Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs

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9780802137784: Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs
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Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs is the most intimate book ever written by William S. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch and one of the most celebrated literary outlaws of our time. Laid out as diary entries of the last nine months of Burroughs's life, Last Words spans the realms of cultural criticism, personal memoir, and fiction. Classic Burroughs concerns -- literature, U.S. drug policy, the state of humanity, his love for his cats -- permeate the book. Most significantly, Last Words contains some of the most personal work Burroughs has ever written, a final reckoning with his life and regrets, and his reflections on the deaths of his friends Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. It is a poignant portrait of the man, his life, and his creative process -- one that never quit, not even in the shadow of death.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

This last testament by American cultural icon Burroughs (Ghost of Chance, 1995, etc.) comprises the disjointed diary entries the terminally ill author jotted down between November 14, 1996, and August 1, 1997. In one diatribe after another, the self-described writer, scribe, andby ancient analogypriest addresses a host of topics from US drug policy to feline purring habits. While most of his ramblings are incoherent, one message is heard loud and clear: What the American Narcotics Department is doing is pure Evil. Burroughs tirelessly extols the benefits of cannabis as a painkiller and an aphrodisiac, attributing his own best writing to its stimulating effect. Disposing of political leaders as ``certifiably insane,'' he goes on to attack ``American values'' for their blunt hypocrisy, psychoanalysis for shifting responsibility and overlooking the organic causes of many disorders, Bible Belt Christianity for ``ignorance, stupidity, and barely-hidden bigotry,'' and feminists for humorless self-righteousness. When Burroughs shows rare signs of affection, it is directed either to his house cats or to friends like Allen Ginsberg, whom he lauds for publicly addressing ``explicit homo-sex.'' Despite citations of Keats, Verlaine, Villon, Stein, and Fitzgerald, literary matters rank low on Burroughs's priority list. He shows some concern for the future of writing, but his brief remarks about his own reading materialranging from spy novels to The New Yorkerare uninspiring. His bodily functions preoccupy him far more, and the reader will be repeatedly informed about ``the toll Chinese food took'' on his gut, and his sensations after a cataract operation. Dreams about sex (often with strangers), insects, and pets are central to most entries. The telegraphic style is mitigated by epigrammatic witticisms (``As for Humanity, most of them is only good to feed cats'') and puns (``Gingrich, Squeaker of the House''). Perhaps not intended for the public eye and definitely in need of heavy editing, these notes may disappoint even the most fervent Burroughs fans. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

These two books reveal the breadth of Burroughs's preoccupations and literary appeal. His last journal contains 168 entries and spans from November 1996 to three days before his death in July 1997. In it, he returns to well-worn themes like the rise of the police state, the pernicious effects of U.S. narcotics laws, and the superiority of cats over humans. Although he was in fairly good health as he was writing, his thoughts also turned frequently to death--no surprise given the recent loss of old friends like Herbert Huncke, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Calico, his favorite cat, who died four days before the journal opens. The book is sprinkled with allusions to literary figures ranging from Shakespeare to Walter de la Mare to Mario Puzzo. The Burroughs we encounter here may have lost some of his gleam, but he has not yet turned to rust. For all serious literary collections. In the latest installment of Mississippi's "Literary Conversation" series, Hibbard (English, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) collects 22 interviews spanning 35 years. They range from a playful piece by Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, first published in the Journal for the Protection of All Beings (1961), to "Grandpa from Hell," an interview that appeared in the L.A. Weekly in 1996. Sources for the interviews include Esquire, Penthouse, and Rolling Stone as well as scholarly journals like Modern Language Studies--a diversity that reflects Burroughs's status as both a serious literary figure and a popular icon. Like most collections of interviews, Hibbard's contains a good deal of repetition, but his chronological arrangement provides a clear window into Burroughs's changing consciousness over half a lifetime. For public and academic libraries.
-William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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