Junky, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


A shocking expose of the desperate subculture surrounding heroin addiction, William S.

Burroughs' Junky is edited with an introduction by Oliver Harris in Penguin Modern Classics. Burroughs' first novel, a largely autobiographical account of the constant cycle of drug dependency, cures and relapses, remains the most unflinching, unsentimental account of addiction ever written.

Through junk neighbourhoods in New York, New Orleans and Mexico City, through time spent kicking, time spent dealing and time rolling drunks for money, through junk sickness and a sanatorium, Junky is a field report (by a writer trained in anthropology at Harvard) from the American post-war drug underground.

Nurtured into being by fellow Beat Generation guru Allen Ginsberg, Junky is a cult classic that has influenced generations of writers with its raw, sparse and unapologetic tone.

This definitive edition painstakingly recreates the author's original text word for word. In work and in life, William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) expressed a constant subversion of the morality, politics and economics of modern America. To escape those conditions, and in particular his treatment as a homosexual and a drug-user, Burroughs left his homeland in 1950, and soon after began writing.

By the time of his death he was widely recognised as one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the twentieth century.

His numerous books include Naked Lunch, Junky, Queer, Nova Express, Interzone, The Wild Boys, The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine.

If you enjoyed Junky, you might like Burroughs' Exterminator!, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Reads today as fresh and unvarnished as it ever has' Will Self


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To many contemporary readers narcotics and drug addicts are shrouded by an atmosphere of crime, danger and dirt, which will lead most people to shun heroin addicts, or "junkies" as they have become known. With Junky, also spelled Junkie, William S. Burroughs tries to clear that image, and would almost succeed.Junky was published as an autobiographical novel telling an almost clinically cool history of how Burroughs became addicted, which is told in a very straightforward narrative, and seemingly based on a very innocent transaction, of a pal asking him to sell some morphine and Burroughs ending up trying some himself. Assuming that Burroughs' assertion that many facts, descriptions of feelings, etc are factual and truthful, Junky would be an excellent guide to better understand the world of "junk" and "junk users", as Burroughs calls it.The Penguin Modern Classics edition of Junky. The definitive text of 'Junk' is published with a long introduction by Oliver Harris and includes various parts and appendixes which were cut from the original manuscript. According to the original introduction Burroughs had written Junky with the intention to enlighten readers about the true life of "junk user" and separating "junk" from the mystery surrounding it.However, in the Prologue Burroughs gives an all but sketchy impression of his life leading up to his life as a "junk". Comparing these notes with the biographical information we now have, not just of Burroughs but also of the other writers of the Beat Generation, it is clear that the biographical sketch in the Prologue is incomplete and probably deliberately vague. To present Junky as a lifestyle choice it probably did not fit the bill to explain that despite his good education and relative carefree life, receiving a monthly allowance from a trust fund, Burroughs was attracted to criminal behaviour, and the Beat Generation started with a murder in which Kerouac was charged as an accessory and Burroughs as a material witness, in 1944. It was later that same year Burroughs developed his addiction.Burroughs and Kerouac collaborated writing a novel together ("And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks"), and Burroughs completed the manuscript of another novel, but Junky. The definitive text of 'Junk' was Burroughs' official debut in 1953. The introduction by Oliver Harris provides many interesting details about the publication history of Junky including the various suggested titles and publishers' deliberations rejecting Burroughs' original title. The Penguin edition also includes an appreciation of Junky written by Alan Ginsberg, besides a glossary, letters and excerpts which were cut from the original manuscript, such as a long passage about Wilhelm Reich's theory of "orgones", etc in six appendices.Unlike Burroughs' later work, Junky is written in a straightforward prose style, and linear plot development. It provides a fascinating account of the life of a junky, from the point of view of a junky, explaining how heroin changes their life.

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