K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Junky

Junky by William S. Burroughs
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May 04, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: 1001-core, guy-lit
Recommended to K.D. by: 101 Books For Men, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Read from May 31 to June 02, 2010 — I own a copy , read count: 1

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 interest in Eastern religion. Aside from Mr. Burroughs the other prominent member of this group was his friend Jack Kerouac and soon joined by others like Michael McClure, Hubert Selby, Jr., Richard Brautigan, Ken Kesey, etc. (I chose them among the many others enumerated by Wiki because I have their books in my to-be-read list). Writing reviews makes me remember what I learned and also for easy reference when I want to go back and know what a certain book is all about).

This book is also my 3rd book listed in the Bloombury's 101 Books for Men. The first two I read so far were: J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and James Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. Just like those two, Junky does not offend male sensitivity: there is no big confrontation scene, no crying male character. Emotion also runs high but it will not make you want to cry. What Junky has is just a story of how Mr. Burroughs got hooked in drugs despite being a Harvard graduate and growing up in a normal environment. The plot is not as thick as Roxana Robinson's Cost, the first novel I read - only last month - about heroin addition but Junky is definitely more believable what with the actual places named, the vivid and detailed descriptions of the attack, kick and how drug pushers operate. It also has a glossary for "jive talk" that gave more credibility to the book. This glossary contains all the drug addicts' lingo. Going through them is fascinating as we still use some of them 57 years after this novel was first published in 1953.

This month, I will be concentrating on reading the books - those I already have - included in the 101 Books for Men. After reading the first two early this year, I was kind of expecting that these books were written by "real" or straight men. To my surprise, Mr. Burroughs is a fag (an entry in the jive talk glossary) and there are scenes in the book when he slept with boys. However, unlike in James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Mr. Burroughs did not describe those sex scenes in details. Anyway, fags are also men. No offense meant.

I could have given this a 4 star if I could easily relate to it. As it is, I do not find any personal meaning to what Mr. Burroughs experienced. I have not seen opium or its derivatives (heroin, cocaine, or even the morphine capsules that my father had on the last couple of days before he died of brain tumor in 1997). I had no history whatsoever of drug addiction and I do not plan of having one. The nearest one I had was when I got sick one time when I was in my late teenage years and I drunk a whole bottle of cough syrup. I was working in a pharmaceutical company, I was tired of putting the syrup on a tablespoon first and I wanted to get well sooner. Before I drank the whole bottle, I even asked myself: "drug users say that this (cough syrup) can make them high, I wonder what being high feels like?" What the hell, I drank 120ml cough syrup straight up. It made me dizzy so I closed my eyes and slept. I had a good sleep, woke up expecting myself to be a drug addict already but I realized it was just another day.

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06/01/2010 page 45

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