Never having enough time to sing of the extraordinary resources of – the marvel that is – UbuWeb, we spotlight this weekend just one of their (countless) treasures – William S Burroughs, reading the whole of his 1953 seminal novel, Junkie (or Junky – we’ll come to that spelling and subtleties and distinctions in a minute). This “audio book” recording was the one released by Penguin in 2000, consisting of 3 CD’s, a total of over 3 hours playing-time. As they (UbuWeb) say on their site – “(It is) a worthy piece of literature to invest the time into reading” (and/or, we would add, to invest the time listening to), “not only for a Burroughs fan but any reader who enjoys thought-provoking subject-matter and stories containing complex and intriguing characters”.
As to that Junkie/Junky disinction. We draw your attention to Oliver Harris’ 2003 “50th Anniversary edition”, definitive text – “Harris has painstakingly recreated the author’s original text word by word, from archival typescripts. Here for the first time are Burroughs’ own unpublished introduction and an entire omitted chapter, along with many “lost” passages and auxiliary texts by Allen Ginsberg and others..”
& here is Allen (from one of his many pronouncements on the book) – “As agent, I negotiated a contract…delivering Burroughs an Advance of $800 on an edition of 100,000 copies printed back-to-back – 69’d so to speak – with another book on drugs, by an ex- Narcotics Agent. (The Narcotic Agent by Maurice Helbrant). Certainly a shabby package, on the other hand, given our naivete, a kind of brave miracle that the text was actually printed and read over the next decade by a million cognescenti – who did appreciate the intelligent fact, the clear perception, precise bare language, direct syntax and mind-pictures – as well as the enormous sociological grasp, culture-reviolutionary attitude toward bureaucracy and law, and the stoic cold-humor’d eye on crime”.