I became a William Burroughs fan because I was a horror fan, but when I picked up my first copy of Naked Lunch in my sophomore year of high school, I had NO idea what I was getting into.
I had just gotten into David Cronenberg films with Scanners and The Brood when I caught the episode of Siskel and Ebert where they reviewed his new film Naked Lunch. It looked...AMAZING. I don't remember whether it got two thumbs up or not and I didn't care!
I knew the movie was going to be difficult for me to see so I went looking for the book it was based on. It took a while, because I didn't live near a bookstore and I rarely had a dime to my name prior to my gig bagging groceries. This was pre-internet and I'd never heard of Burroughs before, had no idea what the book was about, or even that Burroughs had several other books.
Not to say I was completely ignorant of the darker side of life- I was reading Clive Barker, immersed in horror films, and collecting Quinn/Vigil's Faust; Love Of The Damned (not to mention a modest collection of adult magazines). But Naked Lunch was all that in a blender and hard to follow. It was bewildering. I went into thinking it was literary fiction, but the porno/sci fi and non linear story telling was something I had no point of context for. The movie didn't help much, but I came back to both several times through the years, and with each viewing or reading things became more and more clear.
Burroughs wrote with a fearlessness that was awe inspiring, an imagination that was dumb founding, and a complexity that demanded to be reread. Even with a book like Junky or Queer that had a straight forward narrative, Burroughs showed himself to be a master story teller that proved he was more than just a weirdo that wrote books that made no sense.
Burroughs has been an essential inspiration to me through the years, making a lasting impact on how I approach a story. I used to make arguments in college that we were wasting our time reading Hemingway and Fitzgerald and ignoring Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. I still think I'm right and in these days of Twilight I think we need that old weirdo more than ever to shake things up and make us really THINK about what we're reading and why and what it's trying to tell us.
"Language is a virus from outer space."-William S Burroughs
Keep watching the sky, nerds! And stay the hell off that bug powder!