Still Up for Grabs: Burroughs’ Place
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Published in: November-December 2022 issue.


The Queer Reclamation of William S. Burroughs
Edited by Brian Alessandro and Tom Cardamone
Rebel Satori Press
301 pages, $19.95



IN FEVER SPORES, an ecclectic collection of essays and interviews about writer William S. Burroughs, editors Brian Alessandro and Tom Cardamone make a pitch for Burroughs’ place in the “gay canon,” arguing that the novelist “has been sainted by the literary establishment in general but not the gay literati in particular.”

            No doubt this exclusion stems partly from Burroughs’ unflattering and even troubling depictions of homosexuals and their activities. In Queer, he calls gay men “fags” and “queens,” while the main character, Lee, comes across as pathetic in his desperate pursuit of a younger straight man. The gay sex in The Wild Boys is between teenage boys and quickly feels repetitive, as they’re always doing it in the same position, and the language scarcely varies from scene to scene. Burroughs’ personal life as a longtime drug addict who accidentally killed his common-law wife also makes his role as a literary hero problematical. As Fran Lebowitz remarks in her interview: “Killing your wife should never be allowed, okay?”

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Charles Green is a writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.