December 09, 1985 12:00 PM

by William S. Burroughs

The author of Naked Lunch wrote this novel more than 30 years ago, but it was not published at the time because of its subject matter, the obsession of one man for another. It is a sign of these times that there is nothing at all in the book to provoke any reaction stronger than revulsion for the behavior of an intelligent man who is addicted to drugs. The hero, William Lee, lives in Mexico City shortly after World War II. He becomes enamored of a younger man and invites him on a trip to South America in search of a drug that makes its users subject to any suggestion. In an introduction, Burroughs says, “As soon as something is written, it loses the power of surprise, just as a virus loses its advantage when a weakened virus has created alerted antibodies. So I achieved some immunity from further perilous ventures along these lines by writing my experience down.” In addition to moments of high humor, the book is distinguished by a dramatic tension—a fearful anxiety for a fellow human being who is in pain—that takes hold early and pulls the reader through. (Viking, $14.95)

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