Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

This is the place to talk about everything Burroughs.

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edward_de_vere
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Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by edward_de_vere » Thu Jul 18, 2013 10:21 am

I'm sure there was a thread along these lines a while back (at least a poll about everyone's favorite WSB book), but how about a ranking of the Burroughs books you've read, from favorite to least? Here's mine:

Naked Lunch
Nova Express
The Soft Machine
Junky
Queer
The Western Lands
Cities of the Red Night
The Wild Boys
Exterminator


Never Read (at least not in their entirety):
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, The Ticket that Exploded, The Port of Saints, The Place of Dead Roads, My Education

I'm not counting short works such as A Ghost of a Chance or The Cat Inside, though I liked both of them (particularly the former).

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davee_mac
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Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by davee_mac » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:01 pm

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!

I flat down REFUSE to rank Burroughs' works!!!!









apart from anything else, i'm still not sure if my favourite is NL or Soft Machine :D

DSW
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Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by DSW » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:30 am

Hmm. That's tough.

I'd put The Soft Machine as my favourite, followed by Junkie and maybe Wild Boys. After that I'm not certain.

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by BansheeYage » Sun May 29, 2016 8:29 pm

Felt like injecting some new life into this thread since I came across it while keyword searching The Place of Dead Roads.

My favorites that I've read would have to be:

1) Cities of the Red Night

2) Nova Express

3) Naked Lunch

4) Soft Machine

5) The Wild Boys

6) Junky

7) Ghost of Chance + Cat Inside (Together they are basically one novel.)

8 ) The Ticket that Exploded

9) Queer
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

edward_de_vere
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Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by edward_de_vere » Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:04 am

I'm surprised that you gave such a low ranking to Queer. Is that solely on account of what (in my opinion) is the book's weakest point, the fact that it basically just stops almost in mid-paragraph, or did you dislike the style and substance? What I like about Queer is you get some of the straightforward description and narrative of Junky, but with some of the bizarre flights of fancy and "routines" that wouldn't be out of place in Naked Lunch.

sal p.
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Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by sal p. » Thu Jun 09, 2016 3:49 pm

Tough and kinda pointless but:

1. The Ticket that Exploded
2. Naked Lunch
3. Interzone (if we can count that)
4. Junky
5. Nova Express
6. Queer
7. The Soft Machine

I'm in the middle of reading his latter trilogy and all of three of them I'm sure will rank highly, but I didn't want to put them in my list until I've finished the trilogy.

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by BansheeYage » Fri Jun 10, 2016 3:50 am

The reason I ranked Queer as my least favorite Ed, is because I feel that to find any value in it you need to have a personal interest in Burroughs life to derive any kind meaning from the text. Whereas Junky depicted a corrupt judicial system, an insightful first hand portrayal of addiction both internally and externally, all wrapped in an entertaining package that was Burroughs life, Queer just felt like a lesser sequel. I found reading the parts where Burroughs describes his humiliation and shame at finding his love unrequited and the embarrassment of being looked at as an flirtatious homosexual who won't take a hint poignant and intense given the intimacy that he wrote the book with, but like I said all those things are really only interesting if you are interested in the man himself. Do you disagree with my assessment of what it has to offer? I'd be curious to hear if you got more out of it. Maybe I'd be willing to give it a second read then.

I'm surprised to see you put Ticket as number one sal. What was your reasoning for that over the other two of the cut up trilogy? To me Ticket was the least enjoyable and took the longest about of time to read because of the extreme disjointedness of the novel. While that may seem like a silly complaint given the nature of the novels construction, I felt like the cut up sections of Soft Machine and Nova Express as lending to the central narrative more so than Ticket and possessing some of the more beautiful and memorable prose and juxtapositions.

And eh it's not entirely pointless to give our rankings of his work. Someone may see our lists and be motivated to check out these novels for themselves. I'm in the middle of the Red Night trilogy as well and I'm loving it. To be honest I think it's some of his best work with the maturity and refinement of years of writing behind him.
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

edward_de_vere
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Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by edward_de_vere » Mon Jun 13, 2016 9:55 am

