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Author Information: William S. Burroughs

 
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A drug addict turned experimental novelist, William Seward Burroughs (1914-1997) has been called "one of the most controversial and influential writers of the past decades" (Bob Halliday, Washington Post Book World). He represents for many readers and critics the artist as outsider and rebel. He has had a tremendous influence as an avant-garde theorist and as a counterculture forerunner, and was well known for his "cut-up" writing technique, which he used in an attempt to destroy language systems and thereby liberate the mind.

Concerned throughout his life with issues of personal freedom, the control systems of society, and ways of freeing oneself from social restrictions, Burroughs viewed writing as his most powerful tool in fighting such restrictions. In doing so, he makes liberal use of what Norman Mailer has referred to as "gutter talk," though, says Mailer, Burroughs "captures speech like no American writer I know."

Burroughs helped to inspire the hippie and punk movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The publication of Naked Lunch effectively ended America's last obscenity laws, paving the way for greater freedom in the arts and allowing explicit sexual material to be published legally in this country. Burroughs "has had considerably greater cultural impact than the extent of his present readership might indicate," writes Bruce Cook in the Detroit News. "It would not be an overstatement to say that he is one of the secret shapers of American culture -- such as it is today."

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