothschild family, but Burroughs had doubts about this distinguished background.
He had met B before but never seen him as hardly anyone does see him
which is why he is known as El Hombre Invisible—So B. said "Ah
Monsieur M.. Sit down and have a coffee and watch the passing
parade.." and M shook him off saying: "No! No! I must go home
and see my visions" and he rushed home and closed the door and
bolted it and drew the curtains and turned out the lights and got into bed and
closed his eyes and therewas Mr. B. and Mr. M. said:
"What are you doing here in my vision?"
And B replied: "Oh I live here."
william burroughs
PS. Yes Burroughs will do as a name to publish under.. Its on the
papers.. I'll be caught short with it one day.


Excerpted from Rub Out the Words by William Burroughs and Bill Moran, Editor Copyright © 2012 by William Burroughs and Bill Moran, Editor. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)