On William S. Burroughs

Ezra James
4 min readJun 19, 2018

Plenty of things have been said about William Seward Burroughs over the course of his life and after. He was a shamble man with a box full of mysteries, a man that can’t be admired nor respected but simply studied for the amount of chaos he produced with virtually everything he touched.

He’s a funny cat ain’t he? Probably the craziest author to have ever lived, and I am well aware of the magnitude of such statement. His stories were filled with the most brutish of images, straight out of the gates of Hell. Heroin addicts in greasy slimy orgies gushed with blood and fecal matter. Children viciously raped by prominent characters of his books. Dead junkies on the ground being consumed by rats while the people pass by. They’re some of the strangest, most disturbing pieces of literature to have ever been published, but it is their grotesque honesty what makes them perplexing in the first place.

No one had the guts to write so openly about those topics. You can’t tell if he’s advocating or condemning such behavior half the time you read him. For the most part it’s nothing more than a story, but it’s one which thousands across the world have experienced. Through his work (most notably Junky and Naked Lunch), Burroughs was acting out as a reporter to the underbelly’s underbelly. It was his way of keeping everybody in check, discretely telling its readers: “that of which I speak of is true, and here you are, reading my book away, doing nothing about it, as the condemned rot”, a clever trick to remind everyone we are nothing more than what our circumstances make of us.

My obsession with good and evil, right and wrong, is what always brings me back to Burroughs. He has seen the worst of the human race, and is constantly reminding us of such fact through his books, letters, and stories. By showing us this side of humanity, our twisted self-righteous truths take on a new meaning, exposing the double standards each of us possess at one discussion or another. Our moral compass is short, easily turned at the face of indifference.

The more you learn about Burroughs, the more you are left pondering whether he is a monster or from a different planet. I can only come to the conclusion that he’s a little bit of both. He wreaked havoc everywhere he went. He was friends with the lowest of folks. He spoke of his drug addiction as…

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Ezra James

Absurd journalist and essayist from the outskirts of Shambhala.