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JULY 2006

> A REVIEW OF BURROUGHS'S JUNKY (1953) | jason jordan

Originally published in 1953 by Ace Books, Penguin's "50th Anniversary Definitive Edition" is the edition to obtain if William S. Burroughs intrigues you. Though the author was known for and is still known for Naked Lunch, predominantly, Junky tells a straightforward story about being addicted to heroin in the 1940s and '50s.

As halfway implied, this incarnation of Junky features several amenities that haven't appeared together, as a set, before now. Burroughs expert Oliver Harris edited the text, adhering to the specifications that were often ignored during the author's clashes with his publishers and editors, as well as contributed a lengthy introduction that provides a veritable ton of pertinent information about the writer's background, the novel itself, and related topics. The bulk of the book which is preceded by a short prologue and succeeded by a glossary is about as nonchalant as it gets, considering the story centers on shooting heroin and doing other hard drugs. While half of the time the main character is strung out, the other half consists of trying to procure money to buy drugs.

The end of Junky is not nearly the end for those who want to read the entire book. Numerous appendices appear after the main content wraps up, including a deleted chapter, the original introduction, an appreciation piece by Allen Ginsberg, a publisher's note, a foreword, another introduction by Allen Ginsberg, and a notes section. All in all, this particular edition is close to 200 pages, whereas Junky itself only runs the length of approximately 140 of those.

Arguably just as interesting as the manuscript is its history. Burroughs wrote it with the name Junk affixed to it, but publishers shied away from that title for obvious reasons. It was renamed Junkie for some years until Junky was finally settled on down the road. The connections to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others are incredibly fascinating, too, making Junky a nice complement to Kerouac's On the Road and Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test the latter ripe with Ginsberg cameos. Naked Lunch may be William S. Burroughs's masterwork, but his first novel is every bit as essential. Still, and perhaps ironically, the style is fairly dry.


> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He was an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He teaches college writing to college students. His book is called Powering the Devil's Circus. He is a writer.