Last Words: The Journal of the Last Months of William Burroughs' Life

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HarperCollins Publishers Limited, Apr 29, 2010 - Novelists, American - 304 pages
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BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: LITERARY. The journal of the last months of William Burroughs' life. 20 November 1996: 'Well, it's time for my Ovaltine and a long good night.' Burroughs died in 1997, after a lifetime of notoriety. The granddaddy of the Beats, druggy, dangerous and bleak, author of thirteen controversial, shocking novels. In his final years, he was writing only in his journals. The last nine months of his diaries are here in 'Last Words', and they form a complex, rarely seen, personal portrait of Burroughs at the end of his life, coming to terms with ageing and death.

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LAST WORDS: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

This last testament by American cultural icon Burroughs (Ghost of Chance, 1995, etc.) comprises the disjointed diary entries the terminally ill author jotted down between November 14, 1996, and August ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DistortedSmile - LibraryThing

Those used to Burroughs' writing style will find this book to be very revealing about his character in his last days....Those unfamiliar with him may find this book very difficult to get through. His writing style is choppy and seemingly ill constructed, but I really admire him and his works. Read full review

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About the author (2010)

From hipster to so-called Godfather of Punk, William Burroughs has lived a controversial life as a leading member of the Beat Generation and a daring writer of psychedelic literary experiments, but, when he reached his seventieth birthday in 1984, it was almost as if he had been overtaken by respectability. Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1914 as the grandson of the man who invented the adding machine and a descendant of Robert E. Lee of Civil War fame. He attended Harvard University. Later while living a bohemian life in association with such Beat writers as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Burroughs became addicted to morphine and under the pseudonym William Lee published his first novel, Junkie, in 1953 as half of an Ace Double Books paperback. The novel escaped critical notice but may be seen now as the forerunner of his later fiction with its introduction of many of the themes, settings, characters, and amoral postures that became prominent with Naked Lunch (1959) and its successors. Refused by the American publishers to whom Burroughs submitted the manuscript, Naked Lunch first appeared in Paris under the Olympia Press imprint in 1959, the same year that Burroughs was permanently cured of his addiction. Naked Lunch might have remained ignored had not Mary McCarthy and Norman Mailer called attention to the work at the International Writers Conference held in Edinburgh in 1962. Burroughs's raw subject matter and seeming lack of discipline have alienated some of the more academic and genteel literary critics. Naked Lunch was followed by three additional novels about the Nova crime syndicate-The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket That Exploded (1962), and Nova Express (1964), which make use of overlapping characters and motifs. With The Wild Boys of 1971, Burroughs began to develop a new style more accessible to the general reader. Although Cities of the Red Night (1981) received mixed reviews, it was praised by such Burroughs experts as Jennie Skerl and Robert Burkholder as perhaps the best of his more recent novels. Of The Place of Dead Roads (1983) is true to Burroughs's various obsessions with guns, homosexuality, and the terror produced by people who are addicted to power and control. Today much of the psychedelic effect of Burroughs's fiction appears to be an illusion that masks rather deliberate methods of composition. These include "cut-out" techniques, pastiche, and the deliberate trying-out of styles derived from popular fiction genres to create literary montages that owe as much to fantasy and science as to the surrealism of avant-garde literature.

JAMES GRAUERHOLZ was William Burroughs's longtime manager and editor.

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