Junky : The Definitive Text of 'Junk'

3.85 (59,720 ratings by Goodreads)

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Burroughs' first novel, a largely autobiographical account of the constant cycle of drug dependency, cures and relapses, remains the most unflinching, unsentimental account of addiction ever written. Through junk neighbourhoods in New York, New Orleans and Mexico City, through time spent kicking, time spent dealing and time rolling drunks for money, through junk sickness and a sanatorium, `Junky` is a field report (by a writer trained in anthropology at Harvard) from the American post-war drug underground. A cult classic, it has influenced generations of writers with its raw, sparse and unapologetic tone. This definitive edition painstakingly recreates the author's original text word for word.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 12mm | 157g
  • Penguin Classics
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141189827
  • 9780141189826
  • 64,777

About William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs was born on February 5, 1914 in St Louis. In work and in life Burroughs expressed a lifelong subversion of the morality, politics and economics of modern America. To escape those conditions, and in particular his treatment as a homosexual and a drug-user, Burroughs left his homeland in 1950, and soon after began writing. By the time of his death he was widely recognised as one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the twentieth century. His numerous books include Naked Lunch, Junky, Queer, Nova Express, Interzone, The Wild Boys, The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine. After living in Mexico City, Tangier, Paris, and London, Burroughs finally returned to America in 1974. He died in 1997.
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Rating details

59,720 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 28% (16,489)
4 39% (23,429)
3 26% (15,319)
2 6% (3,570)
1 2% (913)

Our customer reviews

I have avoided reading the work of William S. Burroughs for a very long time. From what I read about him and was told by friends, he was experimental. I heard about his (in)famous cut-up technique. A friend read blah! He struggled all the way through and then pronounced it unreadable. But I'm going through a Penguin Modern Classics kick at the moment and picked up a copy of Junky in a bargain bookshop and opened a random page to heck it out. On first glance it appeared to be written in English and all the words were in an order that made sense to me. I read the blurb on the back and decided to give it a try. Admittedly, the word trepidation crept into my mind each time I caught sight of it in my to-read pile. But eventually it got to the top and I could think of no sustainable excuse for passing it over. Junky is very much a product of its time. For instance, there is a glossary at the back explaining the slang words that are used throughout. There might have been one that I did not immediately recognise and less than half a dozen not in common usage during the last thirty years but when he wrote it in the late-forties/early-fifties I can imagine that it was daring and ground breaking. I would consider myself averagely cosmopolitan and fairly well informed on the subject of drugs but I have to admit that I found junky to be somewhat of an education. This is a novel, though it is as much autobiography, told from the first person perspective of a junk fiend - the author's usage. It is honest and straightforward in its handling of the underbelly of society inhabited by such fiends and discusses frankly and matter-of-factly all of the aspects of being a drug addict, though a strangely middle-class one it must be admitted. The book is prefaced with a biography of the main character who comes from a well-to-do Middle American background. Burroughs himself is the scion of the family that owned the largest business machine company in the US in the first half of the twentieth century and invented the calculator, though not the pocket-sized one. What surprised me most was that he stayed out of the gutter. He always had somewhere to live and could always raise the money for a score - mostly through petty frauds rather than outright larceny. And he, and all of his junkie acquaintances were always on the brink of taking a cure - did in fact take the cure regularly. Junky is Burroughs's first book and is written in a very straightforward, almost journalistic, style. It is a short, quick read and a superb glimpse behind the curtains of the fifties counterculture - Burroughs was friends with beat generation icon Jack Kerouac and Junky was championed by Allen Ginsberg. If you want to try Burroughs then I can highly recommend Junky as a painless and fascinating introduction to the man, if not his body of work. review by www.bobneilson.orgshow more
by Bob Neilson
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