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BOOKS: BEST OF 2014

Branden W. Joseph

I have always loved William S. Burroughs’s writing out of all proportion to other literature. Part of the reason is undoubtedly that, even before he adopted the cut-up method of the painter Brion Gysin, Burroughs treated language as if it were the type of physical matter manipulated by a visual artist. Oliver Harris, who between 2003 and 2010 oversaw the reissue of Burroughs’s early trilogy Junky, Queer, and The Yage Letters, was perhaps the first editor to realize this fully, formulating an idea of “social text-editing” in which the material history of each of Burroughs’s manuscripts was not only respected but made evident, to a certain extent, in a “definitive” edition. In expectation of this year’s centenary of Burroughs’s birth, Harris turned his attention to the infamous Cut-Up Trilogy (Grove Press), comprising The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express,

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