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Iconoclast; visionary; homosexual crusader; drug advocate; teacher and elder statesman to Jack Kracouac, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats; anti-hero guru to each successive counter-culture generation: Willaim Burroughs remains one of the most complex and controversial American writers of the twentieth century. A longtime heroin addict, Burroughs preferred to live abroad, away from America's Draconian drug laws. After killing his wife in a bizarre shooting accident, he moved to Tangier where he lived in male brothel and wrote his celebrated bestseller Naked Lunch - in Newsweek's words 'A masterpiece. A cry from Hell' - as a series of letters to Allen Ginsberg. He lived at the Beat Hotel in Paris and spent a decade in London before returning as prodigal son to New York in 1974 after 25 years of self imposed exile.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780753507070
ISBN-10: 0753507072
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 126mm x 18mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Virgin Books
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Sep-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » This is a welcome republication of Miles's 1992 biography, which he has updated to include Burroughs's death in 1997 and the intervening five years. Miles was not a close friend of the notorious author and cultural icon, yet he knew him well enough through their mutual friend Ian Sommerville, Burroughs's technical adviser and lover, to spend several months at his London flat in the early 1970s, cataloguing the Burroughs archive. This relationship with his subject cuts both ways: the jacket blurb carries an endorsement from none other than Allen Ginsberg, praising Miles for familiarising 'even old close readers with a fine map of Burroughs's mind'; yet one also gets the sense that sometimes Miles is too much of a fan to apply much in the way of vigorous criticism. This account charts the author's progress from an affluent childhood in Saint Louis, through his trust-fund-financed sojourn in Europe, where he met and married the ill-fated Joan Vollmer, to Mexico, Tangier, London and, ultimately, back to the USA. It seems clear, from this account, and also from Burroughs's own assessment of himself, that, although his association with Kerouac and Ginsberg had produced some promising writing, the catalyst for his best-known work was the night when he accidentally shot and killed Joan. Fuelled by his addiction to heroin and his predilection for rent boys, the work that was to be published as Naked Lunch sent a seismic shockwave through America. Yet no less fascinating were the influences that were to permeate his later years: his interest in Scientology, his thoughts on extraterrestrials, his dabblings in other media, such as sound and film. Callous and misogynist in many of his personal dealings, Burroughs went on to outlive many of his closest friends and, although lionised by the younger generation who discovered his work in the 1980s and 1990s, he largely preferred a solitary existence, lavishing affection on his six cats. Miles strikes a perfect balance between Burroughs's life and work and, although there are more in-depth biographies and literary critiques available, this is probably the best general work for those who wish to immerse themselves more deeply in the writing of this junkie genius. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Barry Miles

Barry Miles is a bestselling author of numerous biographies and cultural histories of the Beat Generation luminaries, The Beatles, the sixties movements and its musicians. He lives in London.

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