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Call Me Burroughs: A Life.


Call Me Burroughs

A Life

By Barry Miles

Barry Miles is the author of dozens of books on music, pop culture, and literature. His previous works include an earlier biography of Burroughs, books on other writers of the Beat Generation, and a restored edition of Naked Lunch.

THE TOPIC: Even among the Beat Generation of which he formed an integral part, William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was an outlier. Older than Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg (his lover for seven years), the strangely charismatic writer served as an inspirational figure for the pair and for many other artistic figures. However far out they went, he always went further, whether in drugs, sex, lifestyle, or even violence. Yet as Miles's biography makes clear, Burroughs would have never completed his novel Naked Lunch without Ginsburg as editor and guide. And his collaborations and provocations continued long after the 1950s. In this comprehensive biography, Miles chronicles Burroughs's upbringing in a wealthy St. Louis household, his literary influences and achievements, his far-flung travels, and the key figures in his life.

Twelve. 736 pages. $32. ISBN: 9781455511952

Los Angeles Times ****

"Call Me Burroughs presents a deeply flawed man who was icily indifferent to his family and a bona fide dangerous companion. Miles neither demonizes Burroughs nor excuses his lengthy catalog of vices." JIM RULAND

NY Times Book Review ****

"Miles's book is emphatically not, however, the familiar story of a gifted writer's substance-soaked decline, probably for the simple reason that Burroughs's genius for surreal black comedy tempered with hard, practical thought never deserted him.... Miles's access and wealth of detail will make this the go-to biography for many years to come." ANN DOUGLAS

Washington Post ****

"Miles relates Burroughs's extraordinary life in an equally extraordinary biography, a mesmerizing page-turner depicting not just a season in hell but an entire lifetime. It is also, to use words seldom associated with its subject, balanced, measured and even-handed." MICHAEL DIRDA

Kansas City Star ***1/2

"It's also a portrait of a man who was capable of shocking--and on one infamous occasion, deadly--acts of carelessness and cruelty.... If Call Me Burroughs is a testament to his artistic significance, it's also a catalog of Burroughs' penchant for antisocial behavior." KEVIN CANFIELD

Wall Street Journal ***

"Satirist, pornographer, science-fiction daydreamer, addicted to drugs and street boys, Burroughs was a literary godfather of punk rock, thrash metal and gangsta rap preaching sodomy and murder.... Call Me Burroughs isn't a literary or critical biography, but in all these pages Mr. Miles might have found space to evoke the writing that made Burroughs more than just another slumming remittance man." HENRY ALLEN


Barry Miles's biography of Burroughs is expertly researched and extremely comprehensive; it details the Beat writer's life and influences as it offers witty, fascinating anecdotes about it. Critics who greatly value the avant-garde author's books were very enthusiastic about the biography, while reviewers who don't understand his appeal were less drawn to such a complete recounting of rehab stints, love affairs, and exotic travels. (Call Me Burroughs focuses much less on the writer's own books.) But even those who found Burroughs's work inaccessible or his life tawdry and sad judged Miles accurate and fair. His biography will likely serve as the principal biography of Burroughs for years to come.



A timeless book to be read by all


One of the best of its genre

*** GOOD

Enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre


Some problems, approach with caution


Not worth your time
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Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2014
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