Last Words

Last Words : The Final Journals of William Burroughs

3.95 (608 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Paperback
By (author)  , Introduction and notes by 
3.95 (608 ratings by Goodreads)

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The journal of the last months of William Burroughs' life. 20 November 1996: 'Well, it's time for my Ovaltine and a long good night.' Burroughs died in 1997, after a lifetime of notoriety. The granddaddy of the Beats, druggy, dangerous and bleak, author of thirteen controversial, shocking novels. In his final years, he was writing only in his journals. The last nine months of his diaries are here in 'Last Words', and they form a complex, rarely seen, personal portrait of Burroughs at the end of his life, coming to terms with ageing and death. Although well into his eighties, the man we see is nevertheless the same old Burroughs, still riling against the Establishment, still contemptuous of the state of the human race, still shocking, bleak and very funny. The diaries are full of anecdotes and memories, entries on the joys of housekeeping, dealing with doctors, shooting a video with U2, musings on his beloved cats, drug-taking and government cover-ups. These journals contain some of the most brutally personal prose Burroughs has ever written.
The deaths of his friends, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, provide a window onto the preparations he was making for his own death -- a quest for absolution marked by a profound sense of guilt and loss.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 130 x 197mm | 187g
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 1 b/w illus
  • 0006552188
  • 9780006552185
  • 2,890,086

Review quote

'He is a writer of enormous richness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cosy conspiracy, to allow us to see the truth.' JG Ballard 'At eighty-three, Burroughs was living in a two-bedroom cottage in Lawrence, Kansas, with his menagerie of cats. After taking his daily dose of methadone in the morning -- he became readdicted in New York in 1980 -- he spent the afternoons reading and writing right up until his death in August 1997. "Last Words" collects these daily jottings in his notebooks, the entire literary output from the last nine months of his life!With only the love of his cats, literature and methadone left, these journals make for unbearably poignant reading. Unlikely as it may sound, Bill Burroughs was only human after all.' The Times 'With his canes, suits and absurd fedoras, William S. Burroughs was the dandy manque who invented geek chic and made modernism available to the hippie masses!Now that Burroughs' final journals have been published, edited by his companion and literary executor, James Grauerholz, a comprehensive sense of the man and his achievement, for better and for worse, is at last available. Grauerholz's introduction and notes are a fine mixture of fact and feeling, and make "Last Words" a synthetic whole!The journals are an exploration in depth, and in sum, of Burroughs' personality and creative pre-occupations![A] rich repetition, with variations, of a string of half-conscious fancies, scenarios and literary allusions. "Last Words" also presents fresh clues to the larger design of his imagination, and a means of gaining a renewed perspective on his work.' New York Times '"Where is the cavalry, the spaceship, the rescue squad?" asked William Burroughs on May 26 1997. He didn't realize that it was on its way: three months later, he was dead!"Last Words" reveals the author of "Naked Lunch" riddled with arthritis and still saddled with guilt for shooting his common-law wife in 1951. Although he seems more vulnerable than ever before, the anti-establishment anger continues to flare up at odd moments, his skewed sense of humour still sends out sparks.' Time Out 'There's a savage glamour about William Burroughs, both in his writing and his life!"Last Words", made during the last nine months of his life, shows him to be as sharp-minded as ever.' Ham & High 'The entries in "Last Words" were made as Burroughs came to terms with his impending demise, and they are at once elegiac and filled with a curious kind of contentment at the way things have turned out. For the first and only time, he reveals a gentler self, full of years and filled with grace. He was a great American writer to the end.' Gay Times 'A fascinating read. A mixture of the insane, the inane, and the startlingly perceptive, they at first appear to be no more than the uncontrolled effluvium of a mad junkie's mind. But then, suddenly, one begins to see a pattern, as if the smashed fragments of a mosaic still discernibly keep a memory of their proper arrangement!Burroughs surfaces among his words as a bent, acute, watchful, irritated, clever old man, like a sparkling eye peering out from the greasy broken panes of a dilapidated building. Occasional lines and phrases catch one's breath.' Financial Times '"Last Words" is filled with memories and reminiscences delivered in staccato poignancy. Burroughs cuts up his recollections and dreams, merging, always playfully, sometimes painfully, fact with fiction!A welcome addition to the extensive Burroughs oeuvre.' Scotsman
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About William S. Burroughs

William Burroughs was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1914. Immensely influential among the Beat writers of the 1950s -- notably Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg -- he already had an underground reputation before the appearance of his first important book, 'Naked Lunch'. William Burroughs died in 1997.
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Rating details

608 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 34% (205)
4 34% (208)
3 27% (164)
2 3% (20)
1 2% (11)
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