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William S. Burroughs: A Life
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Authoritative biography of cult writer William Burroughs (1914-1997).

About the Author

Barry Miles knew Burroughs since 1965. He was a close friend and worked with him on a number of projects. He lives in London.

Reviews

By any standard Burroughs's was an unusual life, full of scandal, subversion, and sensitivity hidden behind a cold blue gaze. He brought elegance to the Bowery, eloquence to the language of an underworld, and an international mystique to American letters. Miles enriches this 'life of an artist' with decades of dedicated immersion in the work both published and unpublished, digging deep into archival material and manuscripts, incorporating journals of friends and acquaintances.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 * William S. 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 * William S. 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. The end of Burroughs's days, spent in Lawrence, Kansas, explore Burroughs's deep reckoning of what he called 'The Ugly Spirit'-the force which rendered him powerless, for most of his life over the demons that plagued him. It is a compelling biography and social history unlike any other." -- Ira Silverberg * coeditor of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader * William S. Burroughs takes us deeply inside the magical life of the great writer. Miles's decision to tell the epic story through William Burroughs's search for his 'Ugly Spirit' makes for sensational reading. Burroughs called his life an evil river. In Miles's biography he negotiates it with courage and remarkable drive. Brilliant, tragic, controversial, and inspiring, William S. Burroughs is a beautiful work. -- Victor Bockris * author of With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker, Conversations with William Burroughs and Andy Warhol, and Burroughs in the Bunker * 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 In the first biography to include the writer's final years, longstanding friend and Burroughs scholar, Barry Miles, documents his journey in unflinching detail. * THE INDEPENDENT * It's enough to put you off your breakfast * THE MAIL ON SUNDAY * Miles's biography separates the cult from the man and shows us that there were, in fact, deep roots to Burroughs's other-worldly, alienated and unsettlingly affectless fiction - about which literary opinion is still divided. Which, 100 years after his birth, is quite impressive, really -- Nicholas Lezard * EVENING STANDARD * William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all dandies, he had a nose for hedonistic hot spots which he could mythologise along with himself. On the occasion of his centenary, Barry Miles takes us through these gorgeous, macabre scenarios with an attention to detail reminiscent of Dadd or Bosch... -- Duncan Fallowell * THE SPECTATOR * It is an action-packed, sensational story -- Edmund Gordon * THE SUNDAY TIMES * Burrough's work I can do without. But the life - the life! The example of the life is indispensable: the ultimate un-American Dream... Barry Miles's book... has a kind of speed-freak intensity, with every detail recalled and brought vividly to life, a book of a million wows... Giant, blistering, painful warts, reproduced in brilliant Technicolour. A 700-page literary anatomy textbook: one of the most gratifyingly, sickeningly detailed biographies I have ever read. -- Ian Sansom * LITERARY REVIEW * Barry Miles has achieved something quite phenomenal: 600 oppressive yet irresistible pages that recount in intricate detail a sordid life... Miles is a great admirer of his subject, worked with him for 30 year and catalogued his archives. Yet despite that close connection he has produced a biography remarkable for its detachment and devoid of the obsessive worship that characterises the Burroughs cult. The life of this disturbing and disturbed man has never been so perfectly told. -- Gerard deGroot * THE TIMES * 'Counterculture chronicler Barry Miles and William Burroughs are the perfect match, and Miles's biography of the cult writer...is as insightful as you'd expect, placing Burroughs in his wider social and cultural context.' -- Simon Evans * CHOICE * By any standard Burroughs's was an unusual life, full of scandal, subversion, and sensitivity hidden behind a cold blue gaze. He brought elegance to the Bowery, eloquence to the language of an underworld, and an international mystique to American letters. 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 Keroauc's Spontaneous Poetics and editor of Kerouac's Book of Haikus * William S. 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 * William S. 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. The end of Burroughs's days, spent in Lawrence, Kansas, explore Burroughs's deep reckoning of what he called 'The Ugly Spirit'-the force which rendered him powerless, for most of his life over the demons that plagued him. It is a compelling biography and social history unlike any other." -- Ira Silverberg * coeditor of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader * William S. Burroughs takes us deeply inside the magical life of the great writer. Miles's decision to tell the epic story through William Burroughs's search for his 'Ugly Spirit' makes for sensational reading. Burroughs called his life an evil river. In Miles's biography he negotiates it with courage and remarkable drive. Brilliant, tragic, controversial, and inspiring, William S. Burroughs is a beautiful work. -- Victor Bockris * author of With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker, Conversations with William Burroughs and Andy Warhol, and Burroughs in the Bunker * 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 In the first biography to include the writer's final years, longstanding friend and Burroughs scholar, Barry Miles, documents his journey in unflinching detail. * THE INDEPENDENT * It's enough to put you off breakfast * THE MAIL ON SUNDAY * Mile's biography separates the cult from the man and shows us that there were, in fact, deep roots to Burroughs's other-worldly, alienated and unsettlingly affectless fiction - about which literary opinion is still divided. Which, 100 years after his birth, is quite impressive, really. -- Nicholas Lezard * EVENING STANDARD * William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all dandies, he had a nose for hedonistic hot sports which he could mythologise along with himself. On the occasion of his centenary, Barry Miles takes us through these gorgeous, macabre scenarios with an attention to detail reminiscent of Dadd of Bosch... -- Duncan Fallowell * THE SPECTATOR * Barry Miles has achieved something quite phenomenal: 600 oppressive yet irresistible pages that recount in intricate detail a sordid life...Miles is a great admirer of his subject, worked with him for 30 years and catalogued his archives. Yet despite that close connection he has produced a biography remarkable for its detachment and devoid of the obsessive worship that characterises the Burroughs cult. The life of this disturbing and disturbed man has never been so perfectly told. -- Gerard deGroot * THE TIMES * It is an action-packed, sensational story -- Edmund Gordon * THE SUNDAY TIMES * Burrough's work I can do without. But the life- the life! The example of the life is indispensable: The ultimate un-American Dream... Barry Miles's book... has a kind of speed-freak intensity, with every detail recalled and brought vividly to life, a book of a million wows... Giant, blistering, painful warts, reproduced in brilliant Technicolour. A 700-page literary anatomy textbook: one of the most gratifying, sickening detailed biographies I have ever read. -- Ian Sansom * LITERARY REVIEW * '...An astonishing and wholly successful attempt to give order to the glorious, terrifying chaos of Burroughs's long life. This 700-page book reads like a picaresque adventure and is utterly compelling.' -- PD Smith * THE GUARDIAN * 'Occult guru, literary genius, dystopian visionary, violent psychopath - no post-war writer has been so mythologised.' * THE DAILY TELEGRAPH *

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