William S. Burroughs Reads His First Novel, Junky

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Six years before he published his breakthrough novel, Naked Lunch (1959), William S. Burroughs broke into the literary scene with Junky (sometimes also called Junkie), a candid, semi-autobiographical account of an “unredeemed drug addict.” It’s safe to say that the book wouldn’t have seen the light of day if Allen Ginsberg hadn’t taken Burroughs under his wing and edited the manuscript. The book, originally published under the pseudonym “William Lee,” was distributed by Ace Books, a publishing house that targeted New York City subway riders. You can listen to Burroughs, the famous beat writer, reading a three-hour abridged version of the text over at UBUWeb.

Junky has been added to our list of Free Audio Books. And, on a related note, Burroughs fans will want to watch The Junky’s Christmas, a short claymation film written and narrated by Burroughs in 1993. Other films based on his writing appear in our collection of Free Movies Online.

H/T @maudnewton


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  1. Preston says . . . | December 14, 2011 / 10:40 pm

    Allen Ginsberg took William under his wing? I think that statement is opinion and seems inconsistent with much of the history I have encountered when learning about William S. Burroughs, but I just read it on the net, so it must be true

  2. Mark says . . . | April 10, 2012 / 5:02 pm

    Ginsberg did no such thing. In fact, they were equals … there will never be, there can never be another period in American culture (anyway) that will give us the type of talent held by Allen & William. We are a sinking ship … going down.

  3. silent majority says . . . | January 9, 2013 / 12:44 pm

    WOW Mark you must be an eternal optimist. You two must have hung around both of these guys and the beat scene to have such intimate knowledge of Ginsberg and Burroughs relationship. I would love to hear some of the great stories about Ginsberg, Burroughs and the beat scene in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s you two must have. Maybe you guys can post those cool stories here for all us peons to enjoy! That would be so awesome.

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