Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beat writer William S. Burroughs died this date

We lost a beat legend on this date in 1997 when William S. Burroughs died at the age of 83 of a heart attack in Lawrence, Kansas. Read his obit from the NY Times by clicking here.

If you haven't yet seen the excellent Burroughs documentary, A Man Within, today is a perfect reminder to do so. I just watched it the other day and was quite impressed.

I haven't read much Burroughs, mostly excerpts here and there, but I did recently read Junkie, and found it engaging. And not a little bit depressing.

I note how Burroughs described his wife's death (at his own hand during a game of William Tell) as the catalyst for his writing. He said it
brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice but to write my way out.

Not having a choice but to write. It strikes me that Kerouac felt the same way, albeit from an early age, as he said, "Always considered writing my duty on earth."

Burroughs outlived Kerouac by many years (as did Ginsberg), and influenced a whole generation of counterculture musicians and writers.

For me, one of the most interesting bits of trivia about Burroughs is that he may have been the person who first identified the 23 enigma, which I blogged about on December 18, 2008.

Billy, we miss ya.

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