Letters to the Editor

Letter: Burroughs legacy

May 8, 2014


To the editor:

In February, the Journal-World published an editorial questioning the importance of recognizing the late William S. Burroughs and his connections and legacy with regard to Lawrence.

Burroughs is a significant figure in the history of modern American literature, specifically of what is called “The Beat Generation.” He was part of our community in his later years, and I think that it is in the best interest of our town and university to claim and to promote the creativity of his work both in art and literature.

A quotation of the late Allen Ginsburg stands out as a good summary of the importance of Burroughs and of his colleagues:

“This ‘Beat generation’ or ‘sixties’ tolerant worldview provoked an intoxicated right wing into denial of reality, and reinforced its codependency with repressive laws, incipient police state, death-penalty demagoguery, sex demagoguery, art censorship, fundamentalist monotheist televangelist quasi-fascist wrath, racism, and homophobia. This counterreaction seems a by-product of the further gulf between the rich and poor classes, growth of a massive abused underclass, increased power and luxury for the rich who control politics and their minions in the media. Prescription: more art, meditation, lifestyles of relative penury, avoidance of conspicuous consumption that’s burning down the planet.

“I think younger generations have been attracted by the exuberance, libertarian optimism, erotic humor, frankness, continuous energy, invention, and collaborative amity of these poets and singers. We had a great job to do, and we’re doing it, trying to save and heal the spirit of America.”


4 years, 1 month ago

Seems like more of us are in complete denial of Allen Ginsburg's summary of the way things were...and still are... then back in the day. It's like man...were still like the naked meat at the end of the right wing fork man... Like a naked lunch. And the beat goes on...

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 1 month ago

William Burroughs missed his calling, he should have been an actor. He was in only one movie. But maybe he could play only one role. He wasn't the star of the movie, but he certainly was much more than an extra, in 'Drugstore Cowboy'. He was such a good actor for his part! Actually, it's amazing that he didn't win an Academy Award for playing his character so well.

For some reason, he fit in so perfectly for the part of a drug addict. He acted it so very naturally. And, he was also a Roman Catholic priest for that part. Amazing character.

But about being a Roman Catholic priest, that was pure acting.

Clark Coan 4 years, 1 month ago

Here's my letter again: To the editor:

William Burroughs is not a good role model for young people and his life and works should not be honored or celebrated in any way. Burroughs had a lifelong addiction to opiates — first morphine and later heroin — and actively promoted drug use. He murdered his common-law wife in Mexico for which he was convicted in absentia for culpable homicide after fleeing that country. In 1949, he became an international gay playboy using his grandfather’s fortune. He molested underage boys in Morocco and became a sex offender.

His book, “Junkie,” a semi-autobiographical novel glamorizing drug use, has little literary value critics say. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” is a fragmentary collection of “routines” using a cut-up and fold-in technique. Critics question the technique and its literary value and many claim it is simply gibberish. Writer Lynn Snowden Picket accurately describes Burroughs’ books as “phantasmagorias of buggered boys, bloody syringes, talking a-holes, and vaginal teeth.” Ironically a city park and trail popular with Lawrence children is named after a sex offender. We can do better than that.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 1 month ago

We have to remember that authors write from their own inclinations. Mark Twain said, "First, of all write a good story." Then people will become so emotionally and mentally invested in the characters and what they do and say that they will reflect on what they read and perhaps act on it.

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