William Burroughs

Aron Kay (pieman@queenbee.net)
Sun, 03 Aug 1997 07:01:24 -0400

Sunday August 3 3:42 AM EDT

Beat Generation Icon Burroughs Dead at 83

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Reuter) - William S. Burroughs, the Beat Generation
author best known for the novel "Naked Lunch" based on his experiences
as a drug addict, died Saturday at the age of 83.

Burroughs died in a hospital in Lawrence a day after suffering a heart
attack, said Ira Silverberg, New York-based editor-in-chief of Grove
Press, which published several of his books.

Burroughs' death comes nearly four months after that poet Allen
Ginsberg, another founding father of the Beat Generation.

Along with Ginsberg and other writers such as Jack Kerouac, Gregory
Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Burroughs came to embody the
bohemian, anti-establishment, non-conformist Beat Generation literary
movement. Ginsberg died in April in New York.

Burroughs was admitted to the hospital Friday after suffering a heart
attack, Silverberg said.

"It was sudden. He was in fine health," Silverberg said.

Burroughs was openly homosexual, spent years as a drug addict and
accidentally killed his wife with a gunshot to the head in a "William
Tell" incident in Mexico City. In later years, he achieved cult status
among a generation of disaffected middle-class youth.

Novelist Norman Mailer called Burroughs "the only American writer
living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius."

Burroughs had lived in with his cats in the college town of Lawrence
since December 1981. He stopped smoking six years ago after
triple-bypass heart surgery.

Grove Press just last week completed an as-yet untitled manuscript of
Burroughs's previously published writings. Silverberg said the
collection was due to be released in 1998.

Burrough's fame was built on the celebrated novel "Naked Lunch,"
written while he was living in Tangier, Morocco and first published in
Paris in 1959.

The book, a collection of writings about addiction, was banned in the
United States until 1962, when it won a landmark anti-censorship
Supreme Court decision.

Among his other books were "The Wild Boys," "Cities of the Red Night,"
and "Tornado Alley." Burroughs also was a photographer, and had
produced drawings, paintings and sculpture.

Burroughs once commented that "my entire life has been a struggle to
resist the dark force," which he defined as the worst aspects of

In an interview with The New York Times late last year, Burroughs said
he made notes every day but no longer wrote formally.

"I guess I've run out of things to say," he said.

Burroughs enjoyed a revival in recent years, and collaborated with
rock musicians. "Naked Lunch" was made into a film in 1991.

A tribute to Burroughs was held last November at the University of
Kansas in Lawrence, and featured appearances by rock artists Michael
Stipe of R.E.M. and former Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry.

More recently, Burroughs made a cameo appearance in the rock video for
U2's "Last Night on Earth," which was shot in May in Kansas City, Mo.

Last year, the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence held a retrospective
of Burroughs's artworks, called "Ports of Entry."

Burroughs was born Feb. 5, 1914 in St. Louis and attended Harvard