William Seward Burroughs
Beat Generation Writer
Note: William Burroughs passed away on Saturday August 2, 1997 at 6:50 pm in Lawrence, Kansas. The apparent cause of his mortal death was a heart attack suffered on Friday August 1. Burroughs was 83.
In addition to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs is credited with defining the Beat Generation. He also is the most elusive of the three fathers.
Eight years older than Kerouac and 12 years older than Ginsberg, Burroughs exercised great influence over his younger friends by exposing them to his library which consisted of authors outside the mainstream literature the students would have found on the reading lists for the courses at Columbia. Burrough's list included Kafka, Celine, Spengler, Cocteau, Rimbaud and Wilhelm Reich.
Burroughs identified less with the world of the artist than with the world of the criminal. By the time Lucien Carr introduced Burroughs to Ginsberg and Kerouac in the early 1940s, Burroughs had already penetrated the marginal world of the criminal. Exploring the terrain of Times Square in New York, Burroughs had already begun associating with the denizens of this marginal realm. He was also already experimenting with heroin and drug addiction.
Burroughs' introduction to this world occurred when he met a street-wise criminal who exerted an important influence on the Beat Generation vortex, Herbert Huncke. Huncke was a street-wise hustler. A good example of the fellaheen that Burroughs extolled. Oswald Spengler had written about the fellaheen in his book,Decline of the West, a book Burroughs would lend to Kerouac. The fellaheen represent the society's marginal people, at the edge of a culture in spiritual decline. Burroughs lent his copy of Spengler's book to Kerouac who also became intrigued by the concept.
Born in St. Louis, Burroughs was the grandson of the inventor of the adding machine. After attending Harvard University he lived in Chicago and then moved to New York in 1943 where he met Lucien Carr, another St. Louis native.
Through Carr, Burroughs met Ginsberg and Kerouac and the pollination of the Beat Generation, the "New Vision", the vortex, began. Burroughs would soon move into Joan Vollmer Adams' communal apartment on the upper West Side of New York City. Despite Burroughs' homosexuality, Joan would be with him until the end of her life. In Mexico, in September 1951, Burroughs would accidentally kill Joan while attempting to shoot a glass off her head as a prank. The child he had fathered with Joan would be sent to live with Burroughs' parents and Burroughs found himself at the very margins of the culture he was so determined to examine. He has remained right there for many years.
As a result of the accidental ki.lling of Joan Vollmer, Burroughs felt compelled to write his way out of the hell he had created for himself. He left Mexico, went to South America to search for the mystical drug Yage and finally settled in Tangier. Junky, his documentary novel about drug addiction was published as a pulp paperback in 1953 and in 1959 Naked Lunch was published. Naked Lunch (the title was provided by Kerouac) has been described as a "book written with the possessed savagery of a man scarred by a trip through hell." (John Tytell, Naked Angels).
Burroughs' literary style is experimental and his stories and characters represent one vision of what post-psychedelic humanity will be like. Since 1981 he has lived in Kansas and in 1983 he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
William BurroughsPitching Record YEAR TEAM ERA W L IP ER BB K 1983 Beats 4.46 15 12 206 102 72 85 1984 Beats 3.78 5 10 162 68 59 88 1985 Beats 3.65 6 16 207 84 83 104 1987 Beats 3.61 16 14 272 109 113 120 1995 Beats 3.33 12 12 189 70 67 121 1996 Beats 3.29 7 15 224 82 73 108 6 Seasons 3.68 61 79 1260 515 467 626
Burroughs at Literary kicks
Mark/Space: Anachron City: Library: Biographs: William S.Burroughs
Burroughs at Mystic Fire
More Burroughs Information
Dirtman's Burroughs Site
The William S. Burroughs Files
The Nova Convention: Revisited
Burroughs, Ports of Entry Exhibition
Other Burroughs Links
Luke Kelly's Burroughs' Site
Tea [marijuana] heads are not like junkies. A junky hands you the money, takes his junk and cuts. But tea heads don't do things that way. The expect the peddler to light them up and sit around talking for half an hour to sell two dollars' worth of weed...
Tea heads are gregarious, they are sensitive, and they are paranoiac. If you get to be known as a "drag" or a "bring down," you can't do business with them. I soon found out I couldn't get along with theses characters and I was glad to find someone to take the tea off my hands at cost. I decided right then I would never push any more tea...
In 1937, weed was placed under the Harrison Narcotics Act. Narcotics authorities claim it is a habit forming drug, that its use is injurious to mind and body, and that it causes people who use it to commit crimes. Here are the facts: Weed is positively not habit forming. You can smoke weed for years and you will experience no discomfort if your supply is suddenly cut off...
Weed does not harm the general health. In fact, most users claim it gives you an appetite and acts as a tonic to the system. I do not know of any other agent that gives as definite boot to the appetite. I can smoke a stick of tea and enjoy a glass of California sherry and a hash house meal...
Weed does not inspire anyone to commit crimes. I have never seen anyone get nasty under the influence of weed. Tea heads are a sociable lot. Too sociable for my liking. I cannot understand why the people who claim weed causes crimes do not follow through and demand the outlawing of alcohol. Every day, crimes are committed by drunks who would not have committed the crime sober...There has been a lot said about the aphrodisiac effect of weed. For some reason, scientists dislike to admit that there is such a thing as an aphrodisiac, so most pharmacologists say there is "no evidence to support the popular idea that weed possesses aphrodisiac properties." I can say definitely that weed is an aphrodisiac and that sex is more enjoyable under the influence of weed than without it. Anyone who has used good weed will verify this statement...
You hear that people go insane from using weed...Weed psychosis corresponds more or less to delerium tremens and quickly disappears when the drug is withdrawn. Someone who smokes a few [marijuana] cigarettes a day is no more likely to go insane than a man who takes a few cocktails before dinner is likely to come down with the D.T.'s...
One thing about weed. A man under the influence of weed is completely unfit to drive a car. Weed disturbs your sense of time and consequently your sense of spatial relations. Once, in New Orleans, I had to pull over to the side of the road and wait until the weed wore off. I could not tell how far away anything was or when to turn or put on the brakes for an intersection.
--from Junky by William Burroughs
1997 Dharma Beats Roster
1997 William Burroughs Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
Updated: August 3, 1997
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association