The Definitive Text of "Junk"
Publication Date: November 2012
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Junk is not, like alcohol or a weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.
In his debut novel, Junky, Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others. As he navigates the crime-ridden streets of New York, trying to convince doctors to give him a prescription for opiates and doing his best to avoid the police’s pigeons” who are given a steady supply of heroin to inform on drug dealers, the narrator describes the physical experience of getting high, and the visceral need for another hit that haunts him every day. From the tenements of New York to the queer bars of New Orleans, Junky takes the reader into a world at once long-forgotten and still with us today. Burroughs’s first novel is a cult classic and a critical part of his oeuvre.
Bill Morgan is a writer and archival consultant. His previous books include The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation; I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg; and Beat Atlas: A State by State Guide to the Beat Generation in America. He has edited several collections of letters by Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. Morgan has worked as the archivist of many writers, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Oliver Sacks, Michael McClure, Abbie Hoffman, and Arthur Miller. He currently lives with his wife in an old farmhouse at the base of a Vermont mountain.
Oliver Harris has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, in addition to degrees in English and Shakespeare studies, and recently received his PhD. His first novel, The Hollow Man, launched the Detective Nick Belsey series. He also reviews for the Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.