Today is the anniversary of William S. Burroughs’ 100th birthday.
Here are seven interesting things to know about the beatnik rebel, from an excellent essay by Peter Schjeldahl in last week’s issue of The New Yorker.
Schjeldahl reviews the new biography Call Me Burroughs, by one of my favorite writers, Barry Miles, who has written books on The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Jam, Jack Kerouac, and Frank Zappa.
- Burroughs and I both grew up in St. Louis, so that’s an automatic point for awesomeness. He played alongside the “polluted River des Peres.”
- His most famous book, Naked Lunch, was mostly written in Tangiers with the help of Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and was released in 1959 in Paris was banned in the prudish U.S. until 1962 – and not allowed to be sold in Boston until 1965.
- Ginsberg came up with the title, having misread the phrase “naked lust” in one of Burroughs’ manuscripts.
- Kerouac’s Old Bull Lee character in On the Road was based on Burroughs.
- Burroughs’ anxiety about his homosexuality traces back to when he was four years old and “his nanny forced him to perform oral sex on her boyfriend.”
- Hw was always high on something while writing, and his “hollow voice” greatly influenced J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, and Kathy Acker.
- Burroughs died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 83, living his last 16 years in – oddly – Lawrence, Kansas.