The Legend and Brilliance of William Seward Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs, also called William Lee as his pen name, was an American novelist, satirist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer.
A major figure of the Beat Generation and a prominent postmodernist author who focused on the paranoid fiction genre, he is known for being one of the most politically incisive, culturally driving, and originative artists of the 20th century. His influence is believed to have left a substantial impact on a scope of popular culture and also literature. Burroughs completed six albums of short stories, eighteen novels and novellas, and four albums of essays. There are five books on his correspondences and interviews. He also teamed up on various projects with a lot of performers and musicians, including recordings, and made an appearance in a slew of films.
Born into an affluent family in St. Louis, Missouri, he was the grandson of William Seward Burroughs, the creator and founder of the Burroughs Corporation; and the nephew of public relations manager, Ivy Lee. During his early adolescent years, Burroughs set out into journal and essay writing, but it wasn’t until his thirties that he started publicizing his works. He left home in 1932 to study at Harvard University, where he took up English, and then enrolled in anthropology as a postgraduate, before proceeding to Vienna to attend medical school. In 1942, Burroughs joined the U.S. Army for World War II, but was rejected by the Office of Strategic Services and Navy. It was at that point when he started going into drugs, an addiction that never left him for the rest of his life, in between working a range of jobs. In 1943, while residing in New York City, he met and became friends with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, with whom he planted the seeds of the Beat Generation, which eventually became a defining influence on the counterculture of the 1960s.
A large portion of Burroughs’s work is partly autobiographical, substantially shaped by his life as a heroin addict, as he lived in and around Paris, London, Tangier in Morocco and Mexico City, including his visits in the South American Amazon. By accident, Burroughs killed Joan Vollmer, his second wife, in Mexico City in 1951, which led to his conviction for manslaughter. Fueled by the success of Junkie (1953), his confessional first novel, Burroughs became a sensation after his third book, Naked Lunch (1959), an extremely controversial novel that was part of a sodomy court case in the U.S. Together with Brion Gysin, he also made the literary cut-up method greater very popular through some of his works, like The Nova Trilogy (1961-1964).
The year 1983 saw Burroughs’ election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and just a year later, he received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres awarded by France. Jack Kerouac regarded Burroughs as the next best satirical writer that followed Jonathan Swift, a repute that sprung out of his unending subversion of the economic, moral and political systems of modern-day America, often stated in dark and funny sardonicism.