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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Queasy semi-autobiography of legendary literary drug fiend
Burrough's account of life as a heroin user really comes to life in spoken word form, as the author's reptilian diction wrings every last drop of croaked and strung-out junk sickness from the page.
Notorious for accidentally shooting his wife dead in Mexico during a crazy William Tell routine, William Burroughs is the author of countless books, most of which are...
Published on 22 Nov. 2000 by t.welch@virgin.net

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars very average
A lot of noise for
Nothing
I think. I'd rather read Keith Richard's autobiography to learn about cold turkey!
Voila
Published 1 month ago by Fred


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Queasy semi-autobiography of legendary literary drug fiend, 22 Nov. 2000
This review is from: Junky (Audio CD)
Burrough's account of life as a heroin user really comes to life in spoken word form, as the author's reptilian diction wrings every last drop of croaked and strung-out junk sickness from the page.
Notorious for accidentally shooting his wife dead in Mexico during a crazy William Tell routine, William Burroughs is the author of countless books, most of which are largely unreadable, aside from his two early semi-autobiographical works, 'Queer', and 'Junky', which recount his experiences as a homosexual drug user during a time in America when being either of these things was to be a social leper.
A disturbing, yet occasionally humourous tale of a life lived at the more bizarre extremes of experience, 'Junky' is essential listening for anyone interested in either the Beat Generation or drug culture, and is a good starting point for Burroughs novices.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of the early Beats, 6 April 2002
This review is from: Junky (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
Junky is William Burroughs's first novel, and one of his most important....Don't let the first person narrative fool you, this is not an autobiography in any usual sense. Burroughs himself described it as a 'travel book.'
Unlike the cut-up novels this novel easily engages the reader. There is a narrative, even if there is no narrative development towards a repentant self realsation that would be expected in a confessional novel.
If you have read On the Road then you'll appreciate Junky.
If you have read Naked Lunch then this might come as something of a surprise. But don't berate the book for that. It might not deconstruct a logical narrative development. Or for that matter it doesn't deconstruct the liberal humanist individual. But it does reveal Burroughs the genius....
If you are familiar with Burroughs allready then Junky is well worth buying.
And if you aren't... buy this book. You'll never look at eye droppers the same way after reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World Upside Downwards, 5 Mar. 2011
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A sad book in many respects, returning back to read it again after first dissecting his sons book "Speed." Junior tried to emulate his father and was cast in his shadow. A baleful cruel shadow it appears as his mother had her own self medication issues as did his father documenting them here. Although Burroughs Senior appears to have no emotional insight into his "condition" whatsoever. Life is just about "kicks" is what he buys into, a form of outsider who lives against the rules, someone who never bought the dream.

An easy feat if your parentage involved inventing the adding machine and the monetary legacy cushioned the effects of choice. The influence of Burroughs was seemingly at its height in the 1980's where he was feted as a type of cultural relic. Someone who had lived on the fringes and thrived. Here he exposes himself, as an outsider existential hero but read beyond what he is offering and a desperate type of character emerges. The type of picture he paints has been enacted en masse by those who have opted for the heroin lifstyle.

In their NA, AA, CA, prison groups, mental health groups and one to ones at drug agencies other rationales for self medication have emerged. Bill has kept a solid silence on this. He reveals nothing of his emotional needs except as a consumer of drugs and young boys. His wife rarely reveals herself except as some form of surrogate mother who gets him out of jail and buys his drugs and helps him detox. Even here, Bill talks about his fascination with guns, something that his wife should have been wary of. When he detox's off smack, he takes to Tequila and starts waving his pistol around as some ten cent bully.

This book is a depiction of a time passed where New York was a sewer. It shows the 1940's droughts as the U boats strangled supply and the reliance on pharma Morphine, the shift into drug dealing, the body and psychological shivers of withdrawal, the petty mugging of other self medicators (alcohol) to fund their habits. This is a trawl on the bottom of the social hierarchical dream where the corporate barons are seen as socially desirable and the heroin users who shoplift are perceived as being at the bottom.

