Mister Lee

I was introduced to William S. Burroughs back in the early ’60s. As so often happens, a teacher made mention of this strange author who was cutting up his writings and pasting them back together in what purported to be a more imaginative order. I had to see this for myself so I ran over to Papa Bach and grabbed my own copy of Naked Lunch. At that time I read about half of the book and set it aside to allow my brain cells to calm down; in the summer I started it all over again and made it all the way to the last page. Like reading a novel in a foreign language, I felt I had a vague understanding of what went on in the narrative but certainly wasn’t fully satisfied that I understood Naked Lunch or William S. Burroughs.

Since that time I have read Naked Lunch (or parts of it) several times and have a much better understanding of both the novel and the technique Burroughs used to “write” it.

Then a few years back I imagined that I would become the world’s foremost authority on both William S. Burroughs and also Kathy Acker so I began filling out my collection of books by these two authors. I even sent away to South Africa for an Acker book that took twelve weeks to deliver and cost four times the price of the book in postage. I have posted below the rather extensive bibliography for Burroughs that I culled from Wikipedia. I see now that although I have quite a few of the books listed on my bookshelves waiting to be read, there are even more that I don’t have. I guess I’ll never make world’s greatest status.


Right now I am reading Burroughs’ Red Night Trilogy. I just finished The Place of Dead Roads. These three books are clearly by Burroughs—themes, events, locations, activities are typical—but they are also fairly easy to read. This last title, The Place of Dead Roads, had outlaws and gunslingers: you can think of it as a western gangster outer space story with a lot of fast gun action and guy-on-guy sex. Burroughs is at his satirical best in this trilogy and even the most jaded reader should have the exquisite experience of having a lot of fun while at the same time having a lot to think about.

William S. Burroughs, from his days as the patriarch of the Beat writers to his postmodern texts like the Red Night Trilogy and even his antics with the Punk Rock scene down at CBGBs, is an important American writer and chronicler of much of the underside of America that otherwise might have escaped notice.

William S. Burroughs is a must read.

Novels and other long fiction

Junkie (aka Junky) (1953)
Queer (written 1951-3; published 1985)
Naked Lunch (1959)
The Nova Trilogy (1961-67):
The Soft Machine (1961/66)
The Ticket That Exploded (1962/67)
Nova Express (1964)
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (1969)
The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead (1971)
Port of Saints (1973)
The Red Night Trilogy (1981-87):
Cities of the Red Night (1981)
The Place of Dead Roads (1983)
The Western Lands (1987)
My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995)

Note: Burroughs published revised and rewritten editions of several of the above novels, including The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded, while reedited versions of some books such as Junkie and Naked Lunch have been published posthumously.

Non-fiction and letters

“Letter From A Master Addict To Dangerous Drugs,” British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 53, No. 2, 3 August 1956
The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs (1969) (with Daniel Odier)
Jack Kerouac (1970) (with Claude Pelieu)
The Electronic Revolution (1971)
The Retreat Diaries (1976) – later included in The Burroughs File
Letters to Allen Ginsberg 1953-1957 (1976)
Selected Letters (1993)
The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1945-1959 (1993)
Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs (2000)
Everything Lost: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs (2007)
Rub Out The Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1959-1974 (2012)

Stories and novellas

Valentine’s Day Reading (1965)
Time (1965)
APO-33 (1966)
The Dead Star (1969)
Ali’s Smile (1971)
Mayfair Academy Series More or Less (1973)
White Subway (1973) – later included in The Burroughs File
The Book of Breeething (1974)
Snack…  (1975)
Cobble Stone Gardens (1976) – later included in The Burroughs File
Blade Runner (a movie) (1979)
Dr. Benway (1979)
Die Alten Filme (The Old Movies) (1979) – later included in The Burroughs File
Streets of Chance (1981)
Early Routines (1981)
Sinki’s Sauna (1982)
Ruski (1984)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1984)
The Cat Inside (1986)
The Whole Tamale (c.1987-88)
Interzone (1989)
Tornado Alley (1989)
Ghost of Chance (1991)
Seven Deadly Sins (1992)
Paper Cloud; Thick Pages (1992)


CBGBs Stage or WSBs Fiction?
CBGBs Stage or WSBs Fiction?

Interzone (written mid-1950s, published 1988)
Roosevelt After Inauguration and Other Atrocities (1965)
Dead Fingers Talk (1963) – excerpts from Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded combined together to create a new narrative
Exterminator! (1973) (a different book from the 1960 collaboration with Brion Gysin)
Ali’s Smile: Naked Scientology (1978)
Ah Pook is Here, Nova Express, Cities of the Red Night (1981)
The Burroughs File (1984)
The Adding Machine: Collected Essays (1985)
Three Novels – Grove Press omnibus of The Soft Machine, Nova Express and The Wild Boys (1988)
Uncommon Quotes Vol. 1 (1989)
Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader (1998)
Conversations with William S. Burroughs (2000)
Burroughs Live : The Collected Interviews of William S. Burroughs, 1960-1997 (2000)


And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (1945; published November 2008) (with Jack Kerouac)
Minutes To Go (1960) (with Sinclair Beilles, Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin)
The Exterminator (1960) (with Brion Gysin)
The Yage Letters (1963) (with Allen Ginsberg)
So Who Owns Death TV? (1967) (with Claude Pelieu and Carl Weissner)
Rules of Duel (1970; republished 2010) (primarily by Graham Masterson, but Burroughs receives co-author credit)
Brion Gysin Let the Mice In (1973) (with Brion Gysin)
Sidetripping (1975) (with Charles Gatewood)
Colloque de Tangier (1976) (with Brion Gysin)
The Third Mind (1977) (with Brion Gysin)
Colloque de Tangier Vol. 2 (1979) (with Brion Gysin and Gérard-Georges Lemaire)
Ah Pook Is Here and Other Texts (1979) (with Malcolm McNeill)
Apocalypse (1988) (with Keith Haring)
The Black Rider (1989) (with Tom Waits and Robert Wilson)

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