Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader (Burroughs, William S.)

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9780802136947: Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader (Burroughs, William S.)

With the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959, William Burroughs abruptly brought international letters into the postmodern age. Beginning with his very early writing (including a chapter from his and Jack Kerouac's never-before-seen collaborative novel), Word Virus follows the arc of Burroughs's remarkable career, from his darkly hilarious "routines" to the experimental cut-up novels to Cities of the Red Night and The Cat Inside. Beautifully edited and complemented by James Grauerholz's illuminating biographical essays, Word Virus charts Burroughs's major themes and places the work in the context of the life. It is an excellent tool for the scholar and a delight for the general reader. Throughout a career that spanned half of the twentieth century, William S. Burroughs managed continually to be a visionary among writers. When he died in 1997, the world of letters lost its most elegant outsider.

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From the Back Cover:

"William was a shootist. He shot like he wrote-with extreme precision and no fear."-Hunter S. Thompson

With the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959, William Burroughs brought international letters into the postmodern age, but he had already begun to chart the course that would establish him as one of postwar America's most influential writers. Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader brings together selections of Burroughs' most important and challenging work-beginning with his very early writing (including a chapter from his and Jack Kerouac's never-before-seen collaborative novel, And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks) and following his trajectory through My Education: A Book of Dreams.

Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader follows major themes in Burroughs' oeuvre while also serving up a sampling of his darkly hilarious "routines," and is edited to serve as a tool for the scholar as well as an overview of his entire body of work for the general reader. Important biographical information, contained in the chapter introductions, provide key links to understanding the work in the context of the life. Ann Douglas's introductory essay provides further background on Burroughs in the context of American letters and his Beat contemporaries.

Throughout a life that spanned the better part of the twentieth century, William Burroughs managed to be a visionary among writers: he imagined the Internet decades before its appearance and peered into the future of other technologies, kept the pace of world affairs and cultural trends, and, with each of his books, introduced new possibilities for the form. When he died in the summer of 1997, the world of letters lost its most elegant outsider.

Praise for Word Virus:
"The best of the late gentleman junkie's literary arsenal . . . For Burroughs virgins and devotees alike."-Details

"Word Virus: The Williams S. Burroughs Reader finally brings the author's actual writing back to the forefront. In their selections, editors James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg highlight the many faces of Burroughs: the narrative pioneer, the sardonic stand-up, the asexual Tiresias-like seer, and, in what may be a surprise to many, the humanist. . . . Apocalyptic, carnal and raw, Burroughs' work bridges the epiphanies of modernism with the Foucaultian cool of postmodernism. He stretches modernist forms and grammar like narrative silly putty, prefiguring the sly mischief of postmodern writers such as Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson. . . . Through it all Burroughs eludes easy literary classifications; by turns he is poststructuralist Dashiell Hammett, T.S. Eliot on the nod, Mark Twain with a gun . . . . Word Virus [is] a fantastic, weird, disturbing and intriguing tribute to an inimitable American voice."-Mark Luce, Salon

"This well-edited collection of Burroughs' work...reminds us of his restless, savage intelligence and complicated insider-outsider perspective on human society."-Out

"The deadpan graddad of postmodernism is well represented in this bountiful collection of fiction, essays and collaborations from all stages of Burroughs's (1913-1997) career. . . . Dark humor runs through this collection."-Publishers Weekly

"A stringent modernist, a spiritual child of Joyce . . . The reader of this volume will find the anarchy of Burroughs' finely tuned mind well represented . . . Editors Grauerholz and Silverberg show sensitivity in their choice of selections from Burroughs' long and productive career; their dedication to his legacy is evident. There is a very informative and compassionate introduction by Ann Douglas."-Raul Nio, Booklist

"This judiciously edited collection contains representative excerpts from a lifetime's published work . . . An excellent introduction to the man and his work, this carefully designed reader belongs in all literature collections."-William Gargan, Library Journal

"William S. Burroughs, who died last year, was the American master of the post-modernist novel...the prophet of the dark streak in the American soul. . . . Now, two of Burroughs' editors have compiled an anthology from his many works that gives the reader a remarkable picture of the writer's depth and versatility....On display are the varying styles Burroughs used during a long career of writing, and examples of the power, the strangeness, the wit and the occasional beauty of his writing."-Roger Harris, Newark Star Ledger

"Burroughs belongs, all alone, to an Age of Reason, which he locates in the future. . . . Like a classical satirist, Burroughs is dead serious-a reformer. Yet, as often happened with the classical satirists, a wild hilarity and savage pessimism carry him beyond his therapeutic purpose."-Mary McCarthy

"The only American novelist who may conceivably be possessed by genius."-Norman Mailer

"It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks. It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that ames are leaping from the roof of our home."-Marshall McLuhan

"Burroughs' voice is hard, derisive, inventive, free, funny, serious, poetic, indelibly American, a voice in which one hears transistor radios and old movies and all the cliches and all the cons and all the newspapers, all the peculiar optimism, all the failure."-Joan Didion

"Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift."-Jack Kerouac

"Burroughs seems to revel in a new medium . . . a medium totally fantastic, spaceless, timeless, in which the normal sentence is fractured, the cosmic tries to push through the tawdry."-Anthony Burgess

"He's a writer of enormous richness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cozy conspiracy, to allow us to see the truth."-J. G. Ballard

From Publishers Weekly:

The deadpan granddad of postmodernism is well represented in this bountiful collection of fiction, essays and collaborations from all stages of Burroughs's (1914-1997) long career. Burroughs's companion, longtime editor and literary executor Grauerholz, and Grove editor Silverberg include selections from the writer's better-known works, as well as sections of the experimental "cut-up" novels?complete enough to give readers a feel for the form without exhausting those unaccustomed to Burroughs's disjointed sharpness. Dark humor runs throughout the collection, from the 1938 collaboration "Twilight's Last Gleamings," in which the cross-dressing captain of a sinking ship murders his way onto a lifeboat, to a wry account of Burroughs's stint as a cockroach exterminator. What may prove most valuable to readers is the inclusion of Burroughs's commentary on his aims and intent. "Remembering Jack Kerouac" recalls the way the younger Kerouac prodded Burroughs to write. In the manifesto "Les Voleurs," Burroughs celebrates "stealing" words, a cure for "the fetish of originality." Perhaps most surprising are the passages both melancholic and elegiac, such as this, from The Western Lands: "A tree like black-lace against a gray sky. A flash of joy." In a selection from My Education, Burroughs provides an apt description for this collection: "Each page is a door to everything is permitted."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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