Bill sees the world as turned upside down and inverts the scale. This is the power of this book. It is far more effective than George Orwell as he always distanced himself from the poverty. Bill is immersed within it but always having an umbilical chord attached so he could haul himself to safety. Bill details the everyday needs of someone who is smack addled and desperate to stave off anything that approaches an emotional rapport. After writing this book Bill was feted. The writing is crisp neat and sucks in the unwary as he details a life free of constraint. He also paints the pictures of waiting, stress of being busted, the cold turkey, the loss of friendships but it is all done with a form of relentless glamour. Even the boring lifestyle is perceived as better than being sucked into the morass.

I was drawn and repelled, not so much by the drugs and poverty, seen that done that but the complete lack of connection to anything. Bill has no memories or thoughts, as if his life was erased when he wrote this. This is the power and the glory as the book documents a life of complete selfishness and being self absorbed.

No one does it better than Bill
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful&Brutally Honest ;Beautifully Wrote, 1 May 2007
This review is from: Junky (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
Whether you have any interest in addiction, or you just wanna good read, put this in your "Works". Unlike so much of Burroughs,this is an easily read,straight-forward & beautifully written narrative. A disturbing account of heroin addiction in 1940's post-war America. Burrough's creates vivid characters without a single wasted word in his dry,dark tones. You feel as if you know these characters. Any preconceptions will be swiftly swepped aside as you delve deeper into this book. Its easy to forget this book was published in 1953, albeit edited&censored (unsurprisingly), as it is still applicable today. Fortunately, thanks to Burroughs(and Allen Ginsberg&Co) and others like him, the censor laws are far more realistic. A genuine 20th century classic which has stood the test of time, which will still be on bookshop shelves, and yours, in 2053.

An astonding first novel for Burrough's, the purveyor of strange...
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique & Compelling, 3 May 2002
By 
Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Junky (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
Burroughs’ writing here is a unique and successful blend of autobiography and detached journalism, unprecedented for that time. The prologue gives Junky an air of authenticity from the outset as the author briefly describes his childhood before plunging into this narrative of a journey – teeming with colorful low-life characters - from the Midwest to New York to Texas to New Orleans, a farm in the Rio Grande Valley, & finally Mexico in his relentless pursuit of the heroin trip.
There is a certain aloofness in the style, giving the reader the impression that you’re only witness to a restricted part of the protagonist’s experiences. For example, the text makes vague references to his wife who obviously journeyed and indulged with him, but no more is told of her, poor Joan. Although “Queer’, which is a more rounded novel, filled in many pieces of the jigsaw, it was only upon reading Ellis Ambrose’s “The Subterranean Kerouac,” that this novel finally made sense and I began to see a fuller picture of Burroughs, his wife and their contemporaries. Anyway, this is a piece of brilliant writing on many levels. The book concludes with a glossary of “junk lingo” or “jive talk” – so that’s what the BeeGees were singing about?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in early drug culture, 1 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Junky (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
In comparison to some of his other works this is an easy reading uncomplex treatise on the writers early life in the hipster underground.It takes you from the authors first experiences with addiction and cold turkey sessions to his self imposed exile in Mexico whilst on the run from a federal drug charge.
Although the subject is a grim one it does not come across as despairing or self-pitying neither does it philosophise too much or glamorise the lifestyle of the junk fiend.What it does capture well is the emotionless mechanics of addiction in an entertaining and captivating way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Better Beat - Minus the Shock, 10 Aug. 2009
I appreciate Junky for not being 'On the Road'. It is a good representation of the Beat era with a serious subject yet manages to NOT be pitiful or self-absorbed. It is short, to the point and tells you all you need to know whilst retaining just enough poetic licence to make the prose interesting. It is simply a good record of the life of the heroin addict and explains the effects of drugs in the same matter-of-fact, informative way that Hunter.S.Thompson does in 'Fear and Loathing...'. There is no self-congratulation or a hint of bragging, neither is there a plea for sympathy. These are just the facts, and Burroughs is recording them, unconcerned of the opinion of others, unlike some of his contemporaries (such as Kerouac).

