William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
He was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word
performer. Much of Burroughs' work is semi-autobiographical drawn from his
experiences as an opiate addict, a condition which marked the last forty years
of his life.
Next to Jack Kerouac, poet Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William S.
Burroughs was among the primary voices of the Beat Generation and his books have
earned him an enduring cult following and regarded as an avant-garde author who
affected popular culture as well as literature. His most famous book, Naked
Lunch, became the basis of a disturbing David Cronenberg film in 1991.
Cronenberg's version of Burroughs' hallucinatory, autobiographical account of
drug addiction and despair is a liberal adaptation and incorporates other
elements from Burroughs' life. As a cult figure, with his gaunt funereal
demeanor, fedora hat, and heavy shades, Burroughs occasionally cameoed in
offbeat films, notably Drugstore Cowboy (1989) and in Gus Van Sant's poorly
received Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994). Burroughs last appeared in a rock
video for the group U2's "Last Night on Earth".