Junky is William S. Burroughs’ first book and also his most readable. While many readers may have already cracked the cover on this dusky treasure, I recently found a fine gem that washed up on the cyber shores of this here late night lookout. This YouTube offering is an abridged audibook version of the classic that features the man himself reading his foundational work.

Junky is a great read in its own right, but it also offers a window into all of the work that Burroughs was later to conjure. In the book we are introduced to a typically Burroughsian cast of characters:

“The Beagle”
“The Sailor”
“Joe the Mex”
“George the Greek”
“Luis the bellhop”

The book is also saturated with the Hammet-meets-H.P. Lovecraft phrase-crafting that would be developed in the novels, essays and performances to come:

“There is a junk gesture that marks the junkie the way the limp wrist marks the fag.”

“There was a gentleness to him, common to many old time junkies…In the anonymous city crowd he stood out sharp and clear – as though you were seeing him through binoculars.”

“Luis was a shoplifter who had lost what nerve he ever had. He wore long, shabby overcoats that gave him the look of a furtive buzzard; thief and junkie stuck out all over him.”

If you’ve already read the book, this listen is a fine revisit. If you are new toJunky, let this ashen elocution serve to stoke your appetite.

Joe Nolan