Burroughs Blurbs

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A Compilation of Book-Jacket Blurbs by William S. Burroughs

It’s always hard to know exactly what to make of the blurbs that authors contribute to the jackets of books written by other authors. Are they sincere endorsements of the quality of a book? Are they fragments of sham praise extorted from friends? Are they recommendations or favors? Are they criticism or advertising?

If it’s impossible to know whether a book-jacket blurb is sincere or not, one thing is certain: it maps out a relation between one writer and another. Blurbs are the literary equivalent of “six degrees of separation.” They draw a line between authors that you might not otherwise think to connect.

This collection of blurbs by William S. Burroughs thus forms a sort of topography. The basic triviality of the blurbs themselves is offset by the eclectic range of books to which Burroughs lent his name. Then again, Burroughs always did have a wide range of intellectual interests, so perhaps the sheer variety of these blurbs provides just one further expression of his panoramic intellect.

NOTE: Many of the blurbs below have been collected thanks in no small part to their listing in Michael Stevens’ A Distant Book Lifted, a bibliography of Burroughs blurbs, forewards, afterwards, introductions, and prefaces. (Many thanks to Michael for sending a copy to RealityStudio!)

And if you know of any blurb not collected here, please send it in to RealityStudio. Thanks!

Abdul Alhazred, Al Azif: The Necronomicon

Burroughs says: “Let the secrets of the ages be revealed. The publication of the Necronomicon may well be a landmark in the liberation of the human spirit.”

Clive Barker, Imajica

Burroughs says: “A book in the picaresque tradition that moves with tidal force and power.”

Owen Beattie and John Geiger, Frozen In Time: The Fate of The Franklin Expedition

Burroughs says: “A cautionary tale of scholarly merit.”

Steven J Bernstein, Hermione

Burroughs says: “The work is deeply felt and carefully transcribed. Bernstein has been there and brought it back. Bernstein is a writer.”

Udo Breger, Identity Express

Burroughs says: “And his writing seems, to me, among the best done in europe today.”

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Burroughs says: “I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language as Mr. Burgess has done here — the fact that this is also a very funny book may pass unnoticed.” And on another edition Burroughs says: “One of the few books I have been able to read in recent years.”

Jim Carroll, The Basketball Diaries

Burroughs says: “With an eye for detail & ear for narrative, Jim Carroll brings us through a world of youthful crime and streetplay, where drugs are as much a commonplace as sasparilla was when I was a boy. He must be a born writer.”

Suzy McKee Charnas, The Slave and the Free

Burroughs says: “Only one science fiction book in hundreds manages to convince the reader that it ever could have happened anywhere, and at least that few are worth reading at all… [Charnas has] created a future that is at once believable and fascinating.”

Mohamed Choukri, Jean Genet in Tangier

Burroughs says: “As I read Choukri’s notes I saw and heard Jean Genet as clearly as if I had been watching a film of him. It is a full-length portrait… Anyone who reads it will see Genet as clearly as I saw him in Chicago.”

Brion Gysin, The Process

Burroughs says: “This is a book you will want to read and re-read. It will tell you what is happening in Present Time. How things are made to happen or not to happen. In Present Time. It is also first-class entertainment. Start to read it and you will find that it reads itself.”

Scott Heim, In Awe

Burroughs says: “This book explores new frontiers of sexuality in unexpected areas… Insightful and beautifully written.”

Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin

Burroughs says: “This book explores new frontiers of sexuality in unexpected areas — like western Kansas. Insightful and beautifully written.”

Phil Hine, Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic

Burroughs says: “Phil Hine’s book is the most concise statement… of the logic of modern magic. Magic, in the light of modern physics, quantum theory and probability theory is now approaching science. We hope that a result of this will be a synthesis so that science will become more magical and magic more scientific.”

John Gilmore, Fetish Blonde

Burroughs says: “A psycho-sexual crash. A personal crash of one poaching past the limit… You’re going to a Valentine’s Day party with a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson. What’s here, what’s crawling out is held in madness and frenzy.”

David Gilmour, Back on Tuesday

Burroughs says: “Back On Tuesday is an up-to-the-minute psychological novel. It projects a special type of modern madness that I equate with the end of the human line.”

Robert Gluck, Margery Kempe

Burroughs says: “Glück reminds one of Genet and the transmutation of sex into something beyond sex. Not since Genet have we seen such pure love of the body and soul — seen as one palpable flesh.”

Michael Herr, Dispatches

Burroughs says: “Having read Dispatches, it is difficult to convey the impact of total experience as all the facades of patriotism, heroism, and the whole colossal fraud of American intervention fall away to the bare bones of fear, war and death.”

