rating: 4 of 5 stars
My very first Burroughs! I picked this one up because I saw it was on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list and I recently signed up for a challenge to read 10 of the 1001 books in 10 months as part of the 1% Well Read Challenge. This is my first book of the 10.
Junky was Burrough’s first book and was published before the start of the Beat movement. The semi-autobiographical Junky details the experiences of Bill Lee, a man who develops a morphine and heroine habit.
A junky runs on junk time. When his junk is cut off, the clock runs down and stops. All he can do is hang on and wait for non-junk time to start.
We first meet Lee shortly before his first time using drugs and watch as he sinks deeper and deeper into the world of junk. The story is told in a gritty and straight forward manner. Burroughs passes no judgement on drug addiction. Lee’s friends and fellow addicts try to find doctors that will write them scripts and pharmacists who will fill them. They are in and out of jail and “detox”.
The book gave me a raw impression of what life as a heroin addict in early 20th century America must’ve been like. As a reader, you watch Lee’s madness and hallucinations. The writing is a simple straightforward narrative, yet very powerful. I found Junky to be a gripping and thought provoking read.