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Junky: The Definitive Text of "Junk" Paperback – November 13, 2012
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Of all the Beat Generation writers, William S. Burroughs was the most dangerous. . . . He was anarchy’s double agent, an implacable enemy of conformity and of all agencies of control-from government to opiates.”Rolling Stone
The most important writer to emerge since World War II. . . . For his sheer visionary power, and for his humor, I admire Burroughs more than any living writer, and most of those who are dead.”J.G. Ballard
William was a Shootist. He shot like he wrotewith extreme precision and no fear.”Hunter S. Thompson
A book of great beauty . . . . Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” Norman Mailer
Ever since Naked Lunch . . . Burroughs has been ordained America’s most incendiary artist.”Los Angeles Times
Burroughs voice is hard, derisive, inventive, free, funny, serious, poetic, indelibly American.”Joan Didion
In 1953, at the height of American conformism and anti-communist hysteria, William S. Burroughs published Junky, an irresistible strung-out ode to the joys and perversities of drug addiction. . . . Junky eschews allegory for scrupulous realism. . . . More than anything else, Junky reads like a field guide to the American underworld.”The Daily Beast
Retro-cool, like something Don Draper might find in the Greenwich Village pad of that reefer-smoking painter he was seeing in the first season of Mad Men.”Las Vegas Weekly on Naked Lunch
A creator of grim fairy tales for adults, Burroughs spoke to our nightmare fears and, still worse, to our nightmare longings. . . . And more than any other postwar wordsmith, he bridged generations; popularity in the youth culture is greater now than during the heady days of the Beats.”The Los Angeles Times Book Review
Burroughs seems to revel in a new medium . . . a medium totally fantastic, spaceless, timeless, in which the normal sentence is fractured, the cosmic tries to push its way through the bawdry, and the author shakes the reader as a dog shakes a rat.”Anthony Burgess on The Ticket That Exploded
In Burroughs’ hands, writing reverts to acts of magic, as though he were making some enormous infernal encyclopedia of all the black impulses and acts that, once made, would shut the fiends away forever.”The New York Times on The Ticket That Exploded
Macabre, funny, reverberant, grotesque.”The New York Review of Books on Nova Express
Hypnotic; I wish I could quote, but it takes several pages to get high on this stuff. . . . Funny . . . outrageous along the lines of Burroughs’s well-established scatology. He can think of the wildest parodies of erotic exuberance and invent the weirdest places for demonstrating them.”Harper’s Magazine on Nova Express
One of the most interesting pieces of radical fiction we have.”The Nation on The Soft Machine
In Burroughs’ hands, writing reverts to acts of magic, as though he were making some enormous infernal encyclopedia of all the black impulses and acts that, once made, would shut the fiends away forever.”The New York Times on The Wild Boys
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Straight up, William Seward Burroughs was brilliant, eccentric, depraved but most of all actually hilarious in his dry candor of human observation including himself. It's not just a book about junk, it's about an alternate lifestyle and the colorful characters that inhabit it.
The main character, Bill, first starts in New York City, where he becomes addicted to 'junk,' he and his friends do everything in their power to acquire it, from stealing money from drunks on the subway to conning senile doctors into writing them morphine prescriptions. After awhile he decides to enter rehab out West, and as soon as he gets himself off the junk, he relapses in New Orleans where a good bulk of the book takes place. There, he is eventually arrested for possession and soon after skips town to Mexico, where he stays for the remainder of the novel and struggles with his on again off again addiction to heroin. The people he meets along the way are all colorful characters who are based on people who are all long dead now, their personae immortalized through Burroughs' unforgettably stylistic prose. That's a very loose summary of the book, granted, you have to read the whole thing the whole way through to really take it all in and understand the world Burroughs/Lee lived in. It's a fascinating trip and being a fan of Burroughs' later works I was shocked when I finished this book that it took me this long to get to it in the first place. You see bits and pieces that would later reappear 'cut-up' in novels like "Naked Lunch" and "Nova Express," as well as some familiar faces like Hauser and O'Brien-- which this book implies were two very real police officers.
I absolutely loved this novel. It's a harrowing tale and a warning to all those who dance with something like heroin. Out of all the novels I've read by Burroughs, from 'Naked Lunch' to 'The Wild Boys' to this very novel's sequel 'Queer,' I think that 'Junky' may be his best work, which is absolutely stellar for a then-inexperienced writer. He wrote what he knew and what he knew was the 'algebra of need,' and this novel presents that by showing Burroughs at his clearest. It is important to remember what the one introduction mentions: This novel is fiction based on fact, not necessarily everything in it is true, but knowing Burroughs, the truth shone through more often than not because of the utter believability of the characters, places and events that transpire throughout this darkly magical novel.
If you read William Burroughs and haven't read "Junky," don't hesitate to buy this book. It's a trip. And for newcomers to William Burroughs, you should absolutely pick it up and start with it, then read 'Queer,' (the sequel to 'Junky' which I actually read before it) and move on to wade through the deep water of Burroughs' dark and fractured and beautiful imagination. This is hands-down, one of the best novels I have ever read in my life and it proudly deserves a spot easily accessible on my bookshelf!
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