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William S. Burroughs

Writer. Born 1914. Died 1997.

The works of William S. Burroughs, many being possibly somewhat autobiographical, are, in a word, controversial.  Many critics and writers laud him as a substantial influence on American literature, especially from the 1940s through the 1980s.  Some of the titles of his books give a hint of his approach to literature: "Naked Lunch," "Junkie," and "Queer."  Not to mention, "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks," which he wrote with Jack Kerouac.

Burroughs' life was almost as chaotic as the plots of his books.  A longer biography would report on his homosexuality, serious long-term drug problems, run in with the law over drug trafficking, suspected homicide, and monumental marital and family dysfunction, as well as other things.  Still, for all his wide-ranging personal problems, his writing earned him a place in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Some might find it strange that such a talented writer, perhaps a genius, with rampant personal problems would live his last 16 years in Lawrence, Kansas.  Of course, some Kansans would not find that at all odd.  But live in Lawrence he did, while he continued to write, be involved in rock and roll, perform public readings of his work, paint, and make videos.  Another amazing thing about his life is that he lived to the age of 83.

Entry: Burroughs, William S.

Author: G. Joseph Pierron

Author information: Judge Pierron serves on the Kansas Court of Appeals and has an interest in Kansas history.

Date Created: March 2012

Date Modified: May 2021

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.