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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful companion to a most significant writer, 15 July 2001
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader (Flamingo Modern Classic) (Paperback)
'Word Virus' is a handy volume of Burroughs- nice to dip in and out of-and would make a suitable introduction to this highly influential writer. It presents an overview of Burroughs initial works with Jack Keroauc (and asscoiations with other Beats- most notably Allen Ginsberg- who along with Keroauc- helped with the seminal 'Naked Lunch': Jack-the title & the typing, Allen-assembling a dazzling slab of alien words...Possibly THE most culturally influential book of the 20th Century: would we have had Lou Reed? Patti Smith? David Bowie? David Cronenberg? JG Ballard? etc.)...The introduction by Ann Douglas and the section essays by editor/partner James Grauerholz are particualarly interesting...It is also notable that the 'Naked Lunch' excerpts are found in the 'Interzone' section- as oppose to the 'Cut-Up's...This makes a trilogy of 'Soft Machine'/'Ticket...Exploded' & 'Nova Express'- which shifts academic perception of his oeuvre...The book, along with it's great structure and excellent cover, is a better example of a WB reader than the one on John Calder/Picador. Plus, I detested the Burroughs critique 'The Algebra of Need' for reasons that Martin Amis elaborates on in 'The Moronic Inferno'. The development of 'Interzone' is captured here: DRUG TANGIERS: and demonstrates synchronicity with Marshall McLuhan. And that William Gibson's invention of cyberspace with 'Neuromancer' is less original than one might think...There are plenty of excerpts from later works 'Cities at the Red Night','The Place of Dead Roads'& 'The Western Lands'- enough to warrant reading the complete texts. There is enough here of 'The Yage Letters'-which outside of their historical significance are a bit boring. There is also an abscence of the excellent 'Port of Saints'!...Still, with 'Spare Ass Annie', 'The Priest they called him' and the awesome 'Cold Lost Marbles'- Burroughs shorter works are ideally represented...The interzone/cut-up selections are great and will make you seek out the unexpurgated texts...Ironically, Burroughs begins with touching humanity ('Junky', 'Queer') and ends in a similar way ('The Cat Inside'; 'My Eduacation:Book of Dreams'; the final 'Last Words'- published after 'Word Virus'). Inbetween we have the re-used language, as Ballard saw Burroughs as the lineal succesor to Joyce...Here is a good place to ease y'self in- then go for 'Junky'/'Queer' or 'Exterminator!'before moving ta interzone and all that Mugwump Jism...There is much black comedy here from the priest they called him, hanging with Kurt Cobain, in 'Drugstore Cowboy', Bill Lee and all the other names in 'On THe Road', 'Subterraneans' etc...As with his French counterparts, Ferdinand Celine & Jean Genet, very hard work...If you want to know why start here or Philip K Dick or JG Ballard; wouldn't you?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The easiest way to find out what all the fuss is about, 18 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader (Flamingo Modern Classic) (Paperback)
In effect, this is Burroughs for slackers and lazy readers like me. I have had my copy for a fair while now, and I still regularly dip into it. While I think he's a great writer, I have to admit that most of his work after Naked Lunch is a bit of a trial to get through. For example, whole novels written via the cut-up method are just too much for me to wade through, I'm afraid, even though I will readily admit that it's a really exciting and often illuminating way of writing.

This is why this anthology is so valuable, in that it gives you tasters of everything of note he ever published. There is some stunning work in here, from his very readable 1950s letters and early works like Junky and Queer, excerpts from Naked Lunch, the chilling "Last Words" and also "Remembering Jack Kerouac", a heartfelt and wise memoir of the great man, which manages to reveal a great deal about Burroughs himself, as well as the whole psychological approach to writing.

An extra bonus the extended biographical notes that link each section. These not only explain a lot fo the work and put it into context, but they also fill you in on the key points of this extraordinary man's extraordinary life.

This is perhaps all the Burroughs you will ever need, at least until you pluck up courage to get to grips with the individual texts in their entirety.
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Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader (Flamingo Modern Classic)
Word Virus: The William Burroughs Reader (Flamingo Modern Classic) by William Burroughs (Paperback - 4 Oct 1999)
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