Burroughs was a prolific writer; over the course of his nearly forty-year career, he produced eighteen novels, six collections of short stories, and four collections of essays. He published countless poems, short stories, and articles in magazines and journals. Holdings for William S. Burroughs in the University of Delaware Library Special Collections is quite extensive and represents many of the author's most well known publications, as well as several of the more scarce items from the Burroughs bibliography.
Dead Fingers Talk. London: John Calder, 1963.
Signed by the author.
British publisher John Calder issued Dead Fingers Talk as a Burroughs reader to introduce the British public to Naked Lunch, which had not yet been published in the United Kingdom. This compilation contains portions of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine, and The Ticket that Exploded. The title refers to the line “Only dead fingers talk in Braille” from Naked Lunch. John Willet’s negative review of Naked Lunch and Dead Fingers Talk in the Times Literary Supplement (bearing the simple title “Ugh…”) fueled thirteen weeks of debate over the merits of Burroughs’s work.
Electronic Revolution. In English and French; French translation by Jean Chopin. (Collection OU, No. 2) Cambridge: Blackmoor Head Press, 1971.
Copy 50 of 50 numbered copies.
Signed by the author; includes two silk screens signed by Brion Gysin.
Cover art designed by Gysin.
This collection of essays articulates the collaborations, theories, and experiments of Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville on media and manipulation, fueled by Burroughs’s premise that language is a virus; it has been described as “equal parts paranoia and genius.”
The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead. London: Calder & Boyer, 1972.
First British edition.
Drawn from the influence of the boys’ adventure books of Burroughs’s youth, The Wild Boys describes not a dystopia but rather a sexually liberated utopia: adolescent boys living in desert tribes free from both adult authority and female influence attempt to dismantle civilized society through guerilla tactics. Burroughs composed a large amount of “wild boy” text—material unused in The Wild Boys found its way into Ah Pook Is Here! and Port of Saints.
Inscribed by the author to Richard Aaron: “All the best from the Wild Boys.”
Exterminator! New York: Viking Press, 1973.
Exterminator! represents Burroughs’s first appearance with a major publisher. Perhaps mislabeled as a novel, Exterminator! reprints, reassembles, and reorganizes several previously published pieces and routines. Insects and other lower life forms assumed powerful symbolism in his work, and the title also makes reference to Burroughs’s job as an exterminator in Chicago tenements.
The Last Words of Dutch Shultz: A Fiction in the Form of a Film Script. New York: Viking Press/Seaver Books, 1975.
First American Printing
New York City mobster Arthur Flegenheimer, alias Dutch Schultz (1902-1935), ran numbers, was a bootlegger during Prohibition, and was declared Public Enemy #1 by the FBI. He was gunned down in a restroom for crossing New York’s organized crime syndicate. Schultz’s final mad, delirious, and poetic words were recorded by a police stenographer as he was questioned by a Newark, New Jersey, detective. Burroughs’s Dutch Schultz includes reproductions of police photographs of the famous mobster and his crew.
Cobblestone Gardens. New York: Cherry Valley Editions, 1976.
Cobblestone Gardens was the name of the antique store owned by Laura Lee and Mortimer Burroughs first in St. Louis, Missouri, and relocated to Palm Beach, Florida. Burroughs dedicated Cobblestone Gardens to the memory of his parents; the frontispiece photograph is of his mother, circa 1918, and the cover photograph shows Burroughs (left) with his father and older brother, Mortimer, Jr., circa 1920.
Ali’s Smile / Naked Scientology. In German and English; translated into German and edited by Carl Weissner. Bonn: Expanded Media Editions, 1978.
Signed by the author.
Burroughs was a dedicated student of Scientology for many years before publicly denouncing it in 1969. He published several articles on Scientology and advocated its methods to friends. Critics have identified Scientology’s influence on many of Burroughs’s ideas, such as his theory of time travel and the word virus. Shown here is Burroughs using an electropsychometer (also known as an e-meter), used to “locate areas of spiritual distress or travail.”
