William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs II, born in 1914, was a famous American writer. As one of the foremost members of the Beat Generation, his works were largely experimental and semi-autobiographical in nature with some science fiction thrown in at times. He wrote novels, essays, and performed spoken word for crowds. Burroughs' most famous work is the novel Naked Lunch. Some of his other notable writings include The Yage Letters, Queer, Junkie, The Red Night Trilogy, and several anthologies of short stories.
Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1914. His grandfather was the inventor of the adding machine, and his family lived a comfortable life. He began writing unusual works at a young age. When Burroughs was 22 years old, he graduated from Harvard University. He first became involved in the homosexual subculture while studying at Harvard. In his twenties, Burroughs moved around a lot, took classes at various universities, and held a series of unrelated jobs. They included everything from being an exterminator to joining the United States Army to briefly studying medicine in Austria.
It was not long after college that Burroughs' life became littered with drug addiction, arrests, and tragic events. He would later attribute his ability to write to some of these experiences, admitting that it was appalling. William was sent to Bellevue, a psychiatric hospital, after cutting off part of his own finger in 1939. He met the most famous Beat writers, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others, in 1940. They would become friends and have a big influence on his life and writings. It was a few years after that when they all became heavily involved with drugs and Burroughs met his future wife, Joan Vollmer. She soon became a drug addict and ended at Bellevue for a while as well. They had a son, William Burroughs III, in 1947.
Perhaps the most tragic event in Burrough's life was his wife's death. At a party, he said that they were going to show everyone their William Tell act. She placed a glass on top of her head, and he shot and killed her. After her death, he spent most of his life traveling around the world and writing while addicted to heroin. It was during this period that his works were published. He died from a heart attack in 1997. Sixteen years earlier, his son's troubled life had come to an end when he died lying in a ditch.
William S. Burroughs Biographies and Literary Criticism