Thursday, August 9, 2018

Curation #108 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Junky by William S. Burroughs

Item #108 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 2003 Penguin Books 13th printing of Junky by William S. Burroughs. 166 pages, it measures about 5" x 7-5/8" and is in very good condition. The provenance is uncertain.

This is the "50th Anniversary Definitive Edition," featuring a 25-page introduction by Oliver Harris and seven Appendices that include Chapter 28 from the original manuscript, a helpful glossary, and other relevant pieces such as letters and previous editions' forewords or introductions. Junky was Burroughs' first published novel -- it's a semi-autobiographical account of life as a narcotics addict and homosexual in mid-20th century New York City, New Orleans, and Mexico City. Editor Harris painstakingly recreated Burroughs' original text from archival transcripts (making it the "definitive" text of a book that appeared in 1953 under the original title, Junk, authored under Burroughs' pseudonym, William Dennison).

This is a gritty, dark read, but as Burroughs novels go, it is eminently readable. He takes the reader with him into the world of the opioid addict in a way that is heart-wrenching -- and sometimes stomach-turning -- but always compelling. I know I trashed on Burroughs' The Wild Boys yesterday, but I recommend Junky if you are looking for something to read by this towering Beat Generation figure.

Below is a picture of Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (2nd from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.

Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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