William S. Burroughs Reads His First Novel, Junky


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. Also see the playlist on YouTube.

H/T @maudnewton

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Comments (5)
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  • Preston says:

    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

  • Mark says:

    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.

  • silent majority says:

    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.

  • greg says:

    Allen G. Did take Bur­roughs under his wing. He was the edi­tor and man­ag­er with­out whom this book may nev­er have seen the light of day. Peo­ple should read every pagein every book they read so they don’t miss out on facts like I have men­tioned. The 50th anniver­sary edi­tion has an exten­sive appen­dix as well as oth­er con­tri­bu­tions from var­i­ous peo­ple who share this and oth­er back­ground infor­ma­tion.

  • Michael S K says:

    Allan and William were both great. And Gins­berg was known for help­ing edit many of his pals stuff from Bur­roughs to Thomp­son et al. No need to become aggres­sive. None of us were in the same room and none can speak to the full truth. But I think that both William S Bur­roughs & Gins­berg’s epic works speak for them­selves so you can go back to trolling oth­ers need­less­ly for sug­gest­ing this artist had help from that or what­ev­er your next base­less cause for com­plaint.

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