Drugs, homosexuality and death were the recurring themes of William S. Burroughs' writing and he left behind a legacy of mind-altering works from his critically acclaimed Naked Lunch to his collaborations to Ministry and his artistic reinvention in visual arts. Norman Mailer called him "the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius" and has been praised by Alan Moore, Ken Kesey, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Joy Division's Ian Curtis.
Much of Burroughs work was semi-autobiographical from his first literary experiments with Jack Kerouac in an unpublished manuscript to his first novel--written at the insistence of Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg--about the life of a heroin addict and drug dealer. The accidental death of his common law wife in Mexico City by his own inebriated hands would color his work throughout his life.
Burroughs really came into his own when he was introduced to the "cut-up" technique and his first literary success, Naked Lunch, came from his experiments with organizing cuttings from texts into what he called routines, which he arranged into chapters and paragraphs that were submitted for publishing in random order. His vignettes offered no narrative intent--though they eerily forecast AIDS, the crack epidemic and liposuction. The novel won him critical acclaim but drew his publisher into a winning legal battle in the last American obscenity trial over a work of prose.
He became a cultural icon and became involved with the artistic community of New York's Lower East Side in the 70s--rubbing shoulders with Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Lou Reed and the like. He remained a counterculture figure collaborating with musicians and groups like Throbbing Gristle, Ministry, Nick Cave, Frank Zappa, Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, and Sonic Youth as well as appearing in Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy and U2's music video for "Last Night on Earth."