BURROUGHS, William S(eward)


BURROUGHS, William S(eward)
(1914-)
   US writer. Born into a successful business family, WSB was a Harvard graduate in English literature in 1936. A drop-out thereafter, he lived in Mexico, North Africa and the UK, and for many years was a heroin addict. He began writing in the late 1930s, but had no success until the early 1950s when he wrote two confessional books: Junky (1953 as by William Lee; rev vt as by WSB Junkie 1977) and Queer (written 1950s; 1985), which were respectively about drug-addiction and homosexuality, themes that have continued to dominate WSB's work. Although largely unpublished, WSB was immensely influential among the Beat writers of the 1950s - notably Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg - and already had an underground reputation before the appearance of his first important book, The Naked Lunch (1959 France; vt Naked Lunch 1962 US). This nightmarish SATIRE, first published by the daring and influential Olympia Press in Paris, contains large elements of sf - e.g., the DYSTOPIAS of "Freeland" and "Interzone", and some outre biological fantasy. Brilliantly written, funny and scatological, it is accepted as a modern classic; an inventive adaptation was filmed as Naked Lunch (1992) by David CRONENBERG. WSB's writings since are a bibliographer's despair, and no attempt can be made here to list all the pamphlets issued by various underground publishers. His major novels of this period, however, are The Soft Machine (1961 France; rev 1966 US), The Ticket that Exploded (1962 France; rev 1967 US), Nova Express (1964), The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971; rev 1979 UK) and Exterminator! (1973). In these works, WSB experimented with "cut-up" techniques, the importance of which has been overemphasized. More significant is the vividness of the imagery and the urgency of the subject matter. Much concerned with the abuses of power, WSB uses addiction as an all-embracing metaphor for the ways in which our lives are controlled. He has also brought into luridly exemplary perspective many sf metaphors; e.g., the "Nova Mob", galactic gangsters who are taking over our planet. Images of space travel and "biomorphic horror" (J.G. Ballard's phrase) abound.Later work has retained the corrosiveness of the worldview, but in narrations that verge, with some irony, towards the conventional. Port of Saints (1973 Switzerland; rev 1980 US), Cities of the Red Night (1981) and The Place of Dead Roads (1984) can together be thought of as a kind of trilogy in which the genres of the West miscegenate, breed, and descry the road ahead. Interzone (coll 1989) contains some surreal matter.WSB has borrowed ideas from all areas of popular culture - films, COMICS, Westerns, sf - and the resulting powerful melange has analogies with Pop Art. His influence can be detected in the sf of J.G. BALLARD, Michael MOORCOCK, John T. SLADEK, Norman SPINRAD and others. Overt pastiches of his work by sf writers include Barrington J. BAYLEY's "The Four-Colour Problem" (1971) and Philip Jose FARMER's "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod" (1968), the latter a Tarzan story in the manner of WSB rather than Edgar Rice BURROUGHS.
   DP/JC
   Other works: Dead Fingers Talk (1963 UK), a kind of alternative version of The Naked Lunch; The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (1970 UK), a play; Bladerunner: A Movie (chap 1979), nothing to do with the 1982 film BLADE RUNNER; The Cat Inside (1986 chap); The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945-1959 (coll 1993).
   About the author: "Myth-Maker of the 20th Century" by J.G. Ballard in NW 142, 1964; "The Paris Review Interview" in Writers at Work (1968) ed George Plimpton; The Job: Interview with William Burroughs (1969) by Daniel Odier (trans 1970); "Rub Out the Word" in City of Words (1971) by Tony Tanner; Descriptive Catalogue of the WSB Archive (1973) compiled by Miles Associates; William Burroughs: The Algebra of Need (1977) by Eric Mottram; Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs (1989) by Ted Morgan.
   See also: CYBERPUNK; MEDIA LANDSCAPE; MUSIC.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Burroughs, William S(eward) — I born Feb. 5, 1914, St. Louis, Mo., U.S. died Aug. 2, 1997, Lawrence, Kan. U.S. novelist. The grandson of the inventor William S. Burroughs, he attended Harvard University and later became a member of the central group of the Beat movement. His… …   Universalium

  • Burroughs, William S(eward) — I (28 ene. 1855, Auburn, N.Y., EE.UU.–15 sep. 1898, Citronelle, Ala.). Inventor estadounidense. Desde los 15 años tuvo que mantenerse por sus propios medios. En 1885 construyó su primera máquina calculadora; aunque resultó ser comercialmente poco …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Burroughs — Burroughs, Edgard Rice Burroughs, William * * * (as used in expressions) Burroughs, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Burroughs, William S(eward) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • William — (as used in expressions) William Alexander Abbott Aberhart, William George William Russell Amis, Sir Kingsley (William) Ashley, William Henry Ashton, Sir Frederick (William Mallandaine) Barkley, Alben W(illiam) Bartram, William William Allen… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Burroughs — [bʉr′ōz] 1. Edgar Rice 1875 1950; U.S. writer of popular fiction: known for his Tarzan stories 2. John 1837 1921; U.S. naturalist & writer 3. William S(eward) 1914 97; U.S. novelist …   English World dictionary

  • Burroughs — /berr ohz, bur /, n. 1. Edgar Rice, 1875 1950, U.S. novelist and short story writer. 2. John, 1837 1921, U.S. naturalist and essayist. 3. William Seward, 1855 98, U.S. inventor of the adding machine. 4. his grandson William S(eward), born 1914, U …   Universalium

  • Burroughs — Bur•roughs [[t]ˈbɜr oʊz, ˈbʌr [/t]] n. 1) big Edgar Rice, 1875–1950, U.S. novelist 2) big John, 1837–1921, U.S. naturalist and essayist 3) big William Seward, 1855–98, U.S. inventor of the adding machine 4) big his grandson William S(eward),… …   From formal English to slang

  • Burroughs — /ˈbʌroʊz/ (say burohz) noun 1. Edgar Rice, 1875–1950, US novelist; author of Tarzan stories. 2. William S(eward), 1914–97, US author, associated with the beat generation; novels include The Naked Lunch (1959) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Seward — ► Península de E.U.A., en el estado de Alaska, junto al estrecho de Bering. * * * (as used in expressions) Burroughs, William S(eward) Darrow, Clarence (Seward) Seward, península Seward, William H(enry) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Голый завтрак — Эта статья  о романе Уильяма Берроуза. Об экранизации романа см. Обед нагишом (фильм). Голый завтрак Naked Lunch …   Википедия


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