Beginning as surprisingly formal notes from the road to his friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the letters gradually deepen in substance and style. Burroughs's letters show the development of both the man and the writer, vividly documenting his (often turbulent) personal and cultural history. The collection provides a key to opening up and contextualizing Burroughs's fiction, but more than that it shows how letter-writing was itself integral to his life and creative process.
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William S. Burroughs was born on February 5, 1914 in St Louis. In work and in life Burroughs expressed a lifelong subversion of the morality, politics and economics of modern America. To escape those conditions, and in particular his treatment as a homosexual and a drug-user, Burroughs left his homeland in 1950, and soon after began writing. By the time of his death he was widely recognised as one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the twentieth century. His numerous books include Naked Lunch, Junky, Queer, Nova Express, Interzone, The Wild Boys, The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine. After living in Mexico City, Tangier, Paris, and London, Burroughs finally returned to America in 1974. He died in 1997.
Oliver Harris is professor of American literature at Keele University and the editor of The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945-1959 (1993), Junky: the Definitive Text of "Junk" (2003), The Yage Letters Redux (2006), and Everything Lost: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs (2008). He has published articles on film noir, the epistolary, and Beat Generation writing and the book William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination (2003). He is currently co-editing Naked Lunch@50: Anniversary Essays (2009) and working on a new twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Queer (forthcoming in 2010).
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