cover image Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Borroughs, November 1996-July 1997

Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Borroughs, November 1996-July 1997

William S. Burroughs. Grove/Atlantic, $25 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1657-4

Perhaps the last-ever fix for devoted fans of Junky, Interzone and Naked Lunch, these pages trace the meditations, amusements, memories and obsessions of the noted Beat author, wit, actor and substance abuser during his last year of life (1996-1997). Like many other writers' journals, this one mixes lengthy plot outlines, anecdotes and arguments with much briefer drifting thoughts and images. Burroughs considers his old age with a mix of wry humor, scattershot rancor and intimate rue: ""Yes, where are the snows of yesterday. And the speedballs I useta know?"" Clear throughout is Burroughs's real feeling for cats, several of which he kept; the very first page laments the death, by car, of Calico (""Cat was part of me""). Another oft-repeated theme is the ""Evil of the Drug War, the War Against Drugs."" Burroughs's brief, violent fantasies seem sad compensations for his increasing powerlessness. Elsewhere, his technique of associations continues to unearth memorably gloomy bizarrerie: January 31, 1997, brings ""a hill of `snirt' in Dakota, where folks can quick-freeze and shatter like icicles when they go out for the mail. `Snirt' is a thing of the spring. If you make it through the cabin fever to the `snirt.' Winner take `snirt.'"" A final entry resurrects ""What I feel for my cats, present and past,"" then asks, ""Love? What is It? Most natural painkiller what there is."" The volume's fragmentary and personal nature will make it precious to all Burroughs devotees; its patches of wit and pathos, though real, may not be enough to endear it to other readers. Burroughs's friend Grauerholz, who edited the volume, supplies a compassionate introduction; an appendix glosses references and names. (Feb.)