Herbert Huncke, Guilty of Everything

Burroughs says: “Guilty of Everything is an honest, readable, informative book which incidentally mirrors the human condition.” (From Burroughs’ foreward to the book.)

Gary Indiana, Rent Boy

Burroughs says: “An archetypal story, expertly told. Fascinating to everyman, no matter what his sexual tastes — like the characters of Genet.”

Frank Lauria, Raga Six

Burroughs says: “Hypnotically readable… Frank Lauria has written the most believable vampire and werewolf stories I have ever read.”

Steven Johnson Leyba, Coyote Satan Amerika

Burroughs says: “Johnson sees a subject as it is, sees an asshole or a cock as is without a stroke of simpering prurience, or irrelevant repugnance.”

Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams

Burroughs says: “An engrossing account of a period… when a tiny psychoactive molecule affected almost every aspect of Western life.”

Sylvere Lotringer, Overexposed. Treating Sexual Perversion in America

Burroughs says: “The sexualization of postwar American culture has produced results that would astonish Freud, Reich, and even Kinsey. Modern techniques of behavior modification now cast doubt on the sources of individual eroticism. Overexposed is an engrossing description of sexual conditioning condoned by the state. A fascinating book.”

Charles Manson, Manson in His Own Words

Burroughs says: “Compulsively readable… Manson can’t ever succeed in being paroled out of that cell, not as long as people with any sense at all can read this book.”

Richard Marshall, Strange Amazing and Mysterious Places

Burroughs says: “Every place has a spirit: it may be good, it may be bad, it can be as restful as eternity… The place-spirit can inhabit a block, a house, a town, a valley; the nature of these spirits is that they remain.” (From Burroughs’ short introduction.)

Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me

Burroughs says: “This book tells it like it was. It is the very first book to do so.”

Stewart Meyer, The Lotus Crew

Burroughs says: “The Lotus Crew is a superbly crafted novel that says the most basic things about power, corruption, loyalty, and the total need of heroin addiction. Stewart Meyer is a writer to watch; The Lotus Crew is better than a movie.”

Richard Miller, Snail

Burroughs says: “Richard Miller’s Snail is a novel at once delirious and serious. Cast in the form of a traditional picaresque novel, a series of incredible adventures and misadventures, it addresses itself to the basic themes of immortality, death, reincaration, and the future of the species.”

Barry Miles, Jack Kerouac, King of the Beats

Burroughs says: “What are writers… trying to do? They are trying to create a universe in which they have lived or would like to live. To write they must go there and submit to conditions which they may not have bargained for. Sometimes as in the case of…. Kerouac, the effect produced by a writer is immediate, as if a generation were waiting to be written.”

Gerald Nicosia, Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac

Burroughs says: “By far the best of the many books published about Jack Kerouac’s life and work, accurately and clearly written, with a sure feeling for Jack’s own prose.”

Claude Pelieu, Coca Neon / Polaroid Rainbow

Burroughs says: “Claude Pelieu and I have exchanged letters and manuscripts for some years. I am frequently struck by precise though seemingly coincidental references in his work to what I am writing right now writing which nobody but myself has directly seen. I feel that we are sharing a common source of literary material and a common source of thought, that perhaps all serious writers are in a very real sense united. By serious writers I mean those who have left the concept of art for art’s sake behind and see writing as a weapon with revolvers aimed voici le temps de l’assassin. William Burroughs, January 23, 1968, London”

Iggy Pop, I Need More

Burroughs says: “Fresh, courageous, and evocative, I Need More is the story of a man who stands up to tell the truth in a house full of lies… bridging the schizophrenic gap between fact and public image.”

Richard Price, The Wanderers

Burroughs says: “A deeply moving account of confused and spiritually underprivileged youth. Not since Last Exit to Brooklyn has dialogue been so accurately reproduced in artistic format.”

Irving Rosenthal, Sheeper

Burroughs says: “Rosenthal has brought back to writing the almost forgotten element of style. On each sentence he imposes his seal. Each word is transmuted by the alchemy of arrangement. Brightly colored beetles move and shift in a glittering mosaic of Mandarin complexity. A brilliant specialized performance.”

Hubert Selby, The Demon

Burroughs says: “The Demon is a freight train of a novel with a climax like a kick in the stomach!”

Patti Smith, Complete: Lyrics, Reflections, and Notes for the Future

Burroughs says: “Patti Smith is not only a great performer, she is a shaman — that is, someone in touch with other levels of reality. Her effect on the audience is electric, comparable to voodoo or umbanda rituals, where the audience members become participants and are literally lifted out of themselves.”

