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...
This is an essential novel to read if, like me, you're in to the writers of the beat generation. It is the first Burroughs novel I have read but it won't be the last. As others have said it is an excellent portrayal, written in the first person, of life as a heroin addict. It was written in the early 1950s and predates the more popular `Trainspotting' by over 40 years. If you liked the Irvine Welsh creation then you should give this a go as it offers a bleaker possibly more realistic depiction of the whole lifestyle.
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.
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.
This compelling autobiography of the leading Beat writer is for me reminder that gold often lies among the trash in the centre of the city dump. Years ago I sampled Burroughs' The Naked Lunch, but gave up in despair at its incongruities, its sudden passages of brilliance being insufficient to compensate for what often seemed mind-wandering drivel. I thought I'd never touch Burroughs again. Junky, however is something else; its sad-eyed, intelligent and honest writing strikes a melancholy chord. I might even try him again.
Like much American autobiography Junky captures the reader from the start with its tough no nonsense, stick to the facts approach to story-telling. Open the book at any page and you find passages like this: `I was in a cheap cantina off Dolores Street, Mexico City. I had been drinking for about two weeks. I was sitting in a booth with three Mexicans drinking tequila. The Mexicans were fairly well-dressed. One of them spoke English. A middle-aged, heavy-set Mexican with a sad, sweet sang songs and played the guitar.' It's difficult not to want to know more. Burroughs sets the scene, then focusses on one character, a well-dressed musician in a dive bar. What will happen? This deadpan, Hemingway style never becomes monotonous. The reader believes in the writer's integrity and trusts him to tell it like it was.
Of course, the writing is not as artless as it seems. As in Hemingway, in a story such as `The Killers' the quietness conceals an underlying threat, a suggestion of desperation and violence. This is Mexico, dammit, and our narrator is a wily and possibly dangerous psychopath. The surprising thing about this notorious drug-fiend and burnt out literary genius is that he came from a highly respectable middle-class background, attended `one of the Big Three universities' and later `saw a way of life, a vocabulary, references, a whole symbol system, as the sociologists say.' Hence this prose in a paragraph from Burroughs' Prologue is, compared to the rest of the narrative, sophisticated, well-muscled, just as sharp and cynical, but more inclined to elaboration, yet ending colloquially, `But these people were jerks ... and I cooled off on the setup.'
I could guarantee that once you pick up this book, the Penguin edition of which bears the warning or invitation `Keep out of Children's Reach,' you will not easily put it down.
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.
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...