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Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of…

Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs

by Graham Caveney

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I've only read one book by Burroughs and that was Nova Express. I thought it was 80% indecipherable and 20% brilliant. It wasn't a fun read, but I like the idea of people being experimental, trying new things, pushing the envelope, etc... so I never thought of it as just trash. I found this book "about" Burroughs much more interesting and it's kind of ironic because that seemed to be what the author was saying. Burroughs was an author, but more importantly he was Burroughs, or at least he created a "Burroughs" that was extremely appealing to many people. I guess my biggest problem with him is that as a father he was a piece of shit. Being a father myself, I have a hard time respecting anyone who takes the job lightly. Also I have no respect for drug addicts of any kind. I have empathy for their plight, but refuse to glorify their life-destroying choices.

I did appreciate that while the author spoke in an artsy/intellectual jargon I often understood what he was saying. One bad thing was that the art in the background made it hard to read sometimes, and it's really a shame that the last words of the book were printed over a black so dark that you can't read them at all, even with a magnifying glass and bright light. Anyone happen to know those last words? (before the epilogue) ( )
  ragwaine | Feb 10, 2017 |
Hated the layout/design and hated the shallow romanticization of Burroughs as drug addict. Good information can be found in there in spite of that. ( )
  nervenet | May 29, 2007 |
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To the memory of my father, John Caveney, a man who always hinted at other possibilities.
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This book should not be confused with the Harlan Ellison book of a similar title.

The author of this book is Graham Caveney, not William S. Burroughs.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316137251, Hardcover)

There have been several solid conventional biographies of William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), and this imaginative consideration of his "life and legacy" does not seek to replace them. Instead, British scholar Graham Caveney concentrates on Burroughs as a cultural phenomenon whose unsettling ability to depict personal degradation with modernist detachment first awed contemporaries in the beat generation and continued through the 1990s to inspire artists as diverse as grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, painter Keith Haring, and film director David Cronenberg. Even before Naked Lunch became a literary and legal cause célèbre--the book was ultimately judged not obscene in a landmark 1966 court decision--Burroughs was a legend in avant-garde circles for his epic drug use, unabashed homosexuality, and adventurous prose. In later years he became an elder statesman of the counterculture, an icon of excesses survived, revered for his unflinching portraits of the existential abyss. Caveney astutely examines the appeal for Americans of this complex figure whose highly experimental work had more in common with that of such Europeans as Jean Genet than with pals like Allen Ginsberg. The book's design reflects its genre-bending aspirations: Caveney's text jostles against reproductions of photos, newspaper clippings, and other documents, all of it laid out on pages colored red, orange, yellow, and blue. Words, images, and colors form an inventive whole that pays fitting tribute to a man who lived entirely by his own rules. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:28 -0400)

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With Gentleman Junkie, Graham Caveney gives us the definitive life of William S. Burroughs - less a biography than a "chronology of the Burroughs phenomenon," an examination of the myth behind the man. Filled with 150 color photos - many of them never seen before - and new biographical material, Gentleman Junkie shows how Burroughs's fascinating life, from Harvard to Greenwich Village to Tangiers, was matched only by his enormous impact on modern literature and pop culture. Dapper radical, literary experimentalist, and mentor to countless artists, Burroughs had an indelible influence on American life in the twentieth century.… (more)

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