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Publisher's Summary

Fifty years ago, Norman Mailer asserted, "William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." Few since have taken such literary risks, developed such individual political or spiritual ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media. Burroughs wrote novels, memoirs, technical manuals, and poetry. He painted, made collages, took thousands of photographs, produced hundreds of hours of experimental recordings, acted in movies, and recorded more CDs than most rock bands. Burroughs was the original cult figure of the Beat Movement, and with the publication of his novel Naked Lunch, which was originally banned for obscenity, he became a guru to the 60s youth counterculture. In Call Me Burroughs, biographer and Beat historian Barry Miles presents the first full-length biography of Burroughs to be published in a quarter century - and the first one to chronicle the last decade of Burroughs's life and examine his long-term cultural legacy.

Written with the full support of the Burroughs estate and drawing from countless interviews with figures like Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and Burroughs himself, Call Me Burroughs is a rigorously researched biography that finally gets to the heart of its notoriously mercurial subject.

©2014 Hachette Audio; 2014 Barry Miles

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Masterpiece Crime Novel

Any additional comments?

This was a labor of love on the writer's part. Not sure it is just to give less than a five star review for the work that went into this book. My review, could easily be a book, about this book.

The first two parts of the book was a fascinating history of the personal lives of the upper class, which Burroughs was a product of. His sense of entitlement through out his life. Was not aware he was subsidized by his family until the age of fifty against the backdrop of a Harvard education. For me the book is a perfect account of the downside of the "idle rich".

Much of his published work was reworked heavily by others with laborious editing before it was published. He even managed to get others, more or less, to write his books. And he welcomed any one who was willing to "contribute to him".

His aloof use and corruption of young beggar boys sexually, as toys, had a Caligula strip of force as a character reference. By the third part of the book, one was forced to confront the evil and I had to open a bottle of Jim Beam to be led into that dark place. It was not a pleasure ride but I plugged on. The depth of depravity and corruption, lack of remorse and empathy in his letters as he spoke of his crimes against children and the needy, the sadism, was not easy to confront.

The way he worked his way through the upper class as a debutante with opinions to sell, using the P.R. machine Alan Ginsberg, while he perfectly managed to get away with murder, and corruption and sexual molestation of minors, and actually made enough profit to buy a factory kit Sears and Roebuck home to retire in, in Kansas, for his true confessions books, is an illustration of the perfect con man. Who did it all, with applause from his fellow man.

Very spooky, very real.

The book is a masterpiece crime novel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A Wonderful, Intimate Portrait

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. It is a fascinating look into the life and love(s) of one of America's most important and contrary writers.

What other book might you compare Call Me Burroughs to and why?

Fire in the Belly. Because both were clear and human looks at extraordinary and uncompromising men. Neither biography flinched away from looking at the less savory aspects of each man's life (murder, drugs, hustling), but they were not salacious glimpses, just informational, and mostly, compassionate.

Have you listened to any of Malcolm Hillgartner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. But I liked it very much, and I am super fussy about narrators.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The notion that after a sexual encounter, the usually gruff WB was gentle, tender, and "giddy." I loved that extraordinarily human detail.

Any additional comments?

If you are interested in the Beats, read this book about the most interesting one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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ETERNAL ADOLESCENT

Barry Miles describes the life of an eternal adolescent in Call Me Burroughs. William Seward Burroughs never seems to grow up in Miles’ well researched and fascinating biography of a twentieth century iconoclast. Burroughs lives a life of debauchery. With spoon fed income from family wealth, Burroughs lives on the fringes of society; observing and recording his experience.

Listening to Barry Miles’ smartly researched and narrated biography, a listener senses that Burroughs is, in one sense, a parasite of society. Burroughs is an eternal adolescent that lives off his parents until they die. He adjusts his life style to continue getting the hedonistic most out of life without working. He observes without being; he reports without doing. Burroughs does nothing in life that benefits anyone but himself. In another sense, Burroughs is an icon of change in society; i.e. a representative of the sex’, drugs’, and arts’ revolutions of the twentieth century.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jesse
  • MISSOULA, MT, United States
  • 02-06-18

A Thorough Look At Burroughs' Life And Work

This book has everything you want to know about William S. Burroughs. Everything from his earliest memories to his final words is lovingly encapsulated within the confines of this book. Episodes from the subject's life are reflected by passages of his work by the biographer's appropriately placed excerpts. If you wanted to know how the novels reflect the life and times of Burroughs, this book is your ultimate resource. Likewise, it is a skeleton key for matching Burroughs' work with his occult beliefs. Call Me Burroughs spends a healthy amount of time discussing William S. Burroughs's relationship with the Church of Scientology, and beliefs regarding the supernatural power of his own writings. Barry Miles' previous biography of Burroughs, El Hombre Invisible, was not great. Ted Morgan's biography of Burroughs, Literary Outlaw, is much better, and still worth reading, but Call Me Burroughs is as much an exegesis of Burroughs' work as an artist as it is a catalog of his life's events, so I rate it far above Literary Outlaw. Ted Morgan, however, captures Burroughs' flaws in a way that Barry Miles fails to. Perhaps this is due to Barry Miles' personal acquaintanceship with the subject of this book. Anyway, I no longer hold El Hombre Invisible against Barry Miles, and I will be checking out his Zappa biography now that I'm aware of his grown capacity for biography. Malcolm Hillgartner's performance should be a selling point for audiobook buyers looking for a narrator who will capture the signature sound of the voice of Burroughs. He imitates the subject in a way that doesn't distract from the book itself. Hillgartner borrows speaking habits of Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and others, when he he is reading words attributed to them. Rest assured that it isn't a hammy or overdone performance, and merely helps the listener to identify quoted words from the author's exposition. I give Michael Hillgartner's performance five stars because it gives this book a humanizing touch that doesn't detract from the academic worth of the text.