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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