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Exterminator! Paperback – March 29, 1979

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)—guru of the Beat Generation, controversial éminence grise of the international avant-garde, dark prophet, and blackest of black humor satirists—had a range of influence rivaled by few post-World War II writers. His many books include Naked Lunch, Queer, Exterminator!, The Cat Inside, The Western Lands, and Interzone.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 29, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140050035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140050035
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
EXTERMINATOR! A NOVEL is without any question my favorite William S. Burroughs book. The "A Novel" of the title must surely be ironic, because the book is not in any recognizable sense a novel. It is a collection of largely unconnected sketches and scenes. Not every section is a masterpiece, but several are among the most surreal and brilliant things that Burroughs ever wrote. And for anyone who has not previously read any Burroughs, it is a brilliant introduction. I personally find it far more accessible and enjoyable than NAKED LUNCH, which, while it has many fine passages, nonetheless can at times become tedious.
Although by and large the various parts are unconnected, several are focused on the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. In particular, the amazingly creative and hysterically funny "The Coming of the Purple Better One" takes that as its locale. The "Purple Better One" of the title refers to a baboon that is placed upon the convention podium, and upon whose face is superimposed the face of a white Southern, racist politician, whose recorded speech is then played. It is one of the more bizarre, brilliant, and absurd scenes in recent American literature. Another favorite is "The Discipline of DE," the DE standing for "Do Easy." The story is a strange blend of Zen Buddhist tract and self-help manifestation. Other favorites include the title story, with the narrator/exterminator repeating ominously "You want the service?" and a supposed film treatment "Twilight's Last Gleamings."
The collection features many of the themes usually associated with Burroughs: Sci-fi, fantasy, drugs, usual medical practices and phenomena, governmental nefariousness, and the corruption of capitalistic life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Caratzas on October 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is the only other book of William S. Burroughs that, in my opinion, comes close to the absolute genius of "Naked Lunch." A fragmented novel of strange vignettes, loosely incorporating the theme of the exterminator and his grim trade as its focus, the book reads like a hallucinatory nightmare version of the Sunday comics from an unseen world better left undiscovered. Brilliant, funny, sad and disturbing--everything grteat writing should be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is pretty good. I was surprised to see a few bad reviews for something which seems to hold good amount of merit, especially in comparison to most. Of course, it's not Ulysses, or even Burroughs's best. It's simply good.
Exterminator!, The Colonel Issues DE, Cold Lost Marbles, and The Perfect Servant have been my favorite passages since I first read it. The book is hilarious if you can manage to analytically wipe the opaque layer of genius-dirt from the neglected window obscuring Burroughs's warm, cozy, funny soul.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
The back cover of William S. Burroughs' "Exterminator!" describes the book as an "experimental novel." Because of the book's fragmented, mosaic-like structure, I think you could also describe it as a collection of experimental prose fragments. It's a blend of science fiction, political satire, and linguistic theory, punctuated by violence and gay sex. Burroughs sometimes uses language that mirrors cinematic techniques.
If there's a plot in here, it eluded me. Along the way the reader will encounter a secret agent, a pest exterminator, Scientology, the queen of England, and John Genet. "Exterminator!" is often outrageous and absurd; it feels at times like Burroughs is just writing to amuse himself.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By msmith5@cc.gatech.edu on April 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a period piece, but man, what a period piece. Essentially a collection of short stories surrounding the "revolution" of the 1960s, Burroughs tears into the Military, the Right, the morality police, the War on Drugs, technology, and politics. Each story uses Burroughs's violent fantasy to tell a morality tale and bring each target of his ire into sharp relief before tearing it down utterly. Not as chilling as Naked Lunch or as sweeping as Cities of the Red Night. A good book for someone who is just getting started reading Burroughs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This was the first book by WSB that I ever read. I think this was a case of trial by fire, because numerous people I've spoken to found this book impossible to read. Many of the scenes are hilarious and all are memorable. The book within the book within the book... the 1968 democratic convention... the mexican pistolero in the brilliant "Twighlight's Last Gleaming"... Fu Man Chu... This book is a nexus point, threads running through all the other burroughs novels pass through here at some point.
I can't recommend this book enough, but read Naked Lunch or The Wild Boys first, they are easier gate-ways into the wierdness of Burroughs.
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By A Customer on August 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
As fragmentation was always Burroughs trademark, this collection of short stories or pieces of prose and some poems fits in with the whole of his oeuvre perfectly well, because it sheds light on some dark passages of his earlier work. Moreover it is essential in that it contains some of his most lyrical prose, the tale of the Priest has a transcending beauty resembling that of Joyce's The Dead. Where in the Wild Boys his straightforward attempts at more traditional writing failed occasionaly in blending with his experimental voice for which he is so renown, here they serve as counterpoints that have their own mysterious power, be it that there are also traces of the writers block that was building up inside of Burroughs round the time this was published. It was not before Places of the Dead Roads that he would fully realize and bring to bloom the possibilities created by this endeavour, although in a way this book can be seen as a try out for his epical masterpiece Cities of the Red Night that lacks the flow of the phrases that shine from the pages of this flawed gem.
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