William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist 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."
William Burroughs struggled throughout his life with addiction, authority, and personal relationships, but heavily influenced pop culture in the late twentieth century. Artists such as David Bowie and Kurt Cobain paid homage to him. He coined the term “heavy metal.”
In 1996 Burroughs was honored with "Ports of Entry." It was a visual overview of his career at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Burroughs best friends often saw him writing in notebooks. He had eight of these notebooks and he kept the contents secret.
"William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch shows...through its narrative technique that language can construct reality and contaminate it at the same time. On the other hand the story is a severe broadside at the 1950s middle-class values in scenes of sexual degradation, drug-induced hallucinations in a world where heroin (“junk”) is the only real commodity.'"
"Naked Lunch" fought censorship based on its alleged obscene content until 1966. The book was first challenged by the U.S. Post Office who argued that the novel and exerpts from the novel were prohibited from mailing because of their content.
In 1959 a French publisher, Olympia Press, purchased the rights to "Naked Lunch." When Olympia attempted to send copies into the United States in 1959, the books were intercepted and confiscated by U.S. Customs.
Burroughs’s work emerged from a creative yet troubled life. He was shaped by his addictions, a dangerous attraction to guns, the tragedy of his wife's death, and the consequences of neglecting his son.
Burroughs work has been heavily critiqued by postmodernist critics. "Burroughs exposed in his works the fatal constraints that social and political discourses impose by controlling the subject in his total being."
Burroughs was born to a respected family. His uncle advised John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his grandfather invented the practical adding machine.
At age four Burroughs claimed he was sexually molested. The incident reportedly left him with a psychological injury.