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Cats, Chemicals And A Gun Under The Pillow: Dying William S. Burroughs’s Daily Routine

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These are the last private musings and reflections of William S. Burroughs, written from mid-November 1996 through August 1, 1997, the day before he died.

By one note he writes:

“Love? What is it? / Most natural pain / killer what there is. / L O V E.”

American writer William Seward Burroughs (1914 - 1997), author of the cult novel 'Naked Lunch'.   (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

 

What did author William S. Burroughs do of a typical day? James Grauerholz, literary executor of the Burroughs estate, is here to tell us:

On a typical day in the last year of William Burroughs’s life he would awaken in the early morning and take his methadone (he became re-addicted to narcotics in New York in 1980, and was on a maintenance program the rest of his life) and then return to bed. If the day were Thursday, I would arrive at 8:00 A.M. to drive him to his clinic in Kansas City, or — after he had finally earned a biweekly pickup schedule — take him out to breakfast, so that his house could be cleaned. At about 9:30 A.M. on all other mornings William would arise and — in his slippers, pajamas, and dressing gown — make his breakfast, sometimes a salted soft-boiled egg with toast, or perhaps fresh-squeezed lemonade, and two cups of very sweet tea. Feeding his many cats at the beginning of each day took up considerable time, only after which would he shave and dress himself, by about noon.

William might have visitors at midday, or he might make an outing to his friend Fred Aldrich’s farm for some target shooting with other gun enthusiasts. Otherwise, he passed the afternoon looking through his gun magazines or reading an endless stream of books, sometimes works of serious fiction but more often in the category of pulp fiction, with an emphasis on medical thrillers, stories about police and gangsters, and — his favorite — science-fiction scenarios of plague ravaging the world…

 

24th August 1962:  From left to right; William Burroughs (1914 - 1997), Lawrence Durrell (1912 - 1990), Mary McCarthy (1912 - 1989), Robert Jungk (1913 - 1994), Erich Fried (1921 - 1988) and Stephen Spender  (1909 - 1995) at a writers' conference answering questions from the floor on 'The Novel and the Future'.  (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)

24th August 1962: From left to right; William Burroughs (1914 – 1997), Lawrence Durrell (1912 – 1990), Mary McCarthy (1912 – 1989), Robert Jungk (1913 – 1994), Erich Fried (1921 – 1988) and Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995) at a writers’ conference answering questions from the floor on ‘The Novel and the Future’. (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)

 

William liked to go outside in the afternoon and walk in his garden, sometimes practicing throwing a knife into a board propped up against the little garage. But in his last year, he could usually be found lying down for an afternoon nap of an hour or two. One or more of his friends would arrive at 5:00 or 6:00 P.M. to join him for cocktails and make dinner. William’s daily cocktails — which had started religiously at 6:00 P.M. when I first met him in 1974 — now commenced at 3:30 sharp. After the first vodka-and-Coke and a few puffs on a joint, he often wrote in his new journal books until he was joined by his dinner companions.

 

William S. Burroughs at his 70th birthday party in 1984.

William S. Burroughs at his 70th birthday party in 1984.

 

From: Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs