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2014 marks the centenary of the birth of the grandfather of the Beats, el hombre invisible, the gentleman junkie: William S. Burroughs (1914-1997).

Burroughs was a founding member of the Beat Generation, which paved the way for counterculture movements in the 1960s. He addressed early themes of gay liberation, deconstructed the linearity of narrative fiction, and influenced cyberpunk and punk rock.

William S. Burroughs believed that the 1951 death of his wife Joan Vollmer by his own stray bullet “maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle in which I had no choice but to write my way out.” His innovative and experimental writing style, his insistence on confronting systems of authority and control, and his explorations with drugs, sex, magic and dreams, perception and reception, utopias and dystopias, technology, art, and the written word radically shifted the landscape of American literature and culture in the twentieth century. His landmark 1959 novel Naked Lunch exposed and probed topics too taboo for the 1950s American psyche. His work over the next forty years would test boundaries and transcend genres with the fundamental knowledge that if “nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

“Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted”: William S. Burroughs at 100 pays tribute to the most famous junkie writer, the iconoclast, and the reluctant icon.

Tags: Authors; Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997