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Junky by William S. Burroughs

By Dropout! | Books | February 15, 2010 | Comments ()

By Dropout! | Books | February 15, 2010 |


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"I drink a lot of coffee, but you know what's really addictive? Heroin."

This is frustrating. Junky was definitely holding my interest, in a sort of sociological way, teaching me about The Way of the Junky. Then, halfway through, I idly read the back cover and discovered that it wasn't an autobiography, like I had thought, but a novel. I tried to pretend I never gained that information. After all, I knew it still had elements of reality in it, from Burroughs' life as an actual gay heroin addict. But I couldn't get past that, and I had to force myself to finish. It didn't help that he started repeating himself, either; his descriptions of junk sickness, and the usual timelines for becoming addicted or getting off junk, were taken almost word for word from the beginning and plonked in again. The whole plot, too, was just more of the same "Now I'm doing junk in this different place, and this different junky informed on some other junky to the police, and some other junky died, and I tried more drugs, and I quit junk, and I went back, and junk is sooooo good, so nice and fresh, and junk junk junk." I get it, Billy, the guy likes heroin.

But just now, I found out that it was autobiographical, or at least partly. He had it published under the name William Lee, which I assume I would've known if I had bothered to read the introduction, but I did not bother, and thus I became immensely confused when he was referred to as "Mr. Lee." I don't know if I would've stayed more engaged despite my problems with it if I had known this going in. Perhaps.

And what was up with his wife? First of all, the guy's not ambiguously gay. Why is he marrying chicks? And second, why is she only mentioned once or twice? "So then my wife, who I have never mentioned before, bailed me out of jail, and went home and knitted potholders for fifty pages, apparently, because she sure wasn't doing anything worth writing about." Except I did some 'net investigatin', and Burroughs fucking shot his wife in the head and killed her! That is crazy.

On the bright side, I am now 100% certain that I am never going to do heroin. Ever. Or play drunken William Tell. Peyote doesn't sound too good, either. Shit, he even managed to make drinking tequila sound like a nightmarish journey through an unrelenting hellscape.

Parting words of wisdom, courtesy of Mr. Lee: "Who wants kids for customers? They never have enough money and they always spill under questioning."

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Dropout!'s reviews, check out her blog, Beauty School Dropout.



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