Whether or not you think you know William Burroughs, Barry Miles' recent biography will blow your mind. Miles reveals the life of very different Burroughs than one would expect. What is commonly known about Burroughs is his wild, discursive writing style and the sensational homicide of his wife; what is not known and what Miles brings to light is that while this event became a dark and visceral shadow for Burroughs, it also became an animating force, one which fueled his later writing career. Miles does an expert job of following the circuitous path Burroughs takes from his highly genteel upbringing in St. Louis and his days at Harvard, to his difficulties as a homosexual during the repressive 20th century, his lengthy divigations into the world of drugs and drink, and his relentless search for the source of his dark side. What is striking is how Burroughs' travails were all leavened with his genius and his wicked sense of humor.
At the time of this interview, I had just met Barry and had not yet started his biography on Burroughs. Having since read Call Me Burroughs, I highly recommend it. Miles has done a masterful job of weaving all these diverse elements into a tale of a truly American character, one whose boldness, whose excesses and eccentricities, serve to highlight a deeper reality of the American self.
Check out some of my other adventures over at the Editor's Blog.