William S. Burroughs

(William Seward Burroughs II)

William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
  • Born: February 5, 1914
  • Died: August 2, 1997
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Writer









William Seward Burroughs II was an American writer and visual artist. Burroughs was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author whose influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films. He was also briefly known by the pen name William Lee. Burroughs created and exhibited thousands of paintings and other visual art works, including his celebrated 'Gunshot Paintings'.

Quotes About
Author Quote
Quote Topics Cited
A functioning police state needs no police. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. Guns & Gun Control
Faced by the actual practice of freedom, the French and American revolutions would be forced to stand by their words. Freedom & Liberty
I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military. Guns & Gun Control
Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole. Travel ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Space Exploration
Richard Nixon will go down in history as a true folk hero, who struck a vital blow to the whole diseased concept of the revered image and gave the American virtue of irreverence and skepticism back to the people. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The people in power will not disappear voluntarily, giving flowers to the cops just isn't going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
A cat's rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.
A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.
Admittedly, a homosexual can be conditioned to react sexually to a woman, or to an old boot for that matter. In fact, both homo - and heterosexual experimental subjects have been conditioned to react sexually to an old boot, and you can save a lot of money that way. Money, Coins & Minting
After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military. Society
After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say 'I want to see the manager.'
Americans have a special horror of giving up control, of letting things happen in their own way without interference.
An addict never stops growing. Stupider.
Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means.
Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.
Be just and if you can't be just, be arbitrary.
Black magic operates most effectively in preconscious, marginal areas. Casual curses are the most effective.
Changes... can only be effected by alterations in the original. The only thing not prerecorded in a prerecorded universe are the prerecordings themselves. The copies can only repeat themselves word for word. A virus is a copy. You can pretty it up, cut it up, scramble it - it will reassemble in the same form.
Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape. Hope
Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.
Gentle reader, the Fountain of Youth is radioactive, and those who imbibe its poisonous heavy waters will suffer the hideous fate of decaying metal. Yet almost without exception, the wretched idiot inhabitants of our benighted planet would gulp down this radioactive excrement if it were offered.
Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war. Happiness & Unhappiness ;War & Peace
Hemingway was a prisoner of his style. No one can talk like the characters in Hemingway except the characters in Hemingway. His style in the wildest sense finally killed him.
How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity.
Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.
I am getting so far out one day I won't come back at all.
I see no reason why the artistic world can't absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. Pop art is a move in that direction. Why can't we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images? Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I started to write in about 1950; I was thirty-five at the time; there didn't seem to be any strong motivation. I simply was endeavoring to put down in a more or less straightforward journalistic style something about my experiences with addiction and addicts. Time
I wasn't exposed to art as I was growing up, and can't recall the first time I saw a work of art. However, I remember very clearly a vision I had of a little green reindeer when I was a child, and visions emanate from the same mythical area where painting resides. Whatever the reason, I immediately felt comfortable working with visual materials. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
If everyone is to be made responsible for everything they do, you must extend responsibility beyond the level of conscious intention.
In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality.
In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed.
In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.
It is indeed difficult to make a living as a writer, and my advice to anyone contemplating a literary career is to have some other trade.
Junk is the ideal product... the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.
Language is a virus from outer space. Communication & Communications
Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.
Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has. Business, Commerce & Finance
Most people don't see what's going on around them. That's my principal message to writers: 'For God's sake, keep your eyes open. Notice what's going on around you.' Religion & God
Most serious writers refuse to make themselves available to the things that technology is doing. I've never been able to understand this sort of fear. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
My relationships with my cats has saved me from a deadly, pervasive ignorance.
No body of knowledge needs an organizational policy. Organizational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organization and freedom of thought. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Freedom & Liberty
No one owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death. Life ;Death
Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
Our national drug is alcohol. We tend to regard the use any other drug with special horror.
Perhaps all pleasure is only relief.
Scientology is a model control system, a state in fact with its own courts, police, rewards and penalties.
Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing. Communication & Communications
Smash the control images. Smash the control machine.
Some people like neat suburbs. I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat.
Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts.
Speaking for myself, art differs from writing in that I never know what I'm going to paint until I paint it, so it's almost like automatic writing. A writer, on the other hand, can't help but know what he's going to write, because the activity demands a degree of premeditation. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself. Of course he wants care and shelter. You don't buy love for nothing. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
The face of evil is always the face of total need.
The only possible ethic is to do what one wants to do.
The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The way to kill a man or a nation is to cut off his dreams, the way the whites are taking care of the Indians: killing their dreams, their magic, their familiar spirits.
The world wasn't a more tolerant place when I was a young man. Rather, they simply sidestepped all the issues.
There couldn't be a society of people who didn't dream. They'd be dead in two weeks. Society
Thinking is not enough. There is no final enough of wisdom, experience - any... thing.
This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games. Time ;Nature ;War & Peace
Virtue is simply happiness, and happiness is a by-product of function. You are happy when you are functioning. Happiness & Unhappiness
Visual art and writing don't exist on an aesthetic hierarchy that positions one above the other, because each is capable of things the other can't do at all. Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Which came first the intestine or the tapeworm?
You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.
You must learn to exist with no religion, no country, no allies. You must learn to live alone in silence. Religion & God
Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training