The Letters of William S. Burroughs: 1945-1959

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"These funny, filthy, and terrifically smart letters reveal him in a way that no biographer can." -- New York Newsday

Guru of the Beat generation, éminence grise of the international avant-garde, dark prophet, and blackest of satirists, William S. Burroughs has had a range of influence rivaled by few living writers. This volume of his correspondence from 1945 to 1959 vividly documents the personal and cultural history through which Burroughs developed, revealing clues to illuminate his life and keys to open up his texts. More than that, it shows how letter-writing was itself integral to his life and to his fiction.

Beginning as surprisingly formal notes from the road to his friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the letters deepen in substance and style. Then, in Tangier, comes a dramatic shift in voice and vision and the explosive, distinctive letters that will become Naked Lunch. Letters were lifelines for Burroughs, the outcast; and works-in-progress for Burroughs, the writer; and, they track his turbulent journey across two decades and three continents. To read them as they were written is to experience a unique merging of life and letters, the extraordinary story of Williams S. Burroughs homme de lettres.

"Unrelenting impact." -- Los Angeles Reader

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THE LETTERS OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: 1945-1959

User Review  - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - revD - LibraryThing

Necessary reading for the completist & scholar, but a trifle too involved in the minutiae of Burroughs' life to be of interest to the passing reader. Provides insight into the works in progress of the ... Read full review

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About the author (1994)

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.


Oliver Harris edited The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1945-1959. He is currently a lecturer in American Literature at the University of Keele.

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