Conversations With William S. Burroughs

Conversations With William S. Burroughs

Book - 1999
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Univ of Washington Pr

Although a rather shy, private man, William Burroughs gave a good many interviews during his lifetime, some in prominent publications, others in obscure forums. The interviews collected here provide an aperture into the philosophies, methods, and quirks of a man who wrote Queer, Junky, Naked Lunch, Nova Express, Cities of the Red Night, My Education, and many other works.

When he died in 1997, Burroughs was likely one of the most widely recognizable figures in contemporary American literature. His image circulated on album jackets, in Nike commercials, and in films, as though proving his notion that pictures and words are viruses, invading any receptive host, taking hold, and replicating themselves.

Not surprisingly, the topics Burroughs touches upon are wide-ranging: his relationships to the Beats, legends surrounding his personal life, drugs, gay liberation, collaboration, the cut-up technique, science fiction, politics, conspiracy theory, censorship, cats, guns, David Cronenberg's movie adaptation of Naked Lunch, shotgun art, dreams, and life in Lawrence, Kansas, where he spent his last years. From these interviews emerges a full, undiluted portait of a writer who is difficult to capture in biography.

Speaking of the Paris Review interview Alfred Kazin calls Burroughs "an engineer of the pen, a calmly interested specialist of the new processes. When Burroughs makes philosophic and scientific claims for his disorderly collections of data, we happily recognize under the externally calm surface of the interview, the kind of inner frenzy that is his genius--and which, in all of us, his books make an appeal." Kazin's view applies as well for the other interviews in this collection.

Allen Hibbard is an associate professor of English and the director of graduate studies at Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of Paul Bowles: A Study of the Short Fiction and of many articles.

Publisher: Jackson, MS : University Press of Mississippi, c1999
ISBN: 9781578061822
Branch Call Number: 813.54 BUR
Characteristics: xxii, 234 p. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Hibbard, Allen


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Jun 26, 2017

"The whole point is I feel the machine should be eliminated."
I don't know if there was a more iconoclastic 20th century writer than William S. Burroughs, who later in life became an unlikely pop culture icon, admired by younger musicians, writers, and filmmakers. This invaluable book brings together interviews and articles spanning from 1961 to 1996, just a year before his death. Familiar themes emerge from his conversations (drugs, control, viruses, nutty theories) and his voice is one of the truly unique ones in American literature: wry, sardonic, flinty, a little paranoid, a little insane. This collection pulls from myriad sources and features him interviewed by regular journalists, as well as by more famous people like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, Edmund White, and David Cronenberg. For further reading, there's Burroughs's collection of essays, "The Adding Machine," and another collection of interviews/articles, "The Job."


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