Fifty years ago, Norman Mailer asserted, "William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." Few since have taken such literary risks, developed such individual political or spiritual ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media. Burroughs wrote novels, memoirs, technical manuals, and poetry. He painted, made collages, took thousands of photographs, produced hundreds of hours of experimental recordings, acted in movies, and recorded more CDs than most rock bands. Burroughs was the original cult figure of the Beat Movement, and with the publication of his novel Naked Lunch, which was originally banned for obscenity, he became a guru to the 60s youth counterculture. In Call Me Burroughs, biographer and Beat historian Barry Miles presents the first full-length biography of Burroughs to be published in a quarter century - and the first one to chronicle the last decade of Burroughs's life and examine his long-term cultural legacy.
Written with the full support of the Burroughs estate and drawing from countless interviews with figures like Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and Burroughs himself, Call Me Burroughs is a rigorously researched biography that finally gets to the heart of its notoriously mercurial subject.
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A Masterpiece Crime Novel
This was a labor of love on the writer's part. Not sure it is just to give less than a five star review for the work that went into this book. My review, could easily be a book, about this book.
The first two parts of the book was a fascinating history of the personal lives of the upper class, which Burroughs was a product of. His sense of entitlement through out his life. Was not aware he was subsidized by his family until the age of fifty against the backdrop of a Harvard education. For me the book is a perfect account of the downside of the "idle rich".
Much of his published work was reworked heavily by others with laborious editing before it was published. He even managed to get others, more or less, to write his books. And he welcomed any one who was willing to "contribute to him".
His aloof use and corruption of young beggar boys sexually, as toys, had a Caligula strip of force as a character reference. By the third part of the book, one was forced to confront the evil and I had to open a bottle of Jim Beam to be led into that dark place. It was not a pleasure ride but I plugged on. The depth of depravity and corruption, lack of remorse and empathy in his letters as he spoke of his crimes against children and the needy, the sadism, was not easy to confront.
The way he worked his way through the upper class as a debutante with opinions to sell, using the P.R. machine Alan Ginsberg, while he perfectly managed to get away with murder, and corruption and sexual molestation of minors, and actually made enough profit to buy a factory kit Sears and Roebuck home to retire in, in Kansas, for his true confessions books, is an illustration of the perfect con man. Who did it all, with applause from his fellow man.
Very spooky, very real.
The book is a masterpiece crime novel.
- Nurture Learners and Able Observers
A Wonderful, Intimate Portrait
Yes. It is a fascinating look into the life and love(s) of one of America's most important and contrary writers.
Fire in the Belly. Because both were clear and human looks at extraordinary and uncompromising men. Neither biography flinched away from looking at the less savory aspects of each man's life (murder, drugs, hustling), but they were not salacious glimpses, just informational, and mostly, compassionate.
No. But I liked it very much, and I am super fussy about narrators.
The notion that after a sexual encounter, the usually gruff WB was gentle, tender, and "giddy." I loved that extraordinarily human detail.
If you are interested in the Beats, read this book about the most interesting one.