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Saturday, March 16, 2013





Published first in 1953 and a book  - actually all his books - I dipped in and couldn't read at the time I tried to read them just because it was Burroughs. No go. Yesterday and the day before my modem was out so I read Junky non-stop and was electrified.

Did you ever read a writer where you were hit suddenly by "that's exactly the way I think about that, the way I would have said it, the way I would have thought it?" That's me and horrors, I think the way Burroughs does, so no wonder I couldn't read him before. Now he felt like home. 

There is no plot. It is not a linear narrative. Just one event after another. Discontinuous. No drama. Burroughs has no style. What you see and hear is what you get.

Burroughs's writing is pared down, like Hemingway, but no noticeable influence, just the way he speaks, thinks, writes. If you have listened to him on youtube or read his interviews you can conjure up his voice as you begin reading. Everything is seamless. 

He has a dispassionate, indifferently contemptuous, contemptuously indifferent hatred of the law and government from first hand experience. It is cold, factual,correct without a trace of emotional outrage. He has a great amount of factual knowledge about it and about JUNK and the Junk Life. Without a sentence of preaching he reveals to you how our drug laws are for the benefit of those who enforce them and the prisons who confine the offenders.

There is a type of person occasionally seen in these neighborhoods who has connections with junk, though he is neither a user nor a seller. But when you see him the dowser wand twitches. Junk is close. His place of origin is the Near East, probably Egypt.....He is basically obscene beyond any possible vile act or practice. He has the mark of a certain trade or occupation that no longer exists. ...

So this man walks around in the places where he once exercised his obsolete and unthinkable trade. But he is unperturbed. His eyes are black with an insect's unseeing calm. He looks as if he nourishes himself on honey and Levantine syrups that he sucks up through a sort of proboscis.

What is his lost trade? Definitely of a servant class and something to do with the dead, though he is not an embalmer. Perhaps he stores something in his body - a substance to prolong life - of which he is periodically milked by his masters. He is specialized as an insect, for the performance of some inconceivably vile function. (112)

This is Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep, the monstrous Cthulhu is stirring and one of Burroughs factually reported dreams of weeds growing through the pavement of New York City has the power to create terror in your bones, for both these writers have a sense of clairvoyance that feels horrifying and accurate in its premonition. 


Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to an increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.