Burroughs: A Brief History Essay

“We must find out what words are and how they function. They become images when written down, but images of words repeated in the mind and not of the image of the thing itself,” is a quote made famous by William Burroughs. He was from the East side circle of “The Beats” and lived a interesting and intruging life. He contributed many different types of works to the world and appriately falls into the category of “The Beats. ” Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri on Feburary 5, 1914. Unlike the other “Beats” he was born into comfort.

His grandfather had invented the adding machiene and his uncle had close ties with Hitler as well as other famous historical figures. Despite his background and the fact that he was considered intelligent, he was an outcast among other children and was labled a “problem child. ” He was interested in drugs, homosexuality, trickery, and non-convention from the time that he was little and said to be called an early rebel. Burroughs” family moved to New Mexico where he attended school until he dropped out.

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Later he attended Harvard and also lived in Chicago and then moved to New York City where his life as an artist really began. He moved to NYC in 1943 and this is where he met some of the other famous “Beats,” such as: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Edie Parker, and his future common-law wife, Joan Vollmer. They were all seekers of a new philosophy, and inspired by Rimbaud’s poetry (particularly Seasons in Hell) attempted to put their literary and spiritual quests into a label or definition. Burroughs was older than the rest, and they mentored his writing style.

He was said to discourge the outlandish antics of the others but at the same time he became addicted to herione. This influenced his work as well as his life. This addiction lasted about fifteen years. In 1951 during his addiction he and Vollmer were living in Mexico where he accidently killed her one night. The story goes something along the lines of he was trying to shoot a glass off of her head and missed. He got off easily with the law, but this event influenced his work for the rest of his life.

He accumulated many different types of work from writing to acting until he died in Kansas on August 2, 1997. Burroughs contributed much to this genre, both, by himself and with collaborative work. He wrote a few short stories where we see his sense of humor. He wrote a whole bunch of novels, of which, many are well known. His touching, famous introduction to Queer, where he mourns the loss of his companion Joan (saying it was his mission to write his way out of the darkness created by the shooting incident), is one of his most famous stories.

The real turning point is Interzone. Interzone is the real stuff, the start of the journey into Burroughs’ apocalyptic vision. The ‘Later Work’ section features small excerpts from The Cat Inside and My Education: A Book Of Dreams, and beautifully shows Burroughs’ tender side, especially in his loving ode to his cats. William Burroughs is a great author/artist who has been recognized throughout many different critics as being great. He fit into the Beat movement and is a valuable addition to anyone’s litterary collection.

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