Patti Smith, Coral Sea

Burroughs says: “Through these poems, a singular, glowing vision of Robert Mapplethorpe develops and emerges. In The Coral Sea, Patti Smith (in the words of Tennessee Williams) ‘rings the bell of pure poetry.'”

Terry Southern, Flash & Filigree

Burroughs says: “In this world, nothing is true, and censure or outrage is simply irrelevant.”

Art Spiegelman, The Wild Party : The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March

Burroughs says: “The Wild Party?… It’s the book that made me want to be a writer.”

Johnny Strike, Ports of Hell

Burroughs says: “These are maps of real places. That is what marks the artist, he’s been there and brought it back.”

Hunter S. Thompson, Proud Highway : Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman (Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol 1)

Burroughs says: “A careening, chaotic, rollercoaster ride through time. Crackling electrical charged fused from the Fires of Hell. Direction. Purpose. Energy.”

Alexander Trocchi, Young Adam

Burroughs says: “He was an individual… That’s it. They don’t make ’em like that any more.”

Alexander Trocchi, Cain’s Book

Burroughs says: “Cain’s Book is the classic late-1950s account of heroin addiction… An un-self-forgiving existentialism, rendered with writerly exactness and muscularity, set this novel apart from all others of the genre.”

John Waters, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters

Burroughs says: “John Waters is the Pope of Trash and his taste in tacky is unexcelled.”

Terry Wilson, Brion Gysin: Here to Go

Burroughs says: “A book you will want to read and re-read.”

Terry Wilson, D Train

Burroughs says: “D Train routes the reader through the land of the dead. In this perilous passage, the only one a man can trust, the only one who can guide him through the land of the dead, is his Ka, his psychic double. And the Ka needs the man as much as the man needs his Ka. A tragic impasse blocks all but a very few from the Ka. D Train is a significant and timely book since it expresses this basic spiritual alienation in modern forms. It isn’t foregone like salvation. It’s a desperate quest for psychic integation. D Train is a book concerned with spiritual basics. Young boys need it special. They may even listen”

Terry Wilson, Dreams of Green Base

Burroughs says: “Accurate and honest… Publication may present considerable difficulties.” (Front-cover blurb from a letter to Terry Wilson, 28 february 1972.)”

David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives

Burroughs says: “David Wojnarowicz has caught the age-old voice of the road, the voice of the traveler, the outcast, the thief, the whore, the same voice that was heard in Villon’s Paris, in the Rome of Petronius. Pick up his book and listen.”

3 thoughts on “Burroughs Blurbs

  1. you ask for other blurbs….try this one…

    Keith Haring: Future Primeval (Paperback)
    by Barry Blinderman (Author), etc. (Author)

    Foreword by William S. Burroughs (70 words only)

  2. Interestingly, the publishers of the so-called ‘Simon’ Necronomicon were pretty disappointed with WSB’s comments; they were hoping for some sort of endorsement to use – he wrote ‘Some considerations on the paperback publication of THE NECRONOMICON’ (a fascinating piece, the general tone of which is pretty disparaging of the “skulking and cowardly Adept hiding in his magick circle and forcing demons to do the dirty jobs he is afraid to do himself”!), from which they extracted the line used from the closing remark:
    “Let the secret of the ages be revealed. This is the best assurance against such secrets being monopolized by vested interests for sordid and selfish ends. The publication of the NECRONOMICON may well be a landmark in the liberation of the human spirit.”

    …I have also seen an edition with the line “A dangerous book. The theological equivalent of a loaded gun.” attributed to Mr Burroughs, but I have no idea of the source for that…

    + Here is the Foreword for Keith Haring:

    ‘The artist does not render the visible; the artist makes visible.’ – Paul Klee

    “This is precisely applicable to Keith Haring’s creations, literally runaway pictures swarming from perilous subways, animated by manic, electric life – Keith Life, for the quickest glance tells the viewer it is a Haring.
    I was using the Brain Scanner, an electronic sound-and-stroboscopy device to activate the brain hemispheres – a flashing cacaphony {sic] of light and sound, and suddenly there is Keith, his little acrobats are jumping in all directions and popping up everywhere.”
    – William S Burroughs, July 30, 1989

  3. It’s weird that I’ve had Charles Mansons book since the 8th grade on my shelf and am now a huge reader of Burroughs. Especially considering his belief in the magical universe, it seems like he was trying to read to me from the grave, Also, in 7th and 8th grade i was infatuated with Marilyn Manson, who know does watercolors (one of Burroughs) I know he’s pretty teenage angst-y but it still makes me shutter

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