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Queer: A Novel Paperback – January 6, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0140083897 ISBN-10: 0140083898

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Queer: A Novel + Junky: The Definitive Text of "Junk" + Naked Lunch
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 6, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140083898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140083897
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an introduction, Burroughs observes that he wrote this heretofore unpublished picaresque novel in 1951, well before Naked Lunch established his reputation. He reveals that the book had its genesis in a terrible event: his accidental shooting to death of his wife, Joan, a tragedy that released the black wellsprings of his talent. The narrative recounts the hallucinatory life of William Lee, an American in Mexico City in the 1940s and his journey to Ecuador with his reluctant lover, Eugene Allerton, in search of the drug Yage. Lee is Burroughs after the killing, weighed down by guilt, drugs, lust and despair; seeking lethe. Admirerers will find an early exposition of Burroughs's later themes here, as well as a strain of gallows humor. The work is almost cinematic as it unfolds; the author is not yet experimenting with the meaninglessness of language, and, indeed it is thin in both thought and expression. This is the first of a series of Burroughs's works to be issued by Viking. Foreign rights: Andrew Wylie Agency. November
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Burroughs has contracted with Viking Penguin for seven books to be issued over the next five years. Queer , the first of these, was originally written in 1951, but has never before been published. Stylistically similar to Junky , it claims the same protagonist, Lee, who in this work is experiencing a period of intense withdrawal from heroin. He is disintegrated, unsure of himself and his purpose, given to emotional excess. He is obsessed with sex, yet even more craves attention. To satisfy this craving he invents rather frantic ``routines'' designed to shock and amuse his companions. While Queer may seem tame in comparison to Burroughs's later work, it is important for the insight it offers about his development as a writer. His lengthy introduction should be of particular interest to both readers and scholars. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Burrough's earlier works are probably his best ones in my opinion.
Hippie Smell
A brilliant work whose many charms I intend to delve into again and again.
Pieter Uys
A very intense time in the life of a brilliant and fascinating character.
Clark Nova

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Clark Nova on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
A book of unreciprocated feelings, and longings amplified by withdrawel and junk sickness. This is a much more intimate and personal look into the life of William Burroughs than his other stuff. It takes place after he accidentally killed his wife, and he is sobering up and facing all of the demons and guilt previously dulled by the drugs.

This book was banned for a long time, the homosexual relationships and longings aren't grotesque exaggerations with shock value in mind like some of his other stories, they are very human and almost universal innocent boyish longings for affection.

He develops these "routines", funny stories he uses that show off his sarcasm and absurd sense of humor when he wants the attention of the room. All of the stories are hilarious and really show off his talent as a writer, but the people around him generally could care less or they just don't get it. So he is trapped always in a foreign land suspicious of everyone searching endlessly for islands of sanctuary.

Burroughs claims in the introduction that just reading the words and putting it down is very painful for him, but he did it so that he could move forward. A very intense time in the life of a brilliant and fascinating character.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1997
Format: Paperback
A brilliant, bare book of an intense, one-way homosexual relationship, and the tale of unrequited love on any level. Burrough's describes the feeling of giving yourself and getting nothing in return beautifully. A must for the loved and lost masses. A good place to begin your Burroughs reading list as it's one of his most coherent books.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jack Malebranche on October 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Queer is an unfinished novel set in Mexico City in the late 1940s, where "Lee" (Burrough's surrogate) is trying to "kick the Chinaman all the way out". In the introduction, Burroughs, tries to explain his emotional state:

"When the cover is removed, everything that has been held in check by junk spills out. The withdrawing addict is subject to the emotional excesses of a child or an adolescent, regardless of his actual age."

Lee bares a raw neediness that is all too human; he is a grown man in the throws of a schoolboy's infatuation. He makes a fool of himself struggling to impress an indifferent youth named Allerton, who acquiesces occasionally enough to egg Lee on. However, these moments of devil-may-care outrageousness are when Burrough's incredibly dark humor steals the book. For those of a certain bent, Queer contains several "cackle-out-loud moments" in what Burroughs calls his "routines" - free association storytelling of thoroughly perverse nature. The phrase "Corn Hole Gus' Used-Slave Lot" should convey enough, without giving away the punch lines.

It seems as though this book might be about sex, but I found it to be much more about desire. For sex, but also for reciprocity. For that reason, even those who are not "queer" may well enjoy it. Burroughs' cast of characters and scenes in the early part of the book show an underside of Mexico City that is likely long gone. And don't skip the introduction. Burroughs' stories about campesinos are almost too savagely silly to believe.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is so sad. Borroughs constant neglection and isolation is so dramatic that we probably all feel very sad about his experiences. "Queer" is a book describing a man's search for his identity and recognition in Society. Wonderful book that really needs to be read by everyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Unlike those Burroughs 'fanatics,' I dig Burroughs more straight, earthy work, a la Junky, Western Lands (etc.), and of course, Queer. Queer is an excellent follow up to Junky, and yes, is very easy to read, which sometimes, like this time, works for the better. Naked Lunch is fine - funny, witty, unrelenting. Cut-ups - not necesarilly for me. Give me Junky, Queer, etc.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on October 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book has been sitting on my library shelves for a couple of years untouched. Since it was William Burroughs, and looked like a fairly quick read, I decided to pick it up. Burroughs is one of the seminal American authors of the underground gay experience, right? I thought it would be like reading Alan Hollinghurst on cocaine - something I was looking forward to.

But I was highly disappointed. The novel's plot revolves around gay two heroin addicts, William Lee and Eugene Allerton. Lee's attraction to Allerton is completely and painfully unreciprocated. Despite all of Lee's attempts (which come in the form of embarrassing barside disquisitions in Mexican cantinas) to win Allerton's affections, it is all for naught. They decide to travel in search of some hallucinogenic drug which can only be obtained in the remote rainforest, and Lee promises to pay Allerton's way if he has sex with him a couple of times a week. In the end, the reader gets the impression that the quest for the drug is upset, much like Lee's wish for Allerton to love and appreciate him. The structure of the novel seems unmotivated and disinterested. It really seems to have no narrative "drive." I'm certainly not a reader that needs an action-packed novel by any stretch of the imagination, but there is nothing that compels the reader to keep reading - not even a chance of catching the two characters in licentious acts.

But for anyone out there that wants to discover Burroughs for themselves, I definitely recommend this as a first step: it is immanently readable, unlike some of Burroughs' later, more experimental fiction. For this reason, it is a perfect choice for readers who have not hitherto been introduced to some of the more difficult aspects of twentieth century fiction, like non-linear narration, that symptom of dread postmodernism.
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