How William Burroughs Burnt Out

How William Burroughs Burnt Out - Page 2

By Tony O'Neill 02/07/12

The writer's newly released letters prove that his wasted image was more than a pose.

Burroughs rubbing out the words Photo via

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When I kicked junk the final time, nine years ago, I did it in London with an ounce of grass, a few good albums, some Valium, and a bunch of novels—Naked Lunch included.  Burroughs’ writing helped me in ways that the writing of that other Bill never could.

"Junk is the ideal product...the ultimate merchandise,” Burroughs wrote in Naked Lunch. “No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy...The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer; he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff in junk." 

Tony O'Neill is the author of the novels Digging the Vein, Down and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel as well as a regular contributor to The Fix who has interviewed Jerry Stahl and argued against abstinence, among many other topics.