One of the last links to the beat generation has been broken.
William S. Burroughs, author of Naked
Lunch and Junkie died Saturday at age 83 after
suffering a heart attack.
The son of a successful St. Louis businessman, Burroughs
graduated from Harvard University in 1938 and eventually made his
way to New York City where he befriended a circle of drifters and
students that included Allen Ginsberg, Jack
Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Burroughs,
first immortalized as Old Bull Lee in Kerouac’s On the
Road, moved to Texas with his wife, Joan, in 1946.
After accidentally shooting and killing his wife in a
drug-addled stage, Burroughs penned Junkie, then
disappeared to Tangier, Morocco where he wrote Naked
Lunch. Originally published in 1959, but banned in the United
States until 1962, Naked Lunch, with its offbeat monikers
and cut-up aesthetic, has since become a primary inspiration for
later literary and musical movements such as cyberpunk, punk rock
Burroughs bounced around for the next two decades, battling
heroin addiction and publishing sporadically. He briefly found a
home back in New York City during the punk era of the late ’70s. In
1981, Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kan., where he lived out the
rest of his life.
By now a cultural icon, Burroughs appeared in a number of films,
including the award-winning Drugstore Cowboy and the big
screen version of Naked Lunch. He produced several
spoken-word albums, collaborated with popular musicians including
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and the late
Burroughs’ only son, William, died in 1981.