William S. Burroughs

The One Of Many Fathers Of Beat Culture

Precocious Child into War Stricken young adult.

Born 1914, on a chilly February day in Missouri, was William Seward Burroughs. Named after his grandfather, a pioneer in adding-machine technology, he was even more successful at a young age. Attending prep schools eventually majoring in English Literature, he seemed to be on his way to a normal life. Burroughs was very open to expanding his new career as an author, so much so when he traveled to Europe he married to help her gain entry into the states.

William enlisted in the army in early 1942, as the U.S. entered world war II, but when he was classified 1-A Infantry, not an officer, he became dejected. His mother noticed his depression and got him a Civilian Disability Charge, which basically means he wasn't "mentally fit" enough to be in the army. When he was finally out of the army, he met the other beat writers, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and his later wife, Joan Vollmer. During this time, during the devastating effects of World War II and his sense of incompetency in the army, Burroughs became addicted to morphine, and his wife an addict too, but her drug of choice was benzedrine. Many arrests later, William and Joan finally moved to Conroe, Texas and had their son, with his own set of problems too. After escaping a mexican prison, writing books on alienation and drug culture, and abandoning his wife for men, he accidentally shot his wife.

Drugs cause stress, who knew?

As Burroughs continued on a bad appetite for drugs and writing wonderful literature, he soon "cured" his addiction in 1974 only to relapse 5 years later. It was only until 1997 he died from methadone treatments. I personally think William, although a hopeless addict, did find a good outlet for his stress for those 5 years. Most of his good experiences in life he has credited to his wanderlust, and despite a hard life, he inspired many cultures to arise out of his odd books. I call him a 20th century Franz Kafka. He used his past experiences to aide the next couple of drug-addled generations. I saw him in a German film once, alongside a young ex-junkie, Christiane F, who started using heroin at 13 compared to his first at 30. So although he did not completely resolve his stress, but used it to help others I really respect that.

"Love? What is it? The most natural painkiller there is!"

"The junk merchant doesn't 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."

"After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it."

I was going to title this citations, but I found this as one of his quotes which relates a lot still after more than 50 years that he has said it.