William S Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II
5 February 1914,
in St. Louis, Missouri, into a world of relative wealth and comfort
from the profits of the Burroughs Adding Machine Corporation. His
grandfather, after whom he was named, was the inventor of the adding
[ there's more
biography below this image...]
william s. burroughs
collage by patrick deese
At 8 years of age, uses his first gun, writes first story, "The
Autobiography of a Wolf." Refuses editorial advice of parents to
change autobiography to biography.
When Burroughs is 13, he discovers the autobiography of
You Can't Win, and becomes enamored of the outlaw, underground
lifestyle. Black introduces him to the idea of the being a member of the
First published in the John Burroughs Review in 1929. A short
essay entitled "Personal Magnetism". He considers it an early attempt
at debunking control systems.
Sent to Los Alamos Boys School in New Mexico. Later claims the only
thing he learned there was a hatred of horses.
He is graduated from Harvard
In New York, 1939, cuts off left little finger. Shows it to his analyst
at the time, who takes him to Bellevue. Burroughs tells a psychiatrist
there that he did as part of "an initiation ceremony into the Crow
In the Summer of 1942, moves to Chicago, takes job with A. J. Cohen,
Exterminators. "I go into an apartment and I know where all the
roaches are," he later claims.
Moves to New York the next year. Befriends
and David Kammerer around this time.
On 13 August 1944, Lucien Carr kills David Kammerer in self defense.
Kerouac and Burroughs are arrested as material witnesses because they
did not initially report the murder. Later, they collaborate on a novel
based on the events, And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks.
It was rejected by several publishers at the time and has never been
Burroughs meets Joan Vollmer. Along with Ginsberg and Kerouac, they
begin experimenting with drugs and extreme behaviors. Meets
around this time. Kerouac introduces Joan to Benzedrine inhalers, to
which she soon becomes addicted.
Sometime in 1946, Burroughs injects himself with a morphine Syrette.
Discovers junk ecstasy, begins addiction. In the midst of junk despair,
Burroughs has a vision of a cocktail waitress bringing him a skull on a
tray. "I don't want your fucking skull," he says. "Take it back!"
Moves in with Joan, they become lovers. Joan tells him that he "makes
love like a pimp."
In April of 1946, Burroughs is arrested for obtaining narcotics through
Joan is committed to Bellevue for acute amphetamine psychosis.
Burroughs attempts to rescue her from New York. William Burroughs III
Convinces her to move to East Texas with him. Huncke eventually moves
in with them. All three live in a small house near New Waverly, growing
marijuana and laying low. On 21 July 1947, William Burroughs III is born.
Allen Ginsberg and
visit in August of 1947.
The Burroughs' move to New Orleans in 1948. Kerouac and Cassady visit,
as immortalized in
On the Road.
Burroughs is arrested in New Orleans for possession of drugs, elects
not to stand trial, moves family to Mexico City in 1949.
On Thursday the
6th of September, 1951,
at a desultory party, Burroughs
suggests that he and Joan do their William Tell act. Joan balances a
highball glass on her head, turns her head to one side, saying, "I can't
watch this- you know I can't stand the sight of blood." Burroughs shoots
and hits Joan in the side of the head, killing her. Later he states: "I
am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a
writer but for Joan's death."
Burroughs travels to Columbia in 1953 to find the
meets Richard Evans Schultes,
who councils him about the plant. Writes to Ginsberg about his
experiences, which are later published as
The Yage Letters.
In 1954, Burroughs moves to Tangiers, Morocco. Introduced to
Meets Brion Gysin,
who becomes a pivotal catalyst for Burroughs. Begins initial forays into
unleashing his word hoard and deeper addictions to junk.
Kerouac, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky
visit him in 1956. Kerouac helps
Burroughs to organize the "routines" that would later become
The Naked Lunch,
the title from a suggestion of Kerouac's years before.
Early in 1958, sick of Tangiers, he leaves to stay with Ginsberg in
who decides to publish
The Naked Lunch
Moves to London in 1960. Back in Tangiers in August of 1961, with
Ginsberg and others, meets Timothy Leary
who gives them all mushrooms. Burroughs doesn't enjoy the experience,
saying: "Urgent warning. I think I'll stay here in shriveling envelopes
of larval flesh... One of the nastiest cases ever produced by this
Writes prolifically and lives nomadically throughout 60's, returns to
New York in 1974. He has not lived in the US for 24 years. Meets
who becomes Burroughs' life manager, helping him to organize and publish
Burroughs' son, Billy, dies in a ditch after a hard and lonely life on
3 March 1981.
Burroughs moves to Lawrence, Kansas with Grauerholz.
In May of 1982, Burroughs is inducted into the American Academy and
Institute of Arts and Letters.
2 August 1997
of a heart attack in Lawrence, Kansas. He was 83 years old.
"Horses are a dying artifact."
"Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at
all to his advantage."
"The Pusher always gets it all back."
"Language is a virus."
"This is a game planet."
