Tuesday, February 7, 2012

William Burroughs - Rub out The Words: Letters 1959-1974

"Dear Allen, Thanks a million for the mescaline..
"Dear Allen, You seem to be running a literary aid society (you) should incorporate and pay yourself a salary..
"Dear Allen, Sorry you have been bothered by this Tony Cole. I know that you sometimes extend charity where I would not..

Three beginnings of three letters to Allen in this delightful compendium (the Ginsberg letters are only a fragment of the correspondence (which is, in itself, only a fragment of an impossible-to-distill "complete" letters). Volume 1 (1945-59) edited by Oliver Harris came out in 1993. Volume 3, and doubtless 4, will, presumably, conclude the story. Bill Morgan notes, in his introduction to this one: "In the course of my research I was able to locate over a thousand letters written by William Burroughs between the years 1959 and 1974.. I have tried to select the very best of those." He need not be so typically modest and humble. He has certainly done (as he always does), an excellent job.

For a sampling from the book, see here (the selections published last year in Granta) - and here (from a more recent preview in the Paris Review).

That cover (in case you were wondering) is a Polaroid by Andy Warhol.

Luc Sante's review of the book in the New York Times is well worth perusing (as, indeed, is his earlier (1984) survey of Burroughs, published as "The Invisible Man" in the New York Review of Books).
We'll keep you posted of other notable reviews.


  1. let's not forget my 1981 review of Letters to Allen Ginsberg by William Burroughs:

  2. An excellent portrayl of the development of an agent. Bill Morgan and James are who to thank for this collection. Recieved it via Amazon a day ago, stayed up all night reading it and taking notes. For Burroughs scholars this is a must.

  3. astute review from James Campbell in London's Guardian. I must admit I entirely agree with his comments about the editing. I think Morgan was out of his depth (most of us are when it comes to understanding Bill)........