The reason I ranked Queer as my least favorite Ed, is because I feel that to find any value in it you need to have a personal interest in Burroughs life to derive any kind meaning from the text. Whereas Junky depicted a corrupt judicial system, an insightful first hand portrayal of addiction both internally and externally, all wrapped in an entertaining package that was Burroughs life, Queer just felt like a lesser sequel. I found reading the parts where Burroughs describes his humiliation and shame at finding his love unrequited and the embarrassment of being looked at as an flirtatious homosexual who won't take a hint poignant and intense given the intimacy that he wrote the book with, but like I said all those things are really only interesting if you are interested in the man himself. Do you disagree with my assessment of what it has to offer? I'd be curious to hear if you got more out of it. Maybe I'd be willing to give it a second read then.
Actually, in a sense all of Burroughs' work is personal rather than universal, except that the early works draw upon his life while his later works draw more upon his personal sexual/utopian fantasies. Virtually none of Burroughs' works contain significant characters who aren't his own alter egos, or at least based on individuals in his immediate social circle. So in this sense Queer isn't any less universal than his later novels.

What I admired the most about Queer was that it contains what in my opinion is some of the best of Burroughs as a stylist. His pathetic relationship with Allerton was actually the least interesting aspect of the book to me, what I enjoyed the most was his descriptions of the seedy, dull aspects of American expatriate life in Mexico and his travels through Central and South America towards the end of the book in search of Yage. Most of all, it contains Burroughs' best descriptions of other people, e.g.

Moor was motivated, literally kept alive and moving, by hate, but there was no passion or violence in his hate. Moor’s hate has a slow, steady push, weak but infinitely persistent, waiting to take advantage of any weakness in another. The slow drip of Moor’s hate had etched the lines of decay in his face. He had aged without experiencing life, like a piece of meat rotting on a pantry shelf.

and of the human psyche

In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality. It is as the mountains: a fact. There it is. When you realize it, you cannot complain."

Additionally, I tend to find the repetitive and graphic sex scenes in Burroughs' later novels to be tedious (especially when you get chapter after chapter in a row with nothing but this - I don't find it offensive so much as boring), so ironically the book with the title Queer is actually his one of his least pornographic major works.

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by BansheeYage » Tue Jun 14, 2016 10:48 pm

My problem with the novel is that the "pathetic" relationship conquest that he has with Eugene Allerton which sadly is the bulk of the novel not really conveying anything of value to the reader other than a window into Burroughs life if that is what the reader is after. I can definitely agree with your points on exploration of the human psyche and his descriptive imagery of the cities and jungles that they journey through, but with the exception of the former the later doesn't really begin until as you said towards the end and the insights into human nature that Burroughs does note are sparse compared to his later works in my opinion.

Maybe I am being a little critical on the novel, especially considering the short length of the novel which I believe is just over 100 pages, but the way I see it when held up to the other books that I listed Queer, like it's length, falls short. I personally am someone who enjoys learning about Burroughs life so in that aspect it was a treat and I felt like it was a decent sequel to Junky, though since Queer is considered Junky's companion novel when comparing the quality of the two Junky stands high above Queer which may have been why I was disappointed when I first read it.

I entirely agree with you on the gratuitous amounts of sex in the later novels. There are times where I feel it complements the narrative (such as in Cities of the Red Night and as I'm finding in The Place of Dead Roads) but in other texts like The Ticket that Exploded it just becomes so excessive and insipid and was clearly masturbatory for Burroughs which he later admits in Burroughs: The Movie.

What I am curious about having just reviewed your list, is that you found Queer and Junky superior to Cities of the Red Night and The Western Lands. I can understand why the Wild Boys may have been lower on your list considering your complaint about the amounts of sex in his later novels, but I'm surprised you enjoyed Junky and Queer over the Red Night Trilogy. Granted I'm only one and a half books into it, I thought Cities was honestly the best work I've read by Burroughs. I felt like he had reached a level in his writing where he was able to seamlessly move between conventional narrative techniques and his more experimental styles, such as in the third book of Cities where the three narratives meet.

And since I see you also read Ghost of Chance, I'm interested in what you'd have to say about whether or not Burroughs achieved his supposed objective with that novel. From what I understand it was meant as a piece on environmental activism against things like deforestation and harming precious ecosystems. I discussed this with someone on Reddit awhile ago and I recall them saying that it does hold those themes but never really goes anywhere with them and I think I had seen others describe the narrative as somewhat aimless and meandering. While I still enjoyed it I can see the validity of those points. What do you think?
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

edward_de_vere
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Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by edward_de_vere » Fri Jun 17, 2016 1:26 pm

I didn't rank Cities of the Red Night very highly because I didn't find the Noah Blake portions of the novel to be particularly interesting or well-written. Burroughs is imitating the style of boy's adventure stories here, so perhaps the mediocre writing in the narrative is intentional, but it's still in my opinion mediocre. The Clem Snide story was slightly more engaging in content though not style, but really the only part of the novel I enjoyed were the more surreal descriptions of goings-on in the eponymous cities themselves.

