William S. Burroughs Interviews

November 30, 2008

Two separate audio interviews with William S. Burroughs, conducted in 1984 and 1985, respectively.
These are either for Burroughs completists or newcomers to his work, as the interviewer (Donald Swaim of Book Beat) is frustratingly ill-informed about Burroughs’ history or personal life and asks some really obvious or flat out dumb questions.

Part one – 1984. 25 mins.
Taped on the event of Burroughs’ 70th birthday. Interviewer asks many clumsy and probing questions about his drug history, occasionally talking about his writing.

Part two – 1985. 34.4 mins.
Much about Queer and Naked Lunch. Taped in the echo-y bunker.

Indeed, in this page, Mr. Swaim seems fixated on Burroughs’ drug use and makes it a major feature of his bio blurbs to the interviews, to wit:

Burroughs also talks about his drug addiction claiming it is easier to get through life with “junk” but it’s very inhibiting to creativity.

Although he has been sober from his drug addiction since 1957, as expressed in the previous interview, Burroughs admits he will from time to time use a bit of cannabis to get some inspiration for his writing.

But that’s not entirely true. Burroughs relapsed on heroin in the early eighties and continued to use methadone nearly until his death.
But it probably sounded better to the square-sounding Swaim to chock up his stranger writing and relative obscurity before fame to the ravages of wanton drug abuse.



  1. I’ve been recommending th book JUNKY to many of my younger, not quite been to the bottom, but getting there, clients. I know of at least 5 people who were able to stay clean after reading it. I always preface the recommending with…”If you’re not hooked yet and want to have a slight feel as to what it’s like without going there….read this book.” I know it scared the shit outa me.

  2. That’s cool! I had no idea! Some people think Junky glamorizes heroin use, but I find Burroughs straight-up reportage of not only the physical symptoms but also the depiction of the lifestyle makes it seem utterly futile and miserable, without being over the top or melodramatic. It sure made me never want to experience anything like that, even though the book stays well away from preachy sermonizing.

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