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Speed (1970)

by William S. Burroughs, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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942226,666 (4.03)2
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)—guru of the Beat Generation, controversial éminence grise of the international avant-garde, dark prophet, and blackest of black humor satirists—had a range of influence rivaled by few post-World War II writers. His many books include Naked Lunch, Queer, Exterminator!, The Cat Inside, The Western Lands, and Interzone.… (more)
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There aren't many valid comparisons that can be drawn between William S. Burroughs and his son. After all, the elder Burroughs had a decades-long career as a novelist and public figure, while Billy completed only two books and died in virtual obscurity at the age of 33. But he made those two books count, and if you're looking for the fresher voice, the more open and relatable one, it's no contest: Burroughs Jr. was the hands-down winner. Speed, a fascinating account of Billy's teenage odyssey from Palm Beach to New York City in search of a steady methamphetamine supply, is his masterpiece. Unique among most of the addled Beat pantheon, he could actually write; the narrative is as smooth and readable as the subject matter is abrasive and occasionally disturbing. (Had Jack Kerouac possessed any talent, this is the book he might have written.)

I'm a big fan of the senior Burroughs's early novels like Junky and Queer, and I admire him enormously for speaking out against the cruelty and dishonesty of the War on Drugs when no one else had the courage to take such a definite position. At the moment we could really use an incisive voice like WSB's to cut through all the propagandic hysteria surrounding the nonexistent "opioid crisis". But he concluded his career with dull, ineffectual revenge fantasies and self-pitying reflections on aging (which evidently drained him of the wherewithal to pity Billy or his mother, Joan Vollmer), making a book like The Western Lands an uphill slog indeed. There are no such problems with Speed, however: I find myself rereading it every few years, stunned by the immediacy of the writing. Long after his death, the damaged but triumphant humanity of William S. Burroughs Jr. lives on in these pages. ( )
  Jonathan_M | Oct 14, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burroughs, William S., Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ginsberg, AllenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)—guru of the Beat Generation, controversial éminence grise of the international avant-garde, dark prophet, and blackest of black humor satirists—had a range of influence rivaled by few post-World War II writers. His many books include Naked Lunch, Queer, Exterminator!, The Cat Inside, The Western Lands, and Interzone.

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