cover image Interzone


William S. Burroughs. Viking Books, $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81347-6

Burroughs seems to grow ever more trite with the passage of time, his rebellion against society a lame thing. Fans will probably enjoy this fragmentary collection of letters, journal entries, stories and autobiographical sketches from the mid-1950s. In style the pieces range from straightforward sociological descriptions of Tangier, where he has dope and young boys, to Kafkaesque fables (``Dream of the Penal Colony'') to surreal, manic pastiche. In another story, the protagonist cuts off the joint of his little finger, then pops into his psychiatrist's office and makes light of his condition. The centerpiece is ``WORD,'' a long, hitherto unpublished section from the working manuscript ( Interzone ) that eventually became the novel Naked Lunch. Rediscovered in 1984, ``WORD'' is a hipster's incoherent cosmic rant, sexually wild and often deliberately offensive. Burroughs's sense that we are all specters in a waking nightmare, so dominant in his recent fiction, is prefigured here in a futuristic sketch of a nameless U.S. city wracked by forces of evil and repression. (Feb.)