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Junky (1953)

by William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,892542,298 (3.71)127
Junk is not, like alcohol or a weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life. In his debut novel, Junky, Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others. For this definitive edition, renowned Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris has gone back to archival typescripts to re-created the author's original text word by word. From the tenements of New York to the queer bars of New Orleans, Junky takes the reader into a world at once long-forgotten and still with us today. Burroughs's first novel is a cult classic and a critical part of his oeuvre.… (more)
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» See also 127 mentions

English (50)  Danish (2)  French (2)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Interesting look at drug culture in the 40s, but missing the element shared by some of his contemporaries that for me transcends the gritty subject matter and makes the work, for lack of a better word, beautiful. ( )
  GDBrown | Feb 15, 2024 |
ironically, audiobook rating (t. ryder smith): ★★★★★ ( )
  pagemother | Apr 5, 2023 |
Self indulgent, lazy writing, not for me. ( )
  vdt_melbourne | Nov 2, 2022 |
Unflinching. A celebration of drugs.
Enjoyable, but semi annoying knowing who it's coming from. ( )
  Alin.Llewellyn | Nov 1, 2022 |
Burroughs is, of course, one of the most important writers to me. Or, at least, was. Reading his hard looks at life was informative. He was an investigator, never taking things for granted, always questioning, always writing w/ clarity. Always writing w/ a challenging imagination. He existed in a world that many ignore or disparage w/o understanding & cast fresh light on it. He was a great critic of the so-called "Great Society" & he hated it for much the same reasons that I do. He incisively described its giant boot tromping on our minds & lit a firecracker under the boot. & he was very successful. I've read almost everything he ever wrote.

On the other hand, he made junk look glamorous. Bad idea. He accidentally shot his wife. Phenomenally stupid. In "Junkie" he writes: "Most addicts look younger than they are." "Perhaps if a junkie could keep himself in a constant state of kicking, he would live to a phenomenal age." Right. A rock musician's dream: eternal life thru drug abuse.

Having lived in Baltimore City for 18 yrs as an adult, a city where something like 10% of the population are drug addicts, 60,000 drug addicts; having been surrounded by drug addiction amongst my friends, having shot heroin myself, I can safely say that shooting heroin is a VERY BAD IDEA. It's, simply speaking, an enslaving tool & little else. The people who sell it, esp at the higher levels of course, want to enslave the user plain & simple. Heroin & Crack are the ultimate control & fund-raising tools of governments. Need to fund a secret war? Addict a population. Want to suppress a potential uprising? Use heroin as chemical warfare. Burroughs' romanticization of heroin use was all well & good for him - he came from a wealthy family & lived off a trust fund. He didn't have to resort to the most desperate tactics to support his habit. There was always the check from Mummy & Daddy to take care of it for him. &, later, the publishers.

& Burroughs understood some of this. Lardy knows he wrote about CONTROL as a main subject. But his son tried to emulate his drug reportage & died fairly young as a result. Burroughs was one of the greatest explorers of human consciousness to ever live & survive & write about it. I have the utmost respect for him. But before anyone follows in his footsteps they shd realize that he was a fool too. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burroughs, William S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ginsberg, AllenIntroductionmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lendínez, MartínTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roca, FrancescTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stuart, NeilCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waskowsky, RiekusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yli-Juonikas, JaakkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
My first experience with junk was during the War, about 1944 or 1945.
I was born in 1914 in a solid, three-story, brick house in a large Midwest city. (Prologue)
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Originally published as Junkie under the name William Lee.
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Blurbers
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Junk is not, like alcohol or a weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life. In his debut novel, Junky, Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others. For this definitive edition, renowned Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris has gone back to archival typescripts to re-created the author's original text word by word. From the tenements of New York to the queer bars of New Orleans, Junky takes the reader into a world at once long-forgotten and still with us today. Burroughs's first novel is a cult classic and a critical part of his oeuvre.

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