William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet or philosopher » The Spectator

Sting, William Burroughs and Andy Summers Photo: Getty

William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all dandies, he had a nose for hedonistic hot spots which he could mythologise along with himself. On the occasion of his centenary, Barry Miles takes us through these gorgeous, macabre scenarios with an attention to detail reminiscent of Dadd or Bosch: the boyhood in suburban St Louis; Harvard and early trips to Europe; the war, Greenwich Village and the Beats; Latin America and exile in 1950s Tangier, Existential Paris, Swinging London; the return to the USA and emergence as a literary celebrity adored by Warhol. The wheels are oiled with drugs, guns and sex, suicides and murders, comedy, neuroses and madness, intellectual experiment, numerous cranky collaborators and far-out disciples. But the muse touched the mess — and hey presto, a great writer was born.

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