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3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  42,856 Ratings  ·  1,183 Reviews
Before his 1959 breakthrough, Naked Lunch, an unknown William S. Burroughs wrote Junky, his first novel. It is a candid eye-witness account of times and places that are now long gone, an unvarnished field report from the American post-war underground. Unafraid to portray himself in 1953 as a confirmed member of two socially-despised under classes (a narcotics addict and a ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Definitive Edition, 208 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Penguin (first published 1953)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 15, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”Morphine hits the backs of the legs first, then the back of the neck, a spreading wave of relaxation slackening the muscles away from the bones so that you seem to float without outlines, like lying in warm salt water. As this relaxing wave spread through my tissues, I experienced a strong feeling of fear. I had the feeling that some horrible image was just beyond the field of vision, moving as I turned my head, so that I never quite saw it. I felt nauseous; I lay down and closed my eyes. A ser ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Sep 14, 2012 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it it was amazing
Well holy shit, high-five to you, early teens me! Though I may have mixed feelings about some things I loved back in my formative, pointlessly cynical years, this rereading experience was actually, well, kinda rad. Can I say that at almost 30? Rad? Or am I getting to where it's like when your folks n' grandfolks try to quote "the hip lingo of the kids these days" and it enters your brain like aural chipboard? This novel held up, is my point.

Maybe I'm just an asshole (probable), but Burroughs ma
Jul 28, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1001 readers and people who'd rather read than get high
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list and a long standing literary pedigree of greatness
Mmm mmm drugs. Yummy. Like adult smarties with extra kick and an added naughty factor.
Ok, that is not strictly true but you have to admit that sometimes it is difficult to pick your way through the troubled and varied history of drugs culture in literature. Drugs good? Drugs bad? Drugs indifferent? You're cool. Or not cool. Or an addict or a victim. See? Confusing.

Lets look back through the literature - Coleridge, De Quincey, Kerouac, Thompson and the production of wondrous drugs madness such a
Nov 01, 2016 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, biography
Junky is the semi-autobigraphical account of William Burroughs, Bill Lee in the book. It covers his time from the late 1940's to the early 1950's during his time of heroin addiction and his many attempts to kick the habit.

Burroughs unintentionally shows both sides of drug addiction. He paints a fairly positive view, stating the friendships and knowledge gained were due to his dependence. Several times he claims he was better off on the 'junk' than he was when he quit. The book reads like a typic
Dec 11, 2007 Cheryl rated it it was ok
I think I prefer looking at this text in its original light: a sensationalized, dime-store paperback about junkies. I just can't take this type of work too seriously. I've met so many people who hail Burroughs as genius and I have yet to find out why. While he offers a grisly account of opiate addiction, it's hard for me to say that Junky is an important piece of literature. It spawned many copy cat memoirs and was influential to the genre of confessional fiction, which I find to be overrated.
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
I read this while in rehab so as you can imagine it held a very special place in my heart. This is a crazy, self- indulgent, occasionally offensive defence of the junkie lifestyle. The author never really managed to break free from his addiction and despite his hatred for all things government and society died dependent on govt. administered methadone. It's unapologetic. It's hilarious. And when you finish the book you can't help but be struck by the tragedy of addiction despite the crazy ride y ...more
Kelly B
Jul 27, 2008 Kelly B rated it it was amazing
It's William S. Burroughs, dude. Made me wanna do heroin to get a grasp of what he was going through though. But to really understand his plight I would have to become a junky, which you really gotta put effort into, and I don't really wanna be a junky, because once you are you are for life. Read it, he'll tell you. Or read a bio on him or any other heroin addict. You can do it once and be okay but once you're a junky you can go 20 years without and then do it once and you're hooked or sick all ...more
Feb 09, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing
This could be the best anti-drug book ever written. It is certainly the odd-boy out in the Burroughs family of novels.

This is not the William S. Burroughs of The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (Burroughs, William S.) and certainly not the same guy who wrote Naked Lunch: The Restored Text. This is a Burroughs who's not talking to himself or talking to his admirers. Instead this an author who is stretching to reach the reader with the actual smelly, lonely, desperate, empty reality of the junky.

Lavinia Zamfir
I've wanted to read this book several years ago, but it wasn't translated into my language and I couldn't find it in any English bookstores. Somehow, I managed to randomly find an English copy this year and so I have finnaly bought it. I think I would've given it more than 3 stars (actually, 3.5 - I want to give this book 4 stars so badly, but something doesn't let me do so. I think 3 stars is too low and 4 stars too high. My rating would honestly be 3.5 stars.) if I had read it last year. I was ...more
Dec 15, 2008 Clare added it
I found a copy of Junky in the trash outside my apartment. Penguin edition, with an introduction by Allen Ginsberg I can't remember. Its previous owner had written HEROIN!!! in red bubble letters on the inside cover, and drawn several stars around the word. Seemed promising, so I read on (I can say this is the only William S. Burroughs book I have ever finished). The book moves chronologically, and you sort of follow along. You know, I would like to think if I had been a junky, I would've come o ...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 04, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 101 Books For Men, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, guy-lit
This is a semi-autobiographical novel by William Burroughs (1914-1997) covering an 8-year period when he became a heroin addict. Mr. Burroughs is a "beatnik" writer. The Beat Generation is that group of American writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, and the cultural phenomena that they wrote about and inspired (later sometimes called "beatniks"). Central elements of "Beat" culture include a rejection of materialism, experimentation with drugs and alternate forms of sexuality, and an inter ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 26, 2011 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
The life of a heroin addict
30 July 2011

When I first bought this book I thought it was written by the same guy that wrote Tarzan (yes they have the same last name, but that is about it). It turns out that it wasn't, and Burroughs was not a fiction writer, but rather, as the introduction to the version that I read, the father of the beat generation. However, one does wonder how he ended up becoming a writer because from reading this book one wonders how he ever actually amounted to anything.
Greg Brozeit
Dec 24, 2013 Greg Brozeit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Junky as a college student was a revelation: it was the first time I felt I heard an author’s authentic voice. Burroughs’s clipped sentences, his directness, his matter-of-fact statements about what things were really like, his view of a world I didn’t know about began a life-long fascination. It’s easy to dismiss Junky because of it’s subject matter of heroin addiction; that it’s just a fad or something young adults might think is cool. But he does it with such artistic depth. Even the ...more
Technically, I didn't "read" this, I listened to it, as read by the man himself. The reading of the full text is up on Youtube: (Junkie) and I had some repetitive formatting work to do, so...

Interesting for any number of reasons: as a detailed examination of a place and time and social class as recorded by a sharp observer directly involved with that class; as a blunt record of the culture around that class, both social, legal and moral; as an early example of the dry, "disinterested", direct an
Apr 19, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-novels
Burroughs does not pull any punches in this, his first novel. It is a plain account of the life of a junkie based on his own life. Burroughs describes his experience in a very matter of fact way; the many lows and very few highs. The descriptions of coming off heroin are horrific. It is still difficult to read, but describes a way of life and a downward spiral. The glossary at the end was very necessary for me.
Burroughs illustartes how much junk dominates your life when you are an addict and the
After reading this, Trainspotting, and Requiem for a Dream, have decided that injecting heroin is unambiguously awful. (Text is unequivocal that junk is “the worst thing that can happen to a man” (8).)

Non-fictive outworks proclaims that it takes “at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all […] no exaggeration to say it takes about a year and several hundred injections to make an addict” (xv).

Addiction rewrites the corporeal constitution: “when you stop growing you start
May 05, 2008 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: small-time suckaz
Recommended to Chris by: the voices that beg for the needle, maaaaan
Junkies suck. This may not be ‘breaking news’ to some, but I just had to get that off my chest. Also, the undeniable fact that junkies suck is going to come into play a lot here, so I would guess that if you’re sympathetic to the plight of the many nimrods currently haunted by the specter of addiction, you’re probably not going to give much of a shit about what I have to say. Later. Piss off.

We haven’t purged all the scourge yet. The ‘beat’ movement sucks too. Oh, you think because a handful of

It's very dry. I felt the whole thing was a list of prices and complaints that noone was paying. At the same time, the dryness of it had this normalizing effect that would wear off every 20 or 30 pages. My awareness of the horror of it would thus come in and out. Likewise, the introduction could have been a more-interesting substitute for reading the whole book--I felt like whatever interest the novel had was condensed into those 25 pages. So from then on it was hearing those same things a secon
Sep 14, 2015 Lydia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many years ago and really enjoyed it.

Of all Burrough's works, I think it's most accessible. I haven't read too much of his other work, so it's hard to know what to compare it to. I liked the atmosphere that the book created, I liked how detailed his writing was, I liked how it felt personal, but also removed at the same time.

I liked that this book was written in the 50's, and I felt that its semi-autobiographical nature really added to the honesty of the overall piece. Some peo
Steven  Godin
A honest,truthful and personal account of the constant struggle with drug addition, set in 40's new york,new orleans and mexico city it was tough going but not as hard hitting as I thought it would be.Not knowing much about this subject I did find it rather interesting and you reallv do feel the desperation of trying to come of junk only to fall prey to it once again, but its difficult to feel much sympathy as this hell hole of a life was chosen and not forced upon and it leaves you in the end w ...more
Jun 05, 2017 Jim rated it it was amazing
Junky takes as its subject the world of narcotics as they were used by author William S. Burroughs. The book is incredibly precise in its description of Burroughs's addiction to morphine, heroine, cocaine (or M, H, and C as he occasionally calls them), and related substances.

Detailed are several unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of his habit(s), as well as how he managed to get his hands on the narcotics in the first place, and the acts of theft he engaged in to get the money to pay for them.
Dec 10, 2016 Nicola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Junky is non-fiction turned into very thinly covered fiction; an absorbing read but not for the faint hearted. It isn't written in the weird and wonderful style of Naked Lunch so there is nothing getting in between the reader and the cold hard facts about an addicts life. Everything is laid out in clear prose, the narrator a little removed, rather detached, relaying everything in an almost clinical manner. Drugs, Addiction, Pushers, Crime: you can imagine how difficult it was to get published. A ...more
Aug 02, 2007 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misfits, trouble-makers, aspiring journalists, aspiring writers, addicts of all types
Perhaps to my shame as a reader, I'd never come into contact with any of Burroughs' works, with the exception that I'd occasionally catch random bits of the film Naked Lunch on the pay stations at friends' houses. At that time (circa 1996), I was far more interested in authors like Steinbeck and Hemmingway rather than fantastic tales of hallucinatory madness-I was still in the land of Cannery Row and Cuban fishermen and ill-prepared for beetle-typewriters, talking radiators and opiate-leaking ph ...more
Misericordia ❣
Nov 10, 2015 Misericordia ❣ rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik Graff
Nov 06, 2010 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Burroughs fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
Other than smoking some in high school and reading some books taking either a sociological or pharmacological approach to the subject, I've never had much exposure to the heroin habit. The pleasure it afforded during a week of adolescent experimentation wasn't captivating and although I've been acquainted with some habitual users, I've never been intimate with one, never lived with one. This semi-autobiographical account is the closest I've ever gotten to how it might feel to be a person with th ...more
Guy Portman
Jan 19, 2013 Guy Portman rated it really liked it
Set in 1950s America and Mexico, Junky is a confessional novella about drug addiction. Its protagonist Bill Lee chronicles his drug-centred existence, which entails searching for his daily fix, scoring, and intravenous drug consumption. The population of this seedy underworld have a variety of roles including that of pusher, pigeon and lush.

Lee’s cycle of addiction sees him go cold turkey in various rehabilitation centres, only to return once again to opiate addiction. During his periods of remi
Eric Hendrixson
Jun 26, 2011 Eric Hendrixson rated it really liked it
There is a sense of numbness throughout the book, which makes sense for a book about opiates. Burrough's take on the beginnings of the War on Drugs is interesting, but I don't think his life will ever be a convincing argument for legalization.

The most shocking moment for me in the book was when, three quarters of the way through the book, he mentions his wife taking the children out of town for a day. Apparently, they've been there the whole time and Burroughs never bothered to mention them befo
Apr 18, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have to say, I was disappointed with this book.

I know a lot of people love William Burroughs and his writing, but this is the third book that I have read by him, and I honestly can't get into him.
The writing style was extremely straightforward which was definitely a relief (I had a bad experience attempting to read 'Naked Lunch' a few years ago...), and the book was very informative on the subject of Heroin and the lifestyle of users. However, to put it simply, I found this book incredibly bla
Lee Kofman
Jan 10, 2015 Lee Kofman rated it did not like it
Okay, I can see the artistic merit in this novel. Burroughs's prose is lean, cool and convincingly realistic. He’s good with (mostly brief, introductory) characterization and telling of anecdotes. He knows his material, the drugs that is. And yet, there was absolutely nothing that held my attention as I kept reading the book. This novel was completely focused on drugs – the quest for them, the dealing, the administering – and in a tediously technical way. There are absolutely no digressions. In ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Mark added it
Well I had this great job and was getting in my car to go it, and my boss was calling my cell phone so I answered and said "hold on I'll be there in a second." But it was my bosses wife and she said he's been arrested, he's gone to jail, the job is canceled. So I said oh shit! So then I called my friend North of San Francisco and asked him for a job in his tree service, cutting down trees and grinding up stumps in the chipper---he said come on up! So I did...I stayed a week and a half and choppe ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Junky by Wiliam S. Burroughs 2 9 May 18, 2015 12:45PM  
  • Go
  • The Portable Beat Reader
  • Big Sur
  • Selected Essays from: How to be Alone
  • Kaddish and Other Poems
  • Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs
  • Water from the Sun and Discovering Japan
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn
  • William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle, Brion Gysin
  • Slaves of New York
  • The Basketball Diaries
  • Dead Babies
  • And the Ass Saw the Angel
  • Kiss Me, Judas
William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century ...more
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“The question is frequently asked: Why does a man become a drug addict?
The answer is that he usually does not intend to become an addict. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to be a drug addict. It takes at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all. And you don’t really know what junk sickness is until you have had several habits. It took me almost six months to get my first habit, and then the withdrawal symptoms were mild. I think it no exaggeration to say it takes about a year and several hundred injections to make an addict.
The questions, of course, could be asked: Why did you ever try narcotics? Why did you continue using it long enough to become an addict? You become a narcotics addict because you do not have strong motivations in the other direction. Junk wins by default. I tried it as a matter of curiosity. I drifted along taking shots when I could score. I ended up hooked. Most addicts I have talked to report a similar experience. They did not start using drugs for any reason they can remember. They just drifted along until they got hooked. If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict. (Junky, Prologue, p. xxxviii)”
“When you stop growing you start dying.” 329 likes
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