William Burroughs liked opium, a lot. He liked its derivatives, morphine, and heroin. He liked other types of dope. He liked women. He liked men and boys. He wrote recklessly. He lived recklessly. He loved his common-law wife. He shot her dead in a drunken game of William Tell in a Mexico City bar.
William Burroughs was a member of the Beatniks, that dope- and jazz- and danger-loving generation that dazzled and unnerved America during the decades following World War II and gave rise to the peace, love, and hippie movements of the late 1960s.
If a person compiled a list of history’s Most Hip, Beats would litter the top 20: Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady. They’d be right up there with James Dean, Miles Davis, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper, Jackson Pollack, and Lenny Bruce.
And Nike, McDonald’s, Madison Avenue, and the army of men in grey flannel suits that have marked American business for the past 100 years.
That’s right: Kerouac and McDonald’s, Miles Davis on Madison Avenue, Burroughs donning Nikes, James Dean in a grey flannel suit. They’re related: they’re all hip.
Every manifestation of hip — from Walt Whitman to the Harlem Renaissance to the Beatniks to Kurt Cobain — has this in common: it lives for now. That’s what makes it so cool, whether it’s a heroin junkie playing saxophone (see Charlie Parker) or a speed junkie who … Read the rest