Call Me Burroughs
By Barry Miles
(Twelve, Hardcover, 9781455511952, 718pp.)
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
List Price: $32.00*
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Fifty years ago, Norman Mailer asserted, "William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." Few since have taken such literary risks, developed such individual political or spiritual ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media. Burroughs wrote novels, memoirs, technical manuals, and poetry. He painted, made collages, took thousands of photographs, produced hundreds of hours of experimental recordings, acted in movies, and recorded more CDs than most rock bands. Burroughs was the original cult figure of the Beat Movement, and with the publication of his novel Naked Lunch, which was originally banned for obscenity, he became a guru to the 60s youth counterculture. In CALL ME BURROUGHS, biographer and Beat historian Barry Miles presents the first full-length biography of Burroughs to be published in a quarter century-and the first one to chronicle the last decade of Burroughs's life and examine his long-term cultural legacy.
Written with the full support of the Burroughs estate and drawing from countless interviews with figures like Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and Burroughs himself, CALL ME BURROUGHS is a rigorously researched biography that finally gets to the heart of its notoriously mercurial subject.
"The Burroughs of Miles's 600-plus pages is both ghastlier and more impressive than previous models, sliding through the world like a cross between Sam Spade and Flat Stanley."'—The Atlantic
"CALL ME BURROUGHS is riddled with... weird anecdotes laced with gallows humor, bizarre coincidences and profane punch lines. It's a massive undertaking made complicated by Burroughs' peripatetic lifestyle and rampant drug use. To say he was a difficult man to pin down is understatement, but Miles is up to the task."—LA Times
"Miles just puts it all on paper with aplomb and deadpan wit, showing how the gross-out surrealism of Burroughs's fiction flowed from the lurid creativity of everyday life."—Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
"One long, strange, profoundly American literary life. Burroughs's work has had a profound if often oblique influence on the writing of his century and this one. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to read Barry Miles's biography without being thoroughly familiar with the outline of the narrative. Truly, stranger than fiction."—William Gibson
"CALL ME BURROUGHS takes us deeply inside the magical life of the great writer. Miles's decision to tell the epic story through William Burroughs's search for his 'Ugly Spirit' makes for sensational reading. Brilliant, tragic, controversial, and inspiring, CALL ME BURROUGHS is a beautiful work."—Victor Bockris, author of With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker, Conversations with William Burroughs and Andy Warhol, and Burroughs in the Bunker
"CALL ME BURROUGHS is the most intimate portrait to date of one of the twentieth century's most complicated, troubled, and influential figures. Miles's deep knowledge of the man and the work also provides a cultural history of the scene in Tangiers in the 1950s, the Beat era, and the emerging Punk scene in New York in the 1980s. It is a compelling biography and social history unlike any other."—Ira Silverberg, co-editor of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader
"CALL ME BURROUGHS is full of energy and surprise and is a delight to read. Barry Miles combines his intimate knowledge of Burroughs with the meticulous research of Burroughs's companion James Grauerholz, to produce an extremely accurate, readable, and entertaining biography of one of the most inventive writers of the twentieth century. Reading this extraordinary book is like hanging around with Burroughs himself and is impossible to forget."—Bill Morgan, author of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg and The Typewriter Is Holy
"By any standard Burroughs's was an unusual life, full of scandal, subversion, and sensitivity hidden behind a cold blue gaze. Miles enriches this 'life of an artist' with decades of dedicated immersion in the work both published and unpublished, digging deep into archival material and manuscripts, incorporating journals of friends and acquaintances. With great authority and verve, he brings up to date the legacy of a true American original who grows, even years after his death, in fascination."—Regina Weinreich, author of Kerouac's Spontaneous Poetics and editor of Kerouac's Book of Haikus