An heir to the Burroughs adding machine fortune, Burroughs the novelist hated the despots of Squaresville and the whole world where money makes its fist. This is his greatest book and the template for all the ones that followed. With its fractured account of junkies and assorted urban desperadoes, its fang-baring humor and its sudden excursions into sheer hallucination, it instantly made him the depraved scoutmaster for generations of would-be hipsters. He once said, “My purpose in writing has always been to express human potentials and purposes relevant to the Space Age” — by which he meant addiction and willful extremity, both of which of course have turned out to be virtues in the modern market economy. Like Jean Genet, Burroughs trafficks in the utmost degradations, but he doesn’t go to them looking for unsuspected sources of radiance. He likes them for what they are. His conversations in hell with the Marquis de Sade must be very entertaining.
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