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Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,033 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
With the publication of Naked Lunch in 1959, William Burroughs abruptly brought international letters into the postmodern age. Beginning with his very early writing (including a chapter from his and Jack Kerouac's never-before-seen collaborative novel), Word Virus follows the arc of Burroughs's remarkable career, from his darkly hilarious "routines" to the experimental cut ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published June 22nd 2000 by Grove Press (first published 1998)
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Sloane King- Owen
Jul 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm as pretentious as the next gal willing to admit it, but I can only go so far. This I will say without hesitation: the beatpoets can suck all of my dicks. Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs.
Oh, so tortured and free of responsibility! But you were not, William. You opted out in lieu of an endless search for.... Semi-lucid science fiction? If I wanted gritty, I'd suck Hubert Selby Jr.'s dick. Even then, I acknowledge the fantastical element.
I cannot with you, Sir.
I'm not stupid and missing the
John Wright
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This Reader serves as a great introduction to Burroughs' work, and I've found my way from here into several of his novels. My critique of the anthology is this: by focusing on completion--in other words, representing every work he published--the editors rarely give you enough of any particular text to really get a feel for it. I don't know that this is a failing, but it's an observation. Maybe the nature of an anthology like this is just to wet your appetite so that you pick up the corresponding ...more
Sep 22, 2007 added it
Shelves: 1974-2002
Great cover; but it's a distillation of The Maestro's works through the fingers of his editor, James Grauerholz.

If you can find the edition with the CD, go for it...otherwise, keep in mind that Library of America is working on a Burroughs collection.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very well put together reader 5/5.

But I can't over look or escape Burroughs celebration of colonial racism, sex tourism, total misogyny, paedophilia, & the fact he literally shot his wife in the face. His total lack empathy for anyone other than his fellow middle class WASPs is obscene.
George-Icaros Babassakis
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WSB / Excellent !
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is a great over-arching anthology. Which is a bit problematic if you are familiar with the catalog or intend to tackle the pieces individually: the familiar bits are repetitive, the unfamiliar ones are disjointed and feel like you are spoiling the original piece by only getting excerpts that are lacking in context (but that experience is consistent with the bulk of WSB's writing anyway).

As usual, I prefer the more autobiographical of his writings, particularly the excerpts from Junky and Que
Mark Holden
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
A good reader that manages to explain some of what you're reading by giving you some well written background of the man behind the virus. Burroughs is my favorite write and probably will remain so until I die. His expansive style and intellect shoot through the pages and into your brain... for me at least, never to be compromised. His thoughts are in the forefront of my world view. I am not a follower, but a grateful fan.
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
you can write a book by walking around the block. this statement by burroughs best encapsulates what the beats were about. their literature was deeply intertangled in flesh and blood, and it just so happens that the corpus of burrous is one goddamned nasty snarl! the political dimension of his work still resounds in various subcultures, and, although it's been really well bastardized by MTV, there's still a guerilla breathing between the pages of this particular tome.
George Ilsley
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A small confession -- I didn't read all of this volume. Some iterations of early work were not that interesting to me, and other excerpts from work which I've already read just made me want to read Cities of the Red Plain, etc again.

Did enjoy the broad sweeping overview of WSB's life work, and the essays by his long time companion / enabler James Grauerholz.
Dec 12, 2008 added it
A comprehensive anthology and overview of Burroughs' work throughout his career. Don't get caught in the rut of so many people who think that Burroughs is nothing but heroin and Moroccan boys. One of his central focii is the nature of mass media and control, and how Powers-That-Be exploit this relationship.Plus he can be funny as hell.
Lydia Gurevich
Sep 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Wonderful compilation of Burroughs' best writing. If you've never read anything by him, start with this book. If you prefer to start with an actual novel, I suggest starting with Junky.
Ebblibs Thekstein
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This has a decent taste of all of the best writing. But you should go to the full texts. This tome is a good refresher course in Burroughs though..the King of cut-up and fold in, and archpriest of beat-hipsterdom..forever
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those looking for an introduction to Burroughs
A good introduction to Burroughs with sections of each of his works. The best part about this book (hard cover) was the CD of Burroughs spoken word in which he reads various selections present in the reader. Hilarious.
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
My personal intro to the drug-addled, homosexual genius. Can you go wrong with such a one? NO!
Bob Olsen
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
A good intro or overview of the master's work with some biographical essays by his editor/companion James Grauerholtz.
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Want a chunk of the impossible in one easily digestible book? Eat this!
Truyen Nguyen
Dec 13, 2008 marked it as to-read
He is strangely intriguing to know.
Jul 15, 2015 added it
Shelves: abandoned
Owen K
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What better way to read the cut-up king than a lovingly-compiled grab-bag?...
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
Awesome compendium.....great intros to each section...must read for WSB fanatics.
James Lavender
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
punching a hole in the big lie
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
a must
Mike Zone
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
excellent sampling of Burrough's work with informative biographical information on this unique specimen of American letters.
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
For the William S. Burroughs fan, or for the beginner. Selected prose pieces by the man.
Brian James
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Aug 05, 2014
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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...
“For him, conscious intent was a form of prediction, and prediction is only possible when the status quo has reason to assume it will meet no significant opposition.” 1 likes
“Nothing is true—Everything is permitted—” 1 likes
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