Call Me Burroughs: A Life
by Barry Miles
Twelve. 736 pages, $32.
THIS COMPREHENSIVE biography covers the life and writings of one of the best-known American novelists of the 20th century, from his birth and early life in St. Louis, Missouri, to his final years in Lawrence, Kansas. In between he met the Beat poets, traveled the world, and wrote many novels, including his most famous one, Naked Lunch (1959). He also took many drugs, had numerous affairs with both men and women (but mostly men), and accidentally shot his wife Joan in 1951.
The book begins in a sweat lodge in Lawrence, with Burroughs undergoing a ceremony to exorcise what he called his “Ugly Spirit,” which he believed had caused much suffering in life, including his wife’s death.