Phillip's Reviews > The Western Lands

The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs
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's review
Jan 27, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature, my-visionaries, favorites-among-favorites

William S. Burroughs is one of my visionary writers. That means I believe he did something like what the prophets did at one time. They saw and wrote things that were not entirely comprehensible, but those writings reveal things about life and were usually a critique of society. Other writers I consider to be in this category are Plato, William Blake, John Milton, Arthur Schopenhauer, Henry David Thoreau, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Philip K. Dick.

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If you are going to read only one book by William S. Burroughs I would recommend that it be either "Naked Lunch" or "The Western Lands". Actually, I recommend adults to read both. "Naked Lunch" is the book that Burroughs is remembered for. It captures the author in his prime. However, it is a vulgar book that will be justifiably offensive to many people. Still, I believe it and the rest of William S. Burroughs' work to be literature and worth reading.

"The Western Lands" is Burroughs at the end of his career as a writer. He did write a famous book a long time ago and he was living in Kansas, not a railroad car, when he wrote the book. "The Western Lands" will give the reader a taste of Burroughs without having to endure unrestrained vulgarity and offensive scenes. That is not to say the book is devoid of vulgarity and patently inoffensive. It is still Burroughs, and worth reading, but it is a kinder, gentler Burroughs.

When I read the description of the journey of the 7 souls I thought, 'huh?' and chalked it up to being another of those incomprehensible things that I read that someone else believed.

Lately, I have been reading Arthur Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation". The book claims the human soul has a minimum of two parts, 1. The intellect and 2. self-knowledge, and maybe there are more. We also have The Will separate from the soul. That makes at least 3 parts to what we think of as our immaterial selves or our souls.

Reading Schopenhauer's long work makes the multi-part soul imaginable if not plausible. I still think, 'huh?' But I am not nearly so dismissive as I was. Schopenhauer gives me a renewed appreciation of the much shorter idea described in Burroughs' "The Western Lands".

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