The story/novella Ghost of Chance was intended to be a sequel to Cities of the Red Night, and I thought to myself that if the Noah Blake portion of Cities was written more along these lines I would have enjoyed it much more. GoC contained some of Burroughs' best writings on religion and overpopulation/environmental degradation, all of which I found more interesting than Noah's adventures and sexual fantasies.

I disliked Exterminator (apart from the first chapter) because Burroughs' attempts at straight narrative in most of the short stories just never took off. In many cases, it seemed like I was reading a draft outline for a short story rather than anything that had gelled. As to The Wild Boys, if you took out the masturbation fantasy porn scenes, you'd have about 3-4 pages of book left, perhaps not counting the rather out of place Tio Mate chapter. The only section of The Wild Boys that I really enjoyed were the Green Nun chapter (the part about her going around in "Christ drag" recalled the otherwise absent Naked Lunch-style humor) and the opening paragraphs of "The Dead Child," which recalled the more meditative passages in Queer.

sal p.
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Name a Burroughs book: The Ticket That Exploded

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by sal p. » Mon Jun 20, 2016 12:12 am

Whenever I talk to someone about Burroughs and mention Ticket, I always get the same response. I do love the cut-ups born out of Nova Express and The Soft Machine, but everything that came out of Ticket has stuck with me. I just got so much more out of it philosophically. The bit when Lee explains coordinate points is brilliant as hell and that portion, to this day, has crafted some of my own beliefs and theories. The straight prose about the tape machines and such are really great. The bits about the word being The Other Half and the control it has over us. A lot of the cut-ups in it end up being so phonetically beautiful and smooth, you almost forget they are cut ups. Not to mention, there is humor on every single page. Do people really not like Ticket that much? It is never talked about and I can never get enough of it. Even the over-the-top sexuality in some parts is entertaining and its not nearly as sexual as The Soft Machine. My copy is a 1964 edition so maybe newer editions have been modified?
It also holds one of my all time favorite selections:

Bulletin from Rewrite: "Sex is electric output of the organism in message received and transmitted--Sex words evoke a dangerous that is to say other half of the body--Precise attraction--So what is ejaculation? Shooting at target--The orgasm is a flash bulb that takes your picture.


I ask you all to reread The Ticket That Exploded sooner than later.

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by BansheeYage » Mon Jun 20, 2016 12:59 pm

Having drudged through Ticket only a couple months ago, I'd say it would have to be much later for me haha.

You felt like Soft Machine was more sexual than Ticket? I don't recall the sex scenes in SM leaving too much of an impression on me as they did in Ticket. And don't get me wrong, I think there are some scenes from Ticket that are stunning and beautifully imaginative, such as the ones you listed and the scenes in Outer Space on Uranus with K9 and the aliens, but out of the trilogy it was the one I derived the least from.

Presently though, I must say I am loving the heck out of The Place of Dead Roads.
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

torsrthidesen
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Name a Burroughs book: junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by torsrthidesen » Mon Jun 27, 2016 3:57 am

1. Junky
2. The Job
3. Cities of the Red Night
4. Queer
5. The Place of Dead Roads
6. The Western Lands
7. Exterminator!
8. Interzone
9. The Burroughs File
10. Naked Lunch
11. Ghost of Chance
12. Port of Saints
13. The Nova Trilogy
14. The Third Mind

BansheeYage
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Name a Burroughs book: Junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by BansheeYage » Tue Jun 28, 2016 5:46 pm

Nice selection. It's especially pleasing to see The Third Mind on that list since I don't think anyone else put that one on their lists. Do you own a copy? I believe they're a bit of a pricey rarity these days.
"I have a thousand faces and a thousand names. I am nobody I am everybody. I am me I am you. I am here there forward back in out. I stay everywhere I stay nowhere. I stay present I stay absent."

torsrthidesen
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Name a Burroughs book: junky

Re: Rank Burroughs' Works (from favorite to least)

Post by torsrthidesen » Wed Jun 29, 2016 1:36 am

BansheeYage wrote:Nice selection. It's especially pleasing to see The Third Mind on that list since I don't think anyone else put that one on their lists. Do you own a copy? I believe they're a bit of a pricey rarity these days.
I have never owned in physically. I used to have a digital copy at one time. Not sure if I still have it.

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