Friday, June 3, 2016

Junky: A Review

Junky - William S. Burroughs

A loosely autobiographical novel - pre-Naked Lunch, pre- cut-up technique. Scoring and tripping in NYC, New Orleans, and Mexico City. Detours in a Lexington hospital and the Rio Grande Valley.

As Rechy did with City of Night, Burroughs introduces us to a world most of us will never experience. He is both tour guide and historian. But he only shows us what he wants us to see, he only teaches us what he wants us to learn. His wife all but disappears from the narrative. His narrow focus gives the impression that his life was more one-dimensional than it was. Obviously, he wanted to focus on the drug scene, but still...

Something that stood out to me was his gun collection. He mentions several different ones. For somebody who was often under the influence of alcohol and other various drugs, this doesn't seem like a good situation. He describes an incident in which he threatens people (including a police officer) with a gun while very drunk. (He killed his wife by shooting her while drunk.)

His face wasn't blank or expressionless. It simply wasn't there.

Ike brought me cocaine when he could score for it. C is hard to find in Mexico.
- He's referring to Mexico in the early 1950's.

I found that their interests were very limited.
- He's referring to younger junkies. As I mentioned earlier, however, he chose to drastically limit the scope of his story, so there's a 'pot-kettle' vibe here. He spends the whole novel on drugs and drug-related topics, but those other people have limited interests.

Maybe I will find in yage what I was looking for in junk and weed and coke. Yage may be the final fix.
- That is how Junky closes. He spent several months wandering South America in search of yage, which was rumored to give the user telepathic abilities.

The version I read (Grove Press, 2003), includes a 29-page Introduction by Oliver Harris, as well as seven Appendices. These include a chapter that didn't make it into the finished novel, a letter from Burroughs to a publisher, and two pieces each by Carl Solomon (the original publisher) and Allen Ginsberg, who essentially served as an amateur literary agent.

Rating: Soft 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. so the deal with the challenge is that you have to read ten books in three months, and the books have to fit the categories erin has selected. you should play along.