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Call Me Burroughs: A Lifeby Barry Miles
Synopses & Reviews
Fifty years ago, Norman Mailer asserted, "William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." Few since have taken such literary risks, developed such individual political or spiritual ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media. Burroughs wrote novels, memoirs, technical manuals, and poetry. He painted, made collages, took thousands of photographs, produced hundreds of hours of experimental recordings, acted in movies, and recorded more CDs than most rock bands. Burroughs was the original cult figure of the Beat Movement, and with the publication of his novel Naked Lunch, which was originally banned for obscenity, he became a guru to the 60s youth counterculture. In Call Me Burroughs, biographer and Beat historian Barry Miles presents the first full-length biography of Burroughs to be published in a quarter century — and the first one to chronicle the last decade of Burroughs's life and examine his long-term cultural legacy.
Written with the full support of the Burroughs estate and drawing from countless interviews with figures like Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and Burroughs himself, Call Me Burroughs is a rigorously researched biography that finally gets to the heart of its notoriously mercurial subject.
"The pioneering American countercultural writer and artist William Burroughs emerges as his own greatest character in this raucous biography. Biographer and Burroughs editor Miles (Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats) pens a dense, detailed, yet wonderfully readable and entertaining narrative that illuminates, without sensationalizing, Burroughs's manifold peculiarities: his avid sexual interest in teenaged boys; his use of hashish, hallucinogens, and heroin; his petty crimes and drug-dealing; his love of casual gunplay (he fatally shot his wife during a game of William Tell); his obsession with other-worldly phenomena, from Scientology, to UFO abductions, to his own theories of giant intergalactic insects that control everything; his hair-trigger psychodramas with intimates and complete strangers; his embrace of every experience, especially those that appalled and disgusted him; the fastidious manners and banker's wardrobe that made his anti-social provocations seem even more subversive. Miles's exhaustively researched account draws on the writer's blunt, self-revealing private writings along with reminiscences from Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and other associates to flesh out Burroughs's personality, surroundings, and equally colorful circle of acquaintances, who were forever doing interesting things like getting mauled by lions. Miles just puts it all on paper with aplomb and deadpan wit, showing how the gross-out surrealism of Burroughs's fiction flowed from the lurid creativity of everyday life. Agent: James Macdonald Lockhart, the Antony Harwood Agency (U.K.)." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Call Me Burroughs is riddled with...weird anecdotes laced with gallows humor, bizarre coincidences and profane punch lines. It's a massive undertaking made complicated by Burroughs' peripatetic lifestyle and rampant drug use. To say he was a difficult man to pin down is understatement, but Miles is up to the task." LA Times
"One long, strange, profoundly American literary life. Burroughs's work has had a profound if often oblique influence on the writing of his century and this one. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to read Barry Miles's biography without being thoroughly familiar with the outline of the narrative. Truly, stranger than fiction." William Gibson
"Call Me Burroughs is the most intimate portrait to date of one of the twentieth century's most complicated, troubled, and influential figures. Miles's deep knowledge of the man and the work also provides a cultural history of the scene in Tangiers in the 1950s, the Beat era, and the emerging Punk scene in New York in the 1980s. It is a compelling biography and social history unlike any other." Ira Silverberg, co-editor of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader
"Call Me Burroughs is full of energy and surprise and is a delight to read. Barry Miles combines his intimate knowledge of Burroughs with the meticulous research of Burroughs's companion James Grauerholz, to produce an extremely accurate, readable, and entertaining biography of one of the most inventive writers of the twentieth century. Reading this extraordinary book is like hanging around with Burroughs himself and is impossible to forget." Bill Morgan, author of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg and The Typewriter Is Holy
"By any standard Burroughs's was an unusual life, full of scandal, subversion, and sensitivity hidden behind a cold blue gaze. Miles enriches this 'life of an artist' with decades of dedicated immersion in the work both published and unpublished, digging deep into archival material and manuscripts, incorporating journals of friends and acquaintances. With great authority and verve, he brings up to date the legacy of a true American original who grows, even years after his death, in fascination." Regina Weinreich, author of Kerouac's Spontaneous Poetics and editor of Kerouac's Book of Haikus
About the Author
Barry Miles is the author of many seminal books on popular culture, including the authorized biography of Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now; Ginsberg: A Biography; William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible; Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats; and The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1957-1963. He also co-edited the Revised Text Edition of Naked Lunch. Miles was born in Cirencester, England.
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