Last Words

William Burroughs and James Grauerholz

In 1996 William Burroughs began writing a final journal. He died the following summer after a life of notoriety: godfather of the Beat writers, author of thirteen controversial novels, druggy, dangerous and bleak. Spanning the realms of personal memoir, cultural criticism and fiction, Burroughs’ diaries include anecdotes and memories, entries on his beloved cats and the joys of housekeeping, and musings on drug-taking, humanity and government cover-ups. ‘Last Words’ contains some of the most brutally personal prose in the William Burroughs canon, and the deaths of his friends, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, provide a window onto his own preparations for death – a quest for absolution marked by a profound sense of guilt and loss.

Reviews of Last Words

    • ‘He is a writer of enormous richness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cosy conspiracy, to allow us to see the truth.’ J. G. Ballard
    • ‘These journals make for unbearably poignant reading. Unlikely as it may sound, Bill Burroughs was only human after all.’ The Times
    • ‘An exploration in depth, and in sum, of Burroughs’ personality and creative pre-occupations…[A] rich repetition, with variations, of a string of half-conscious fancies, scenarios and literary allusions. “Last Words” also presents fresh clues to the larger design of his imagination, and a means of gaining a renewed perspective on his work.’ New York Times
    • ‘”Last Words” reveals the author of “Naked Lunch” riddled with arthritis and still saddled with guilt for shooting his common-law wife in 1951. Although he seems more vulnerable than ever before, the anti-establishment anger continues to flare up at odd moments, his skewed sense of humour still sends out sparks.’ Time Out
    • ‘There’s a savage glamour about William Burroughs, both in his writing and his life…”Last Words”, made during the last nine months of his life, shows him to be as sharp-minded as ever.’ Ham & High
    • ‘Elegiac and filled with a curious kind of contentment at the way things have turned out. For the first and only time, he reveals a gentler self, full of years and filled with grace. He was a great American writer to the end.’ Gay Times
    • ‘Fascinating. Burroughs surfaces among his words as a bent, acute, watchful, irritated, clever old man, like a sparkling eye peering out from the greasy broken panes of a dilapidated building.’ Financial Times
    • ‘“Last Words” is filled with memories and reminiscences delivered in staccato poignancy. Burroughs cuts up his recollections and dreams, merging, always playfully, sometimes painfully, fact with fiction…A welcome addition to the extensive Burroughs oeuvre.’ Scotsman