William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination

William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination

by Oliver Harris
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

William Burroughs is both an object of widespread cultural fascination and one of America’s great original writers. The two mysteries that Oliver Harris explores are how Burroughs became that writer and what fascination itself means. His book is both a work of investigative scholarship that draws on rare access to manuscripts to unearth a secret history

…  See more details below

Overview

William Burroughs is both an object of widespread cultural fascination and one of America’s great original writers. The two mysteries that Oliver Harris explores are how Burroughs became that writer and what fascination itself means. His book is both a work of investigative scholarship that draws on rare access to manuscripts to unearth a secret history behind the received story of Burroughs the writer and an enquiry into the experience of being fascinated, its enigmatic psychology and seductive allure.  

Harris examines the major works Burroughs produced in the 1950s—Junky, Queer, The Yage Letters, and Naked Lunchanalyzing them within their cultural history and in relation to the methods of their writing. Piecing together for the first time an accurate, material record of Burroughs’ creative history during his germinal decade as a writer, Harris shows the importance of getting this right. He refutes the “junk paradigm” of addiction and instead reveals how the dark power of Burroughs’s fiction, particularly its sexual and political dimensions, was shaped by the creative energy he invested in his letter writing. As Burroughs said to Allen Ginsberg about Naked Lunch, “the real novel is letters to you.”  

Examining a history of epistolary practices from Kafka to Kerouac, Harris reveals the unique nature and economy of Burroughs’ letters. Readers are thus able to recognize the emergence of Burroughs’ true textual politics—not just his writing’s analysis of power, but its own relation to it—within his actual writing practices. Finally, it becomes clear that the discovery of such secrets does not demystify Burroughs, since this discovery is one more response to the enduring power of his fascination.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“From the moment that I began, I could barely stop reading this brilliantly intoxicating ‘fascination’ with the hermeneutics of Burroughsian mysteries. Using considerable intrigue and deftness of his own, Harris draws the reader into the genesis of Burroughs’s creative imagination and the intricate geography of his textual politics. Harris has the independence and audacity of his own strong views, which are grounded in scholarly spadework, biographical insight, and textual analysis. For those interested in Burroughs, Beat dynamics, or postmodernism, this is a seminal work.”—John Tytell, author of Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs

“Oliver Harris is in the forefront of the next generation of scholars of William S. Burroughs, about whose life and work so much has already been said that the ‘standard myth’ has become an obstacle to further original research  and analysis.  Going directly to primary sources and documents (some of them only newly available) and bringing to his job a deep cultural literacy corresponding to Burroughs’ own classical education, Harris dispels much false ‘received wisdom’ about the author’s life and throws unprecedented light on many of the literary, historical, political, scientific, and contemporaneous pop-cultural references encoded in Burroughs’ innumerable allusions.  From this new vantage, Harris holds up for provocative reconsideration all the important critical constructions that have grown up densely around Burroughs’ work since the publication of his first book fifty years ago.  No one seriously proposing now to discuss the Burroughs oeuvre can afford to ignore this major book.”— James Grauerholz, executor, William S. Burroughs Estate

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780809327317
Publisher:
Southern Illinois University Press
Publication date:
09/28/2006
Edition description:
1st Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Oliver Harris is a professor in the School of American Studies at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. He is the editor of The Selected Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959 and the editor of the fiftieth anniversary edition of Junky. Harris is also the author of numerous scholarly articles on Burroughs, the Beat Generation, film noir, and the epistolary form.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >