Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ghost of Chance” as Want to Read:
Ghost of Chance
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Ghost of Chance

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  612 ratings  ·  38 reviews
An adventure story set in the jungle of Madagascar, and filled with the obsessions that mark the work of the man whom Norman Mailer once called, "the only American writer possessed by genius", Ghost of Chance reveals an important story about environmental devastation in a way that only Burroughs can tell it. Illustrations by the author.
Hardcover, 59 pages
Published December 31st 1995 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1991)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ghost of Chance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ghost of Chance

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 985)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
No Books
Nel suo Critica della democrazia occidentale , l’antropologo anarchico David Graeber ricorda che le comunità dei pirati atlantici nel XVIII secolo furono per certi versi una formulazione precoce di quelle che oggi ci piace definire, a volte solo formalmente, come democrazie occidentali: “Era lo spazio perfetto per un esperimento interculturale. Di fatto, non c’era a quel tempo in tutto l’Atlantico un terreno più adatto per impiantare nuove istituzioni democratiche” (ed. elèuthera 2012, p. 81). N ...more
Ghost of Chance is a scathing lambastic indictment of the madness of mankind and a dire warning that we are all heading towards our own destruction.

With this in mind, i want you all to know that I'm giving this 5 stars because of the importance of Burroughs' message in this book. If I were to rate it purely on narrative structure, I would probably only give it 3 stars but it's really really important for people to read this.

Everyone is familiar with Burroughs' acidic sardonic sense of humour an
A really short read and a strange one… It’s actually a little bit of everything. A little bit of environmental and ecology issues, a little bit of history with the story of Captain Mission and then the spread of disease by the dead Captain Mission… I enjoyed the new diseases that he mentioned especially the Christ Sickness and the «essay» about Homo Sap that «with his weapons, his insatiable greed, and ignorance so hideous it can never see its own face».
It’s more of a poem in which Burroughs add
This is a story about a man named Mission who loves his little lemur and will go great lengths to protect him from the big bad world with big bad evil people who will destroy Cap's lemur and everything else by mass consumption and .., I get it, Billy, I do. I love me some pirates and little furry friends and hate when people are unnecessarily cruel. I don't know whether he should've been told to stop the drug use or get into even heavier stuff..?
Burroughs was one of the first writers I ever really loved, and this was the first book of his I ever read. When I was a kid, I didn't think reading was particularly cool, but having bands I liked (Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Throbbing Gristle, Patti Smith) back then name-drop him made me give his stuff a chance and it really turned my head around as far as what words could do. I'm glad this was my first exposure to him as well, as it's one of the easiest of his works to read.

That said, it's not entir
I was somewhat reluctant to read yet-another Burroughs bk given that I've already read so many & that there're so many other writers out there to read.. BUT, it was worth it! Burroughs' incisive, acerbic imagination held my attn once more. The bk's plentifully interspersed w/ black & white repors of paintings wch I reckon must be by Burroughs - since they're not credited otherwise. These are mostly busy energy patterns, semi-abstract-expressionist, probably more than a little influenced ...more
Eric Cartier
Technically his final novel, this is far from Burroughs' best text, although I read it a second time (it's short). The reason for a fan or interested reader to see this is for its black and white reproductions of his abstract paintings (the hardcover was first published by the Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art). Burroughs began knocking out oils in his golden years, and they're remarkable for their structural balance, hypnotic lines and depth (like his best writing: see Naked ...more
Perry Whitford
Jan 03, 2012 Perry Whitford rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Budding Burroughs advocates.
Interesting but undeveloped morality tale of Swift-style nastiness from literary outlaw Burroughs, like a tasty but thin slice of his typical concoction.
Inspired by a French frigate captain turned pirate who founded a utopian society named Libertatia in Madagascar, around 1700, many of the writers usual obsessions get a brief airing, supplemented with idiosyncratic, always didactic footnotes.
A curse leads to diseases both destructive and darkly comic, humanity suffers the vengeance it deserves
Brian Price
With Burroughs' drug-addled style, the narrative of this short novella is sometimes a bit hard to follow. However, the underlying message of man's ruin and species endangerment is an important one. At under 60 pages, this could be considered a short read; nevertheless, it requires your undivided attention.
there are two things that really intrigued me about this book. first was the pirate captain mission who set up a free colony on madagascar with many of the same values that the french and american revolutions would emphasize nearly a century later. second was the mention of a lemur/octopus. what would this creature look like? i'm picturing an octopus with big beautiful lemur eyes, and i like it.
altogether a good book, although a bit too much rambling for me, and also i would say that burroughs f
I can always remember when I was a teenager and I had to drag over chairs to get to the very top of my father's bookshelf to drag down the (then complete) collected works of William S. Burroughs. As a teen full of rage I had a strong stomach and devoured his works, careful not to crack the spines because of my fear of getting caught; now I cannot even pick them up. Still, I think the least-horrifying of his books would be this one. Diseases, lemurs, and the most amazing use of footnotes in all o ...more
Ghost of Chance commences with the story of Captain Mission, a pirate who established a utopian settlement in Madagascar. Mission is obsessed with lemurs and proscribes their killing. An event occurs that devastates Mission, who calls down a curse on all involved.

Burroughs develops this story into a tirade against mankind's devastation of the environment, the stifling effect that religion has had on our sensibilities and the disease-like nature of our civilisation. This novella is one very angry
Andreas Amasalidis
Surrealistisk men lite väl fragmenterad för min smak.
This was the first Burroughs I read, and I loved it. It's a short novella about a pirate captain and lemurs and Burroughs' cranky, yet beautiful, musings on society. There were passages that made me sigh they were so beautiful, and that surprised me because I didn't expect that kind of lyricism from Burroughs. But there's a sublime grotesqueness to the latter passages that seems more in line with what I knew of him. Altogether a brilliant, engaging novella that earned its five stars from me for ...more
Arax Miltiadous
είναι αλήθεια οτι αυτό το τελευταίο βιβλίο του Μπαροουζ θεωρείτε καθαρά "φαντασίας".
παραμένει φυσικά ισχυρό το στίγμα τις απαρέγκλιτης του πνευματικότητας.
λέει ότι ο χρόνος είναι μια ανθρώπινη οδύνη και όχι μια ανθρώπινη επινόηση. πως είναι μια φυλακή.
επίσης λέει οτι κανένας δεν μπορεί να φροντίσει αυτούς τους μελλοθάνατους που αρνούνται πεισμωτικα να φροντίσουν τον εαυτό τους.. να μιλα άραγε για τον εαυτό του?
σίγουρα. \
αξίζει φυσικά να διαβαστεί, μικρο, συμπυκνωμένο, καμία επαφή ομως με τις στι
Steven Wilson
One of my favorite books from Uncle Bill. Comedian Bill Hicks called the human race "a virus with shoes". Burroughs has expanded that thought into an entire novella. Ghost Of Chance is a quick read which is not typical of Burroughs' work (for me anyway). It is thought provoking and the language is incredibly poetic. For those who are new to Bill Burroughs this may be a safe place to start. If you are intrigued by Ghost Of Chance you can explore the more adventurous (drug addled?) side of Burroug ...more
Starts out with a retired pirate captain studying lemurs and fifty pages later mankind is wiped out.

Lots of of interesting ideas and images that just kind of stumble around, pretending to be a story. It sort of all comes together at the end, but I think that's more a happy accident than anything planned by Burroughs. He just happened to stop typing there.

Despite that, it was all fairly entertaining and got me thinking.
Mostly about how a man goes from being a drug addict to obsessing over lemurs
This was my first experience in reading William S. Burroughs, and of course I start with one of his more obscure works. Having read this, I'll definitely have to read his more well-known stuff.

If you are a fan of Mr. Burroughs already and have not read Ghost of Chance, treat yourself to it. It's short - 58 small, lightly typeset pages - and can be read entirely in one relatively quick sitting. And I think it is best read all at once, the better to appreciate the links between each section.
I enjoyed it, especially towards the ending where there were several, quite amusing, things to read. I had a difficult time understanding at first and comprehending what was happening etc. but that might've been because of my unfocused mind. Overall I enjoyed this short read. Burroughs is funny, smart and odd. It was a very weird book, exactly how I like them. Memorable quote: "panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive."
Vladimir Toss
"Народ Лемуров старше, чем Homo Sap, намного старше. Их возраст насчитывает сто шестьдесят миллионов лет, время, когда Мадагаскар отделился от африканского континента. Их способ думать и чувствовать принципиально отличается от нашего, он не ориентирован во времени, они не имеют представления о последовательности и случайности, эти категории для них противоречивы и непонятны."
Лучшая вещь у Берроуза.
Filippo Sottile
In queste densissime pagine Burroughs non risparmia niente e nessuno: i cristianesimi e i capitalismi ne escono fuori malconci. L'operetta, nel suo complesso, è però un peana per la fragilità degli esperimenti libertari, le modalità di espressione sono a volte un po' beat, ma le osservazioni illuminanti e i passaggi lirici si sprecano.
Dec 14, 2011 J rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Excellent. An allegory for environmental destruction, Ghost Of Chance is short and anything but sweet. We get a fairly well focused William with very little of the wild language and concepts I’m used to from Burroughs. It’s like he was a man on a mission. Hard to believe Burroughs passed away fourteen years ago.
Ben Lovegrove
One of Burroughs' last works written when he discovered his love of animals, about the lemurs in Madagascar: “The ears were large, flaring forward, the eyes limpid amber, in which the pupil floated like a glittering jewel, changing color with shifts of the light: obsidian, emerald, ruby, opal, amethyst, diamond.”
Strange rambling sludge, like most of Burroughs's work, but not as interesting. The only part that sticks in my memory was something about strange cave paintings, but even that I'm not sure of anymore.
Slight and heartbreaking. Burroughs was always more sci-fi and futurist than Beat. A late-life work. As such, it tends a bit more toward the nostalgic.
Feb 10, 2011 Geitwn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who is into beats
Ok, I have no words for this. A full frontal attack at religion, modern society and the human factor itself. Absolutely brilliant.
It was my first Burroughs book. Strong thoughts and words. Interesting development of story.
Vance Dubberly
I don't remember what it's about. I just remember it was easy to read and I enjoyed it.
Nov 02, 2007 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: almost anyone
Shelves: the-beats
Creepy and cool. Just like the man himself. Not long but not easy. Enjoy!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Gentleman Junkie: The Life and Legacy of William S. Burroughs
  • Why Write?
  • A Poetics of Postmodernism
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding
  • Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk & Postmodern Science Fiction
  • William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle, Brion Gysin
  • Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America
  • The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia
  • Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop
  • Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs
  • Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds
  • The Jolly Corner
  • Broken Bulbs
  • The Springs of Affection
  • Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction
  • ترابها زعفران
  • Poem Strip
  • Happy birthday, Jack Nicholson
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
More about William S. Burroughs...
Naked Lunch Junky Queer And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks The Soft Machine (The Nova Trilogy #1)

Share This Book

“Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.” 93 likes
“The ears were large, flaring forward, the eyes limpid amber, in which the pupil floated like a glittering jewel, changing color with shifts of the light:  obsidian, emerald, ruby, opal, amethyst, diamond.” 5 likes
More quotes…