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Peter Schjeldahl on William Burroughs

January 28th, 2014

Episode 356 of 447 episodes

Peter Schjeldahl is the magazine's art critic, but this week he takes on a literary subject: William S. Burroughs. A new biography of Burroughs was recently published, and next month is the centenary of his birth. Schjeldahl writes that Burroughs is always being rediscovered by "properly disaffected young readers," and, on the podcast, he tells the editor Sasha Weiss that "reading Burroughs is a sort of rite of passage, which is most effective in your late teens, early twenties, but you can do a remedial one later on." For Schjeldahl, who was an aspiring poet in New York, in the nineteen-sixties, Burroughs and his "cut-up" writing style were an important influence. Here, Schjeldahl and Weiss listen to archival recordings of Burroughs reading from his first novel, "Junky," and discuss the transformative effect that Burroughs and the Beats had on American literature.

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