Of course the book isn't perfect; there is little discernable plot so it feels more completely autobiographical rather than 'semi' as the back cover claims. We also do not get to learn much about the narrator as a complete human: his relationship with his wife and the effects of the abuse on her is largely ignored, and the events lurch from one drug seeking exercise to another. This may well be the point, but it left me feeling like it was all slightly empty.

Also, the main point to the novel has now largely been lost - the shock element. When it was published in the 1950s the revelations were astonishing and contained an honesty more brutal than the generation could cope with. In the 21st century of course we are bombarded with graphic images and tales of the underbelly of the world. Anyone who has seen 'Trainspotting' would likely not find this book anything above mildly surprising because of the time it was written in. But being 'of its time' is no bad thing, and Junky deserves it's praise just for putting it out there in the first place.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly dated, uncomfortable, fascinating, 26 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Junky [LegacyTitleID: 2189]
I haven't read any of Burroughs other work, and didn't come to this with any particular expectation, other then those you'd be lead to believe by the summary.

It's a somewhat meandering journey; if you want a definite arc to a story and a sense of resolution, likely not for you. If you're interested in soaking up the atmosphere of an alien way of life (for most of us) it's highly recommended.

The squalor and griminess come through on every page, as does the desperation accompanying this way of life.

There were many interesting diversions into the mechanics and biology of addiction, although if you listen to some of the later chapters on "Orgone therapy" you'll take Burrough's proclamations on medical matters with a pinch of salt.

T. Ryder Smith gives a great performance, clearly articulated with light characterisation, couldn't fault it.

I'd be interested in more of Burroughs' material on the basis of this, although I skipped through the various prefaces and introductions. They were so numerous I was getting tired of listening to the book before it had even started. Others more familiar with his work may get a lot out of them, but not for me.

The book itself is a page turner.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate and honest portrayal of heroin addiction, 23 Aug. 2003
This review is from: Junky (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
Having personally experienced heroin addiction, I was intrigued and keen to read Junky and I wasn't disappointed. Although Junky was published in the 1950s, it's excellent depiction of drug addiction and the associated lifestyle hasn't aged in the slightest (although disposable needles and syringes - 'works' - have replaced eyedroppers).
What I particularly liked about Junky, is that Burroughs isn't remotely self-pitying, even when he describes 'taking the cure' in a hospital and going through bouts of 'junk sickness'. Burroughs also manages to keep the reader completely focused on the book, with eager anticipation about what's going to happen next. Although Junky isn't a particularly long book (it only took a few days to read) it's like a slow-release euphoric experience from beginning to end!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Anything But Junk, 22 Sept. 2011
By 
Michael Cunningham (Melbourne, Victoria (AUS)) - See all my reviews
Junky is William Burroughs first and most accessible novel. Unlike Naked Lunch, which is written in a very surreal and abstract way, Junky reads like an actual novel with a realistic and chronological structure. It's based on Burroughs real life heroin addiction, and is about a character by the name of 'William Lee' and his doped out narrative voice, detailing his slow struggle on the razors edge of heroin addiction, dealing and withdrawal. The cold and distant narrative style is finely juxtaposed by the open and honest description of events and experiences. All of the characters are interesting and memorable, and the book coined the phrase 'once a junky, always a junky'. Definitely a worthwhile read, and a good primer for Burroughs and the beat generation of novel writers. I would love to include a short passage, to 'hook' you in to the story and writing style, but sadly I lent this gem to a girl and don't ever see myself getting it back...
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Junky (Essential Penguin) by William S Burroughs (Paperback - 25 Feb. 1999)
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