To start my introductory blog writing book reviews I will try to briefly analyze the novel “Junky,” by William S. Burroughs. “Junky” represents a culture, the early Jazz music movments, and hipster underground society that concieved the Beat Movement and later, the 60’s hippie scene. Burroughs, considered the grandfather of Beatniks, doesn’t write as the infamous and notable prose crusader, Jack Kerouac, or Allen Ginsberg’s alternative poetic talents. Though much older and more educated, Burroughs introduced a new form of writing, along side artistic misfit, Brion Gysin. Together these two made unsual flims, independent art, and developed the cut up writing technique, which Burrough’s perfected in such novels as “The Naked Lunch,” “The Soft Machine,” and “The Ticket that Exploded.”
However, the cut up technique is very difficult to really absorb and follow. The splices of thought, instant change of setting, perspective, and idea makes the books opposite of a light afternoon read. “Junky,” on the other hand, is very accessible. A simple, quick, entertaining read, “Junky” is a great introductory book to the complex science that shapes the mind and work of William S. Burroughs.
“Junky” bascially details Burrough’s knowledge and life in the streets, the drug underground, and the philosophy of junk culture in the 40-50s. Notorious for his use of Herion and abuse of Morphine, Burroughs manages to put together a complete novel that coherently concentrates on the seemingly overwhelming burden and hendrence of junk, mentally and phsyically. Where others are consumbed by the power of junk, Burroughs pervails despite his personal addiction and writes a dramatic memior about the social visage of junkies with a knowledgable perspecitive and an almost scholarly approach. It reads like a novel, but when your finished, it is as if you have earned your degree in Jazz Underground Street Smarts, major in Beat slang/vernacular, phd. It comes with a glossary of street terms, language of the Jazz and junkie lifestyle.
The connection of course between the early Jazz scene and the junkie underground is that Jazz muscians, mostly African Americans, were involved with and used Junk (Herion), which created a connection between the black markets run by junkies in dark alleys and subways with the jazz music playing in two bit bars close by. Jazz itself was underground simply because of racial prejudice against the African Americans who consumed the musical talent of the Jazz genre. Drugs and music collided into a fluid system of creativity, music, poetry, and substance abuse, paving the early foundations of the Beat Generation eventually transforming into the 60s Hippie movement.
“Junky” acts as a time capsule, when you read it it, you feel as if you are experiencing life as a junkie in the 40s. It is a simple idea, detailing the struggle and addictions of junkies who were and still are, shunned in the alley ways and crumbling buildings, as they fight to find the only source of peace in their world, junk. Furthermore, Burroughs describes the grueling process of withdrawl and the meager attempts to ween off the powerful drug. There is a fine line between the ulimate motive for the story. Is Burrough’s trying to defend junkies and the use of illegal drugs, or is he providing the squares of cookie cutter America a new perspective about what lurks behind the dumpsters and what goes on beneath the shadows of the working world?
Whatever his motive was, Burroughs remains one of the most interesting writers and thinkers of American Literature. “Junky” isn’t poetic or full of prose as in Kerouac’s “One the Road,” but it has a sense of truth and deepness that you can feel throughout the book. This man knows his way in and out of mainstream social status. He can pose himself as a junkie or an accomplished artist. He can write as a scholar or as an interzone agent receiving unimaginable missions from the extraterrestial life of mugwumps.
If your interested in the Beatniks, I would suggest starting with “Junky.” It is a great, quick, simple read, but insightful and full of information that embodied the streets in the 40s-50s. It is a great introduction to the writing of Burroughs and is very enjoyable and can bring a historical insight relative to ino the modern issues regarding drug use today.