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Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of 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)
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.
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