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William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination

by Oliver Harris

William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination Synopsis

Unraveling the mysteries of Naked Lunch, exploring the allure of fascination William Burroughs is both an object of widespread cultural fascination and one of America's great writers. In this study, Oliver Harris elucidates the complex play of secrecy and revelation that defines the allure of fascination. Unraveling the mystifications of Burroughs the writer, Harris discovers what it means to be fascinated by a figure of major cultural influence and unearths a secret history behind the received story of one of America's great original writers. In William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination, Harris examines the major works Burroughs produced in the 1950s-Junky, Queer, The Yage Letters, and Naked Lunch-to piece together an accurate, material record of his creative history during his germinal decade as a writer. Refuting the junk paradigm of addiction that has been used to categorize and characterize much of Burroughs' oeuvre, Harris instead focuses on the significance of Burroughs' letter writing and his remarkable and unsuspected use of the epistolary for his fiction. As Burroughs said to Allen Ginsberg about Naked Lunch, the real novel is letters to you. Drawing on rare access to manuscripts, the book suggests new ways of comprehending Burroughs's unique politics and aesthetics and offers the first accurate account of the writing of Naked Lunch.

William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination Press Reviews

From the moment that I began, I could barely stop reading this brilliantly intoxicating 'fascination' with the hermeneutics of Burroughsian mysteries. Using considerable intrigue and deftness of his own, Harris draws the reader into the genesis of Burroughs's creative imagination and the intricate geography of his textual politics. Harris has the independence and audacity of his own strong views, which are grounded in scholarly spadework, biographical insight, and textual analysis. For those interested in Burroughs, Beat dynamics, or postmodernism, this is a seminal work. --John Tytell, author of Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs Oliver Harris is in the forefront of the next generation of scholars of William S. Burroughs, about whose life and work so much has already been said that the 'standard myth' has become an obstacle to further original research and analysis. Going directly to primary sources and documents (some of them only newly available) and bringing to his job a deep cultural literacy corresponding to Burroughs' own classical education, Harris dispels much false 'received wisdom' about the author's life and throws unprecedented light on many of the literary, historical, political, scientific, and contemporaneous pop-cultural references encoded in Burroughs' innumerable allusions. From this new vantage, Harris holds up for provocative reconsideration all the important critical constructions that have grown up densely around Burroughs' work since the publication of his first book fifty years ago. No one seriously proposing now to discuss the Burroughs oeuvre can afford to ignore this major book. -- James Grauerholz, executor, William S. Burroughs Estate From the moment that I began, I could barely stop reading this brilliantly intoxicating fascination with the hermeneutics of Burroughsian mysteries. Using considerable intrigue and deftness of his own, Harris draws the reader into the genesis of Burroughs s creative imagination and the intricate geography of his textual politics. Harris has the independence and audacity of his own strong views, which are grounded in scholarly spadework, biographical insight, and textual analysis. For those interested in Burroughs, Beat dynamics, or postmodernism, this is a seminal work. John Tytell, author of Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs Oliver Harris is in the forefront of the next generation of scholars of William S. Burroughs, about whose life and work so much has already been said that the standard myth has become an obstacle to further original research and analysis. Going directly to primary sources and documents (some of them only newly available) and bringing to his job a deep cultural literacy corresponding to Burroughs own classical education, Harris dispels much false received wisdom about the author s life and throws unprecedented light on many of the literary, historical, political, scientific, and contemporaneous pop-cultural references encoded in Burroughs innumerable allusions. From this new vantage, Harris holds up for provocative reconsideration all the important critical constructions that have grown up densely around Burroughs work since the publication of his first book fifty years ago. No one seriously proposing now to discuss the Burroughs oeuvre can afford to ignore this major book. James Grauerholz, executor, William S. Burroughs Estate William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination sets a new standard for Burroughs criticism. The book combines close textual readings, astute analysis and detailed research into the original letters and manuscripts, while drawing on more or less every other critical work on Burroughs published to date. Times Literary Supplement Harris s study goes deeply into its subject, providing the valuable service of untangling the manuscripts, repositioning events in chronological time, and drawing sound implications and conclusions from myth and legend. Regina Weinreich, American Book Review Oliver Harris is in the forefront of the next generation of scholars of William S. Burroughs, about whose life and work so much has already been said that the ' standard myth' has become an obstacle to further original research and analysis. Going directly to primary sources and documents (some of them only newly available) and bringing to his job a deep cultural literacy corresponding to Burroughs' own classical education, Harris dispels much false ' received wisdom' about the author' s life and throws unprecedented light on many of the literary, historical, political, scientific, and contemporaneous pop-cultural references encoded in Burroughs' innumerable allusions. From this new vantage, Harris holds up for provocative reconsideration all the important critical constructions that have grown up densely around Burroughs' work since the publication of his first book fifty years ago. No one seriously proposing now to discuss the Burroughs oeuvre can afford to ignore this major book. -- James Grauerholz, executor, William S. Burroughs Estate From the moment that I began, I could barely stop reading this brilliantly intoxicating ' fascination' with the hermeneutics of Burroughsian mysteries. Using considerable intrigue and deftness of his own, Harris draws the reader into the genesis of Burroughs' s creative imagination and the intricate geography of his textual politics. Harris has the independence and audacity of his own strong views, which are grounded in scholarly spadework, biographical insight, and textual analysis. For those interested in Burroughs, Beat dynamics, or postmodernism, this is a seminal work. -- John Tytell, author of Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs

Book Information

ISBN: 9780809324842
Publication date: 30th April 2003
Author: Oliver Harris
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 272 pages
Categories: Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: from c 1900 -,

About Oliver Harris

Oliver Harris is a professor in the School of American Studies at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. He is the editor of The Selected Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945-1959 and the editor of the fiftieth anniversary edition of Junky. Harris is also the author of numerous scholarly articles on Burroughs, the Beat Generation, film noir, and the epistolary form.

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