Stephen Bird's Reviews > The Letters, Vol. 1: 1945-1959

The Letters, Vol. 1 by William S. Burroughs
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Jul 26, 10

Read from March 21 to May 11, 2010

This book, like "Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of Williams S. Burroughs" (by Ted Morgan)--which I read shortly after "The Letters"--was inspiring, enlightening, and often disturbing (as would be expected with Burroughs). These letters are often businesslike--IE Allen Ginsberg was Burroughs' agent in the 50's and was responsible for the publishing of "Junky" in 1953. I'd recommend reading "The Letters" after "Literary Outlaw", as "Literary Outlaw" provides a detailed context for these letters. In "The Letters" I felt a genuine shift once Burroughs started working on what would eventually become "Naked Lunch" in Tangier. During that period, the quality of the letters (the majority are written to Allen Ginsberg, some to Jack Kerouac, as well as sporadic communications with other members of Burroughs' international community) becomes more focused, forceful and driven. Nonetheless, in this body of work, the emotional state of Burroughs remains elusive and mysterious. I believe this collection of letters would be very helpful to anyone pursuing the path of avant-garde writer. Burroughs was not interested in creating compromised or "saleable" work, and while he was tormented by this aspect of his profession, in the end he did exactly what he wanted to do and became influential in the process.
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