William S. Burroughs is an American author born on February 5, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child, he led a very privileged lifestyle considering his family was wealthy and emphasized the importance of education. Thus, Burroughs was an avid reader and writer in his teenage years and showed great promise for becoming an author. After graduating high school, he attended Harvard University to study English and later enrolled in medical school. His personal life, however, fled into a downward spiral when he started abusing heroin. Fortunately, Burroughs once again found solace in writing, which led to the publication of his first novel entitled Junkie in 1953.
In 1959, William Burroughs released his third and most popular book to date, Naked Lunch. It tells the story of William Lee, a drug addict in the United States who is trying to escape to Mexico in order to flee from law enforcement. The novel is a compilation of short stories, so each vignette focuses on one of Lee’s encounters while he is traveling across state boundaries. Naked Lunch is a harrowing story that underscores the prevalence of homophobia and racism in American society.
Upon its publication, Naked Lunch garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences for its provocative portrayal of substance abuse. Tom Vitale of NPR describes it as “a dark, wild ride through the terror of heroin addiction and withdrawal, filled with paranoia, erotica and drug-fueled hallucinations.” The novel has since sold over 1 million copies.