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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
William S. Burroughs (Critical Lives)
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 18 June 2017
This biography canters through Burroughs' life, focusing on what he was doing and who he was doing it with. Most of it seems to be based on other writers' biographies rather than on original research. I bought it because it is supposed to relate the life to the work, but this is done very cursorily. There is no detailed interpretation of the books, even Naked Lunch. Nor is there much biographical interpretation. The death of Burroughs' parents or of Kerouac aren't mentioned - the relevance of his relationships isn't explored in enough detail. The reason he developed as he did psychologically isn't explored. He just did. But the book does fill a particular niche well and is worth considering.
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on 22 May 2010
This is a really great book on Burroughs. Baker has done a fine job of getting inside the mind of Burroughs and writes with real sympathy for the man. It's a more distilled and concentrated portrait than Ted Morgan's Literary Outlaw. It gives the essence of Burroughs, and it also covers his life right up to the very end, unlike Morgan. (The last words Burroughs wrote were: "Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is. LOVE" - then he had a heart attack and said "I'll be right back" - what an exit line.)

It's a more literary approach than we've had before, with a greater emphasis on Burroughs's artistic interests (like the Paul Klee picture - reproduced here - which Burroughs said was "an exact copy of what I saw high on yage in Pucallpa when I closed my eyes"). Baker also has a keen understanding of Burroughs's fantasies and personal world. If you're looking for a direct line into the Burrovian mindset - with all its lunacies and regrets - this is the book.

Great selection of illustrations, too, including a Burroughs "cut-up" in progress and a diagram of a wishing machine.
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