"In Timbuktu I once saw an Arab boy who could play a flute with his
ass, and the fairies told me he was really an individual in bed."
"My purpose in writing has always been to express human potentials
and purposes relevant to the Space Age."
Obituary Run Though the Cut-Up Machine Mixed with Naked Lunch
The writer died Saturday at the age of 83. Yes, of course, Carl, the doctor brayed heartily. In white museum room full of sunlight pink nudes ie and I blasted my last talk of the writer William S. Burroughs, Fuzz Lover, five police boys, has turn them offering my say, Naked after pink heart Burroughs of brayed names, F.L.-- an at a Fuzz suffering East police in has odds a Lawrence offering novel one has of Beat generation Beat the S. heartily white room of Friday nudes and blasted writer last S. to be- the for author every known the once attack throwing Lunch and on age whiff experiences of a Marvie addict, out Saturday might He the hour and 83. His experiences as a drug addict, Burroughs died barely covered over with skin at Lawrence Memorial Hospital a day after suffering. His eyes went out. He fell off and we 20,000
I.R.S. ks and others so close you can hear age Disposal Unit snapping and dying trying to Burroughs, his eyes went out. He fell off Yage, generation Beat barely covered over with skin. After suffering with one finger talking a ritual tea smoker and very puritanical about rivers down on the table. The writer died Saturday at the age of 83.
Junky (as William Lee), 1953, 1977
The Naked Lunch, 1959, 1990
Minutes to Go (with Brion Gysin, Sinclair Beiles & Gregory Corso), 1960
Exterminator (with Brion Gysin), 1960
The Soft Machine, 1961, 1992
The Ticket That Exploded, 1962, 1987
Dead Fingers Talk, 1963
The Yage Letters, 1963, 1975
The Nova Express, 1964, 1992
Valentine's Day Reading, 1965
Roosevelt After Inauguration, 1965
So Who Owns Death TV? (with Claude Pelieu & Carl Weissner), 1967
The Dead Star, 1969
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, 1969, 1975
The Wild Boys, 1971, 1992
The Electronic Revolution (bilingual edition: German/English), 1971, 1996
Brion Gysin Let the Mice In (text by Burroughs), 1973
Exterminator!, 1973, 1979
White Subway, 1973
Mayfair Academy Series More or Less, 1973
Port of Saints, 1973, 1980
The Book of Breathing, 1974
The Job, 1974
Sidetripping (text to photographs by
Charles Gatewood), 1975
Cobble Stone Gardens, 1976
The Retreat Diaries, 1976
The Third Mind (with Brion Gysin), 1978
Letters to Allen Ginsberg, 1976, 1982
Ali's Smile/ Naked Scientology (bilingual edition: German/English), 1978, 1995
Blade Runner, A Movie, 1979
Dr. Benway, 1979
Ah Pook Is Here, 1979
Streets of Chance, 1981
Early Routines, 1981
Cities of the Red Night, 1981
Sinki's Sauna, 1982
A William Burroughs Reader, 1982
RE/Search 4/5: William S Burroughs, Bryon Gysin & Throbbing Gristle, 1982
The Place of Dead Roads, 1983
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (bilingual edition: German/English), 1984, 1996
The Burroughs File, 1984
The Adding Machine, 1985
The Cat Inside (with Brion Gysin), 1986, 1992
The Western Lands, 1987
The Whole Tamale
Apocalypse (with Keith Haring), 1988
Interzone, 1989, 1990
Tornado Alley, 1989
Letters of William S Burroughs, 1990
Ghost of a Chance, 1991, 1995
Seven Deadly Sins, 1992
Ports of Entry: William S Burroughs & the Arts, 1996
My Education: A Book Of Dreams, 1996
Concrete & Buckshot: William S. Burroughs 1987 - 1996 - Timothy Leary (intro), Benjamin Weissman (ed.)
Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader - James Grauerholz, Ira Silverberg (eds.) [1/99]
Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs - James Grauerholz (ed.) [Feb. 2000]
Burroughs: Letters [2/2000]
The Collected Interviews William S. Burroughs [September 2000]
Conversations With William S. Burroughs (Literary Conversations series) - Alan Hibbard (ed.) [April 2000]
Anthologies Including Burroughs
Works About Burroughs
The Job: Interviews With William S. Burroughs - Daniel Odier (ed.)
With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker by Victor Bockris, 1981, 1996
RE/Search 4/5: William S Burroughs, Bryon Gysin & Throbbing Gristle (V. Vale & A. Juno, eds.), 1982
William S Burroughs At The Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989 (J. Skerl & R Lyndenberg, eds.), 1991
Literary Outlaw: Life & Times of William S Burroughs by Ted Morgan
William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible by Barry Miles, 1992
Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs - Graham Caveney 
Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs - James Lytell
Paradise Outlaws: Remembering The Beats - James Lytell
Wising Up The Marks: The Novels of William S. Burroughs - Timothy S. Murphy
The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso In Paris, 1957 - 1963 - Barry Miles [June 2000]
Author: Bonesy Jones