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Cities of the Red Night [Paperback]

William S. Burroughs
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2001
An opium addict is lost in the jungle; young men wage war against an empire of mutants; a handsome young pirate faces his execution; and the world's population is infected with a radioactive epidemic. These stories are woven together in a single tale of mayhem and chaos. In the first novel of the trilogy continued in The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands, William Burroughs sharply satirizes modern society in a poetic and shocking story of sex, drugs, disease and adventure.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 1 edition (May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312278462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312278465
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,990,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Burroughs was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1914. Immensely influential among the Beat writers of the 1950s - notably Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg - he already had an underground reputation before the appearance of his first important book, 'Naked Lunch'. Originally published by the daring and influential Olympia Press (the original publishers of Henry Miller) in France in 1959, it aroused great controversy on publication and was not available in the US until 1962 and in the UK until 1964. The book was adapted for film by David Cronenberg in 1991.

Product Description

About the Author

William S. Burroughs was born on February 5, 1914 in St Louis. In work and in life Burroughs expressed a lifelong subversion of the morality, politics and economics of modern America. To escape those conditions, and in particular his treatment as a homosexual and a drug-user, Burroughs left his homeland in 1950, and soon after began writing. By the time of his death he was widely recognised as one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the twentieth century. His numerous books include Naked Lunch, Junky, Queer, Nova Express, Interzone, The Wild Boys, The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine. After living in Mexico City, Tangier, Paris, and London, Burroughs finally returned to America in 1974. He died in 1997. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Rubbish 20 Nov 2002
Format:Paperback
"Cities" affords a logical conclusion to the various literary techniques and experiments employed by Burroughs over three prolific if somewhat confused decades of work. The straight forward narrative style of his debut novel "Junky" is thankfully reinvented peppered with a Chandler type detective story which sets the early theme of the book. This overlaps a pirate story based on the apparently factual adventures of Captain Mission and his colony of Libertatians. The book develops to suggest an alternative history that satirises the present in the same way as the outrageous comical routines of "Naked Lunch" attacked the America status quo. All the usual Burroughs themes are here, drugs, weapons, disease, virus control, hangings and gay porn. However, sparingly employing his controversial cut-up techniques interwoven with his various other writing styles Burroughs creates a prose, almost poetic in every line pulling together his masterpiece.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 19 July 2002
Format:Paperback
As in all of Burroughs work there are several seemingly unconnected strands in this text. However, Cities of the Red Night is perhaps the most linear and accessable of Burroughs novels, and as a result the trilogy of novels which it begins is probably the best way for the uninitiated to start to appreciate the work of one of the 20th centuries most original writers. Whether you enjoy a ripping yarn about Pirates, detectives and magic, or are interested in Burrough's sometimes somewhat obsure plague metaphors, this book opens a door to an alternate history and present that once accessed can never be forgotten.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily my favourite... 15 Oct 2001
Format:Paperback
This is by far my favourite of all Burroughs work, its much warmer and cleverer than much of his other work, Naked Lunch may be the most famous but it really doesnt hold together as well as this beautifully evocative and bizaare "prose" that haunts you long after the turning of the final cyclonic page of annihilation... this is a sculture of words to please the eye and is reptilianly divine in its ambience... this is a bad dream written down and will forever thrill you with its power...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
William Burroughs is insane, and this novel is a weird tale of sex, surrealism and death spanning centuries that's inspired by his own experimentation with heroin, orgones and spurious religious beliefs. Cities of the Red Night is the first book in his final trilogy of novels (the Red Night trilogy), and it's followed by The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands.

Loosely speaking, the non-linear plot alternates between a group of pirates seeking the freedom to set up an anarchist community during the 18th century, and a detective who's searching for a lost boy at the tail-end of the 20th century, at the present time during the writing. Really, though, it's trippy and difficult to follow - because the story isn't linear, it almost doesn't matter what order you read it in.

Burroughs himself described the project as a 'tour de force', which is true - there's something about Cities of the Red Night that I can't put my finger on, a lingering sense of brilliance despite the fact that half of the time I had no idea what was happening.

Interestingly enough, some of the chapters are named after a group of random phrases that Burroughs gathered in an essay called 'Ten Years and a Billion Dollars' in his collection of non-fiction called 'The Adding Machine'. It's always interesting to see how different members of the beat generation write prose and poetry, and Burroughs is no exception - the ideas and techniques behind the novel are actually more interesting than the novel itself, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, sticky, tangled 3 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was my first encounter with Burroughs and I was...erm...yeah.

I bought it after getting interested in the idea of gay pirates (there's a song about this - Google it). So the novel jumps off the idea of a world in which a group of pirates decide to give up looting and pillaging to settle down to create a place where everyone could be free and equal. This did sort of happen in reality but these Utopian colonies didn't last very long - I think they all died through invasion and disease. But what would our world look like if those societies had been successful and flourished? At least I think that's what it's about.

Well, this being a Burroughs novel, things are not straightforward. For a start, everyone practices magic (which actually works) and also there's some weird sexual disease on the rampage and...look, it's hard to explain what's going on but that doesn't make it bad.

There's a LOT of sex. Lots. And body fluids. Themes of sex, death and ritual feature heavily. Anyway, I think I like it but it's hard to say. Sort of leaves you wanting a shower. Certainly very evocative - you can smell and taste this novel.

Ew. I need to brush my teeth...
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