Burroughs wrote this book much based on his own experience with addiction decades ago, and I think it'll forever be potent.
It's a very straight-forward, no-nonsense and no-tearjerker experience as Burroughs writes of Lee's addictions, faltering friendships, his fleeting meets with people while trying to attain drugs as quickly as possible, at times doing anything for it. He goes from selling drugs to using them, to robbing drunks on trains to escaping the law, to trying to fence stuff to get money to get more drugs to avoid The Sickness, to get to Mexico to live a better life, to avoid his wife, to get together with her, to be able to get out of bed, to try and get off drugs completely, to get into less hardcore stuff to get back into heroin.
It's very well-written, and eloquently cut-up in terms of what goes in which chapters. The descriptions of people, events and feelings aren't poetic - it's all straight-forward and I got the sense that his abuse just went on and on, a vortex that went round and round.
This book reminds me a lot of Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting", although this is timeless and different. It's like the inspirational big brother to Martin Amis' "Money".
And it stands out. Burroughs was a very livid writer and this is a powerful and telling work on addiction, and in his desire to explain the elements that make out addiction to everybody, he dispels myths and actually writes some really stupid shit (e.g. that cocaine does not create any form of dependency), so just have an open, questioning mind when reading this (as with every written word, anywhere).
In this edition from Penguin, there are several inclusions of nice extraneous material here: appendixes, a glossary and a long introduction....Continua
A great book about why being a junkie is awful. I really don't think this book glamorises drug use in any way but writes honestly about what an awful chore and how horrible junk addiction really is. The focus of this book is on the drug itself. How to get it, how to have enough money to get it, how to get off it. The rest of life is inconsequential. There are only a few mentions of Joan or "the wife". She might not have existed. Still the scene when their in Mexico and he's about to pick up the habit again and she knocks it out of his hand and he hits her was one that really stood out to me. This is in so many ways opposite to the way Kerouac tells it (though he was writing as Burrough's friend not as a junkie himself). There are no friends coming and hanging out. Everyone is a user or a dealer and only valued in their relationship to junk.
The prose are strikingly real and honest. Occasionally there will be a beautiful turn of phrase for a paragraph, descriptions of New Orleans and other places and people are fantastic, in other places it's just depressingly realistic. It wasn't trippy, it didn't really focus on any hallucinations or highs. Just the physical need and a bit of psychology.
I started reading this at work. We have the first edition, published back to back with "The Narcotic Agent". It's quite charming as there's lots of editor's notes that contradict Burrough's opinions on drugs in a very moralising way. The 2nd half of this book I read as the 1973 penguin edition from the library. I don't think I've seen such a battered penguin before. Pages torn in half, the cover crumpled with tears all along the edge. It was perfect.
While I enjoyed this I think it'll be awhile before I read any more Burroughs....Continua
Junky is a dangerous book - it doesn't glorify drugs, it doesn't glorify the existence of those that take them, but it does dispel a few myths.
Told from a matter of fact point of view, this unapologetic memoir is concise and lean (154 pages) and clearly spoke. It details Burroughs ambling eventful life through his minor scrapes with the law and his several addictions to Heroin.
Throughout the novel Burroughs appears to do well for himself - whether or not this is subconscious wishful thinking or careful retroactive optimism its not clear, but those around Burroughs gradually collapse and fall away - the only constant in his life the drug his body craves.
Its interesting and a provocative read because unlike Trainspotting its true, but sometimes true life doesn't quite capture the imagination like fiction....Continua