William Seward Burroughs II (/ˈbʌrz/; also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century". His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.

He was born to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, grandson of the inventor and founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs I, and nephew of public relations manager Ivy Lee. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University, studied English, and anthropology as a postgraduate, and later attended medical school in Vienna. After being turned down by the Office of Strategic Services and U.S. Navy in 1942 to serve in World War II, he picked up the drug addiction that affected him for the rest of his life, while working a variety of jobs. In 1943 while living in New York City, he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the mutually influential foundation of which grew into the Beat Generation, and later the 1960s counterculture.

Much of Burroughs's work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris, Berlin, the South American Amazon and Tangier in Morocco. Burroughs accidentally killed his second wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951 in Mexico City, and was consequently convicted of manslaughter. In the introduction to Queer, a novel written in 1952 but not published until 1985, Burroughs states, "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan's death ... [S]o the death of Joan brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out". (Queer, 1985, p.xxii). Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie (1953), Burroughs is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch (1959), a controversy-fraught work that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. With Brion Gysin, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy (1961–64).

In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the "greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift", a reputation he owes to his "lifelong subversion" of the moral, political and economic systems of modern American society, articulated in often darkly humorous sardonicism. J. G. Ballard considered Burroughs to be "the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War", while Norman Mailer declared him "the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius".

Burroughs had one child, William S. Burroughs, Jr. (1947–1981), with his second wife Joan Vollmer. William Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, after suffering a heart attack in 1997.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1981 Nothing Here Now but the Recordings William S. Burroughs 1
1981 You’re the Guy I Want to Share My Money With Laurie Anderson / John Giorno / William S. Burroughs 3
1993 Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales William S. Burroughs 2
2014 William S. Burroughs in Dub William S. Burroughs Conducted by Dub Spencer & Trance Hill 1
NBC: A Soundtrack of Must See TV William Burroughs & NBC Symphony Orchestra 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
The Best of William Burroughs William S. Burroughs 1

Album + Spokenword

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1988 Uncommon Quotes William S. Burroughs 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1981 TALK TALK, Volume 3 Number 6 William S. Burroughs 1
1993 The "Priest" They Called Him William S. Burroughs & Kurt Cobain 2


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1985 The Elvis of Letters William S. Burroughs + Gus Van Sant 2

Other + Audiobook

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1995 Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs 1
2008 And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks William Burroughs & Jack Kerouac 1
Junky William S. Burroughs 1

Other + Spokenword

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1965 Call Me Burroughs William S. Burroughs 2
1989 Interviews + Readings Brion Gysin / William S. Burroughs / Genesis P-Orridge 1
1990 Dead City Radio William S. Burroughs 1
1993 Vaudeville Voices William S. Burroughs 1
1995 Call Me Burroughs William S. Burroughs 1
2007 Real English Tea Made Here William S. Burroughs 1
Break Through in Grey Room William S. Burroughs 3 1
Selections From the Best of William Burroughs From Giorno Poetry Systems William S. Burroughs 1

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