In July 1997, WILLIAM BURROUGHS met his maker. Was the author of Naked Lunch, Queer and .Iunky a literary legend or just a wife-slaying old cult? As the dead Beat pioneer's final journals are published, Scotland's literati pass judgement.
You can't talk about a counter without referring at some poinﬁfi'l'o William Burroughs, the hip prieSIfof words. That is his enduring legacy. the underground wanted a figurehead, a twisted saint of subversion, then Burroughs was the man. Thankfully, it's a role he would have avoided like the plague. Rebel Inc couldn't have existed without the likes of Burroughs. He prepared the ground, he was censored and burned, he fought the law and, in the case of Naked Lunch, beat them hands down. Deliberately dressed like the enemy, the aristocratic Burroughs was a cultural Trojan horse, an entrist of the mind. He may be gone but, like a virus, his inspiration lives on.
author of Other Stories And Other Stories
‘ ,1 A friend of mine had a poster for
Burroughs' Queer on the wall all through her adolescence and remembers her mother sticking another poster up over it when her gran came to stay. That always reminds me of reading Queer (and being amazed and heartened at how far past gay the meaning of the word queer could be taken). I think reading Cities Of The Red Night was the first time I understood that reading could give you motion-sickness. Freeing, too, the idea of cutting up a novel and throwing it in the air and putting it back together again in the order of how it landed. That’s what Burroughs did with structure; re- wrote it, re-formed it, re-found it. And a man who wrote with such a druggy, sexy, savage surreality and drive, then writing at length about how much he loved his cats. With Burroughs nothing is predictable; everything is scary, enervating, thrown open and renewable.
author of Scar Culture
My first encounter with the lucid and dangerous ideas of William Burroughs was in the mid-80$. Struggling with personal issues of sexual identity, hung up on who I was and where I was going, he was the perfect antidote to such introspection. Along with Jean Genet, he took me away from the cosseted, middle-class malaise and led me into a ‘debauched desert' populated by narco-boys and wild ideas. Cities Of The Red Night in particular was not a comforting read but a discomforting whirlwind that teased, shocked and stimulated. Ironically, for writing so far removed from my experiences, I felt I had come home.
20 THE LIST 1‘: 25 May 2000
And the Bea .10 -
editor of Rebel Inc
William Burroughs' Last Words is published by Flamingo on Mon 15 May priced £12.99.
author of Born Free I once read the first four pages of Junky on the bus. It was raining. You don’t need drugs to write books. You need drugs to make you not write books
Chris DOIan author of Ascension Day
My father died on the same day as Allen Ginsberg. Weird seeing their two obituaries side by side, in The Herald of all places. In life though, my old man was the spit of William Burroughs. Which meant that, at sixteen, going home high, I had to explain myself to my chosen Guru of Dissolution. Burroughs will forever be to me a gay, Irish, Catholic, counter-culture, wife- extinguishing, poet-businessman. I can’t read him without seeing my entire family dissolve before my dilated pupils, to the strains of ’Danny Boy'. William Seward Jnr would have appreciated the contradictions.