cover image Word Virus: Wm Burroughs: The Selected Writings of William S. Burroughs

Word Virus: Wm Burroughs: The Selected Writings of William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs. Grove/Atlantic, $27.5 (576pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1629-1

The deadpan granddad of postmodernism is well represented in this bountiful collection of fiction, essays and collaborations from all stages of Burroughs's (1914-1997) long career. Burroughs's companion, longtime editor and literary executor Grauerholz, and Grove editor Silverberg include selections from the writer's better-known works, as well as sections of the experimental ""cut-up"" novels--complete enough to give readers a feel for the form without exhausting those unaccustomed to Burroughs's disjointed sharpness. Dark humor runs throughout the collection, from the 1938 collaboration ""Twilight's Last Gleamings,"" in which the cross-dressing captain of a sinking ship murders his way onto a lifeboat, to a wry account of Burroughs's stint as a cockroach exterminator. What may prove most valuable to readers is the inclusion of Burroughs's commentary on his aims and intent. ""Remembering Jack Kerouac"" recalls the way the younger Kerouac prodded Burroughs to write. In the manifesto ""Les Voleurs,"" Burroughs celebrates ""stealing"" words, a cure for ""the fetish of originality."" Perhaps most surprising are the passages both melancholic and elegiac, such as this, from The Western Lands: ""A tree like black-lace against a gray sky. A flash of joy."" In a selection from My Education, Burroughs provides an apt description for this collection: ""Each page is a door to everything is permitted."" (Jan.)