The journal of the last months of William Burroughs’ life.
20 November 1996: ‘Well, it’s time for my Ovaltine and a long good night.’
Burroughs died in 1997, after a lifetime of notoriety. The granddaddy of the Beats, druggy, dangerous and bleak, author of thirteen controversial, shocking novels.
In his final years, he was writing only in his journals. The last nine months of his diaries are here in ‘Last Words’, and they form a complex, rarely seen, personal portrait of Burroughs at the end of his life, coming to terms with ageing and death. Although well into his eighties, the man we see is nevertheless the same old Burroughs, still riling against the Establishment, still contemptuous of the state of the human race, still shocking, bleak and very funny. The diaries are full of anecdotes and memories, entries on the joys of housekeeping, dealing with doctors, shooting a video with U2, musings on his beloved cats, drug-taking and government cover-ups.
These journals contain some of the most brutally personal prose Burroughs has ever written. The deaths of his friends, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, provide a window onto the preparations he was making for his own death – a quest for absolution marked by a profound sense of guilt and loss.
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‘He is a writer of enormous richness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cosy conspiracy, to allow us to see the truth.’ JG Ballard
‘At eighty-three, Burroughs was living in a two-bedroom cottage in Lawrence, Kansas, with his menagerie of cats. After taking his daily dose of methadone in the morning – he became readdicted in New York in 1980 – he spent the afternoons reading and writing right up until his death in August 1997. “Last Words” collects these daily jottings in his notebooks, the entire literary output from the last nine months of his life…With only the love of his cats, literature and methadone left, these journals make for unbearably poignant reading. Unlikely as it may sound, Bill Burroughs was only human after all.’ The TimesFrom the Back Cover:
Edited and with an introduction by James Grauerholz.
‘In the first excerpts, Burroughs quite touchingly mourns the death of one of his many cats. This may alarm some long-term fans. But soon the reader glimpses Burroughs as he will be remembered, “I said: ‘L. Ron Hubbard needs a knife to his gizzard.’ And I demonstrate with an assassin knife how one strikes upward under the left ribcage to the heart.” This is a bizarre, astoundingly well written journal: his prose retained its crackle to the very end.’ Irish Independent
‘Animals open up a realm of feeling that proved elusive in other humans. Burroughs attributes the revelation of love in his life to one cat in particular, Ruski. And it isn't only cats: “Must send a cheque to the primate centre for the lemurs, he reminds himself, 'how I love them!'” These heroic and generous transcriptions show a Burroughs who has curiously changed, and yet become more like himself. “Last Words” is an addition not just to the literature of swansongs but a valid final addition to his extraordinary body of work.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Burroughs never got round to writing his autobiography, but he intended these journals for publication and they carry the strong whiff of memoir. We see Burroughs, fidgeting in his “post-operative chair”, ploughing through paperbacks (Robin Cook, F. Scott Peck), recording the minutiae of life: “February 21, 1997: The plumber ‘Dirty Dan’ arrived, finally to fix the toilet.” His last written words are not, perhaps, what you might have expected, but by the end of the book they make perfect sense. “Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller there is. LOVE”.’ Literary Review
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Book Description Flamingo, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0006552188