Ah Pook Is Here, and Other Texts. London: John Calder, 1979.
Drawing on Burroughs’s interest in Mayan culture and symbols, Ah Pook Is Here was a collaboration between Burroughs and artist Malcolm MacNeil that began in 1970 and prefigured the graphic novel. After unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher for such a text, this collection containing a portion of the original Ah Pook was produced, along with the previously published Book of Breething and Electronic Revolution.
Port of Saints. Berkeley: Blue Wind Press, 1980.
First American edition.
Port of Saints can be considered a continuation of The Wild Boys and serves as an important segue between Burroughs’s two trilogies—reviving the cut-up technique from the Nova trilogy and laying the foundation for the Red Night trilogy.
Sinki's Sauna. With illustrations by James Kearns. New York: Pequod Press, 1982.
This presentation copy to Beat writer John Clellon Holmes bears Burroughs’s inscription: “For John Holmes and the Beat Generation.”
The Adding Machine: Selected Essays. New York: Seaver Books, 1986.
This collection of forty-three essays on various topics was taken from lectures delivered
at the Naropa Institute in Colorado and other schools where Burroughs taught. The title references his paternal grandfather’s invention.
Interzone. Edited by James Grauerholz. New York: Viking, 1989.
“Interzone” was the working title for the manuscript Burroughs was working on between 1953 and 1958, which was became Naked Lunch. The original “Interzone” manuscript was rediscovered in Columbia University’s Allen Ginsberg Papers in 1984. Interzone collects Burroughs’s short work, including stories, routines, letters, and notebook entries. They represent a significant shift in tone, from the laconic voice found in Junky and Queer to the radical, unapologetic iconoclast of Naked Lunch. A dangerous futuristic dreamscape, Interzone’s “space time location is at a point where three-dimensional fact merges into dream, and dreams erupt into the real world.” The atmosphere of Tangier during Burroughs’s first stay between 1954 and 1958 greatly influenced his work and is the setting for Naked Lunch. Tangier was designated an International Zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, and Britain until 1956.
Tornado Alley. Illustrations by S. Clay Wilson. Cherry Valley, N.Y.: Cherry Valley Editions, 1989.
This collection of short pieces is introduced by Burroughs’s poem “Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986,” in which the author excoriates the holiday that celebrates a nation founded on greed, violence, and lies.
Ghost of Chance. Edited by James Grauerholz. Illustrated by George Condo.
In this novella, Burroughs takes on global ecological devastation, for which humans are responsible. The disappearance of animal species, particularly lemurs, human overpopulation, and plagues decimate the fictional pirate utopia of Libertatia. One human disease Burroughs describes is the Christ virus, which makes the infected arrogantly believe they are Jesus Christ and capable of performing miracles.
My Education: A Book of Dreams. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995.
Burroughs often used his dreams as a resource for his writing. Written late in his life when many of his companions, human and animal, have passed away, My Education draws extensively on Burroughs’s own dreams. Burroughs explores the winding pathways of his subconscious with casts of characters from his own life, including his wife Joan Vollmer and his son Billy Jr., making stops in The Land of the Dead or settling in some post-apocalyptic landscape.
Queer. [with a text by Paul Bowles: Burroughs in Tangiers, translated
by Jokum Rohde.] København : Forlaget Politisk Revy, 1995. Danish translation.
From the Library of Paul Bowles
Inscribed to Bowles by Rohde, dated July 6, 1995.
“When the cover is removed, everything that has been held in check by junk spills out.”
Queer draws on Burroughs’s 1951 South American travels in search of the hallucinogenic yage and his unrequited infatuation with his friend Lewis Marker. In this continuation of Junky, the protagonist Lee is in the midst of withdrawal, driving his need for emotional contact, recognition, even validation, which he confuses for sexual desire. Lee devises elaborate schemes to gain the attention of the object of his affection—the Routine.
Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959-1974. Edited and with an introduction by Bill Morgan.
New York: Ecco, 2012.