William Burroughs - A Life
It has been 50 years since Norman Mailer asserted, 'I think that William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.' This assessment holds true today. No-one since then has taken such risks in their writing, developed such individual radical political ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media - Burroughs has written novels, memoirs, technical manuals and poetry, he has painted, made collages, taken thousands of photographs, made visual scrapbooks, produced hundreds of hours of experimental tapes, acted in movies and recorded more CDs than most rock groups. Made a cult figure by the publication of NAKED LUNCH, Burroughs was a mentor to the 1960s youth culture. Underground papers referred to him as 'Uncle Bill' and he ranked alongside Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Buckminster Fuller and R.D. Laing as one of the 'gurus' of the youth movement who might just have the secret of the universe. Based upon extensive research, this biography paints a new portrait of Burroughs, making him real to the reader and showing how he was perceived by his contemporaries in all his guises - from icily distant to voluble drunk. It shows how his writing was very much influenced by his life situation and by the people he met on his travels around America and Europe. He was, beneath it all, a man torn by emotions: his guilt at not visiting his doting mother; his despair at not responding to reconciliation attempts from his father; his distance from his brother; the huge void that separated him from his son; and above all his killing of his wife, Joan Vollmer.
Authoritative biography of cult writer William Burroughs (1914-1997).
One long, strange, profoundly American literary life. Burroughs's work has had a profound if often oblique influence on the writing of his century and this one. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to read Barry Miles's biography without being thoroughly familiar with the outline of the narrative. Truly, stranger than fiction. -- William Gibson WILLIAM BURROUGHS takes us deeply inside the magical life of the great writer. Miles's decision to tell the epic story through William Burroughs's search for his 'Ugly Spirit' makes for sensational reading. Burroughs called his life an evil river. In Miles's biography he negotiates it with courage and remarkable drive. Brilliant, tragic, controversial, and inspiring, WILLIAM BURROUGHS is a beautiful work. -- Victor Bockris author of With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker, Conversations with William Burroughs and Andy Warhol, and Burroughs in the Bunker WILLIAM BURROUGHS is the most intimate portrait to date of one of the twentieth century's most complicated, troubled, and influential figures. Miles's deep knowledge of the man and the work also provides a cultural history of the scene in Tangiers in the 1950s, the Beat era, and the emerging Punk scene in New York in the 1980s. The end of Burroughs's days, spent in Lawrence, Kansas, explore Burroughs's deep reckoning of what he called 'The Ugly Spirit'-the force which rendered him powerless, for most of his life over the demons that plagued him. It is a compelling biography and social history unlike any other." -- Ira Silverberg coeditor of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader WILLIAM BURROUGHS is full of energy and surprise and is a delight to read. Barry Miles combines his intimate knowledge of Burroughs with the meticulous research of Burroughs's companion James Grauerholz, to produce an extremely accurate, readable, and entertaining biography of one of the most inventive writers of the twentieth century. Reading this extraordinary book is like hanging around with Burroughs himself and is impossible to forget. -- Bill Morgan author of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg and The Typewriter Is Holy By any standard Burroughs's was an unusual life, full of scandal, subversion, and sensitivity hidden behind a cold blue gaze. He brought elegance to the Bowery, eloquence to the language of an underworld, and an international mystique to American letters. Miles enriches this 'life of an artist' with decades of dedicated immersion in the work both published and unpublished, digging deep into archival material and manuscripts, incorporating journals of friends and acquaintances. With great authority and verve, he brings up to date the legacy of a true American original who grows, even years after his death, in fascination. -- Regina Weinreich author of Kerouac's Spontaneous Poetics and editor of Kerouac's Book of Haikus
Barry Miles knew Burroughs since 1965. He was a close friend and worked with him on a number of projects. Barry Miles lives in London.