Thinking of the Original Junky

Some years ago, well, a bunch of years ago, I was working for Moe Moskowitz at his famous Berkeley bookstore.

The author William Burroughs was passing through, pitching some book or other, I no longer recall which. And he was set to do a book signing at Moe’s.

I was assigned to lay out a flyer. It was a treat of a task, and what to do was obvious. For the text I cut out letters from magazines and newspapers and arranged them together with a grainy photograph of the master, and stuck everything to a sheet of paper with celophane tape. I explained to the owner of the copy store down the street that I needed the tape to show on the page. He agreed to this only if I promised not to say where the copying had been done.

Later with just a handful of fellow booksellers, I got to sit with the master of cut and paste literature and world renowned reprobate as he in his raspy voice regaled us with stories, many of which I’m sure were true. I got a few seconds of special attention as he had found the flyer a delight…

It’s silly, but I treasure his praise…

William S. Burroughs, Beat, avant garde author of Junkie, Naked Lunch and much else, some of it good, and general all around bad man, was born on this day in 1914.

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  • Patrick Works

    Careful with this one. I have a friend from my youth who’s pop was a writer/poet associated with the beats and on a lit tour event moving from one town to another the kid was the recipient of some unwelcome attention from Mr. Burroughs and a large pistol. I have many creative heros that I would not want to have over for dinner…I hear Ray Charles was a very virulent Republican and James Brown a serial wife beater…I listen to them both, and still have Burroughs on my shelf…but am glad to not have to be around any of them. My 2c

  • James

    Great artist, Pat.Bad man…

  • Nancy Green

    I liked ‘Naked Lunch’ when I was in my 20′s because the violence was not primarily directed at women. Also the bizarre imagery. Now I have a growing aversion to violence real, surreal, and anywhere. I would percieve the book differently now, also my life is stranger now than then.

  • David Clark

    One of my friends in the old days tried to emulate Mr. Burroughs a little too closely and became a “dead” beat before his time. Perhaps he should have emulated Edgar Rice Burroughs instead.As you say, James. Great artist, bad man.I notice your clip has him reading one of my old favorites, Berthot Brecht’s “Die Grogroschenoper”. Great Stuff!