Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bill

William S. Burrough's Gravestone 2014-02-02

Oops, forgot about this, leading to a rare second post in a day.

Today is the one hundredth birthday of one of St. Louis' most famous and infamous sons, William S. Burroughs. His writing has the power to shock even today and most of his life was wild, to put it mildly.  My pupils must have dilated hugely when I read The Western Lands and Cities of the Red Night.

He spent his last 13 years in Lawrence, Kansas, not far from Kansas City and home of the University of Kansas, but asked to be buried in the family plot here. They had money - his grandfather invented the adding machine. Now he rests in beautiful Bellefontaine Cemetery, the location marked by only a small stone.

Burroughs often wrote with ripping, outrageous humor. Here's an example with him reading the notorious Dr. Benway bit  from Naked Lunch (see also here). I like the photo that goes with this on YouTube, showing Frank Zappa standing by the writer, smiling with obvious admiration. WARNING - this recording is not for  minors, the easily offended  or people who are certain they know what good literature is.                            


Stefan Jansson said...

He had a unique style. And lead a very different life.

Birdman said...

LOVE your warning.
I read it anyway.
Love Burgoughs.
Love his readings.
A guy good Jesuit-boys can appreciate.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Very controversial for his time, a bit like Henry Miller I guess.. around about the same time too.

Jack said...

I know about Burroughs, of course, but I have not read any of his works. Not because I am a prude (Lord knows, I am not!) but because life is short and I want to spend it on things I think I will like more than his work.

cieldequimper said...

I am ashamed to say I've yet to read Burroughs.

William Kendall said...

A small gravestone isn't a bad thing, mind you...

I last read some of his work years ago. Definitely controversial. said...

The newspaper in Arizona had a little "100 years ago today" item about Burroughs today.

And this is just 3 years after the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tennessee Williams, also from St. Louis.

Anonymous said...

interesting. Like your blog!