Queer

by William S. Burroughs

Paper Book, 1985

Status

Available

Publication

New York, NY : Penguin Books, 1987, c1985.

Description

Set in Mexico City during the early fifities, the story follows William Lee from bar to bar in the American expatriate scene as he pursues a young man named Allerton.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Aeyan
Decay pervades this novel. I thought it was merely that I had purchased a fairly old yet never used book and that was where the sense of decrepitude emanates, but then I realized it is the odorous imagery Burroughs' invokes of Mexico City and sundry South American locales. From the bars to the characters, the feeling that some elegance has been shatteringly lost, some refinement irrevocably misplaced leaks from the text. This thrilling (if noxious) interplay of word and action lends itself well to the withdrawals the main character Lee feels from heroin and also to his unquenchable lust for younger men.
I found myself fascinated by the locales visited by Lee, oddly not irritated by his cantankerous and often somewhat crude and racist commentary about people and place, but rather seeing them react only to what Lee himself was generating. It was an exercise in frustration however to watch him pine for the focused subject of his lust, his diffident conquest and later travel companion Allerton, almost as if Allerton acts as a receptacle for the withdrawal symptoms Lee experiences.
In many senses of the word, 'queer' accurately describes this novel. Recalling the historical time period that Burroughs would have used this word - before the reclamation of Queer as an identifier signifying positive difference - Lee brings blatant many of the perjorative uses for it, and also the usage as a marker of something strange or out of sorts. However, taking into account the modern use of queer as a way to positively affirm an identity outside the norm, Queer presents an unglamorous but accepting depiction of a homosexual man, never really emblazoning said queerness in neon pink letters with sparkly lights, but rather showing a sympathetic (if frequently rambling) recovering junky. The queerness of the text comes more to light in Lee's eccentricities than merely in his sexual proclivities.
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LibraryThing member buzzharper
Great book. Honest and written from the heart. heart.
LibraryThing member revD
A piercing, intensely self-analytic novelette. Again a portrait of another time, but perfectly accessible because of its emotional & intellectual honesty. Burroughs served himself well by keeping 'Queer' from publication until the mid-eighties-- complete with a new introduction, it cast an eye backward at how society, American & otherwise, was being shaped by the internal pressures of the citizens it considered its untouchables.… (more)
LibraryThing member wendyrey
Sort and not sweet. Thoroughly nasty book. Wish I could give negative ratings.
LibraryThing member Djupstrom
I know I am supposed to like William S. Burroughs for his "greatness" in literature, but I just don't get him...ever. Bad book.
LibraryThing member kant1066
This book has been sitting on my library shelves for a couple of years untouched. Since it was William Burroughs, and looked like a fairly quick read, I decided to pick it up. Burroughs is one of the seminal American authors of the underground gay experience, right? I thought it would be like reading Alan Hollinghurst on cocaine - something I was looking forward to.

But I was highly disappointed. The novel's plot revolves around gay two heroin addicts, William Lee and Eugene Allerton. Lee's attraction to Allerton is completely and painfully unreciprocated. Despite all of Lee's attempts (which come in the form of embarrassing barside disquisitions in Mexican cantinas) to win Allerton's affections, it is all for naught. They decide to travel in search of some hallucinogenic drug which can only be obtained in the remote rainforest, and Lee promises to pay Allerton's way if he has sex with him a couple of times a week. In the end, the reader gets the impression that the quest for the drug is upset, much like Lee's wish for Allerton to love and appreciate him. The structure of the novel seems unmotivated and disinterested. It really seems to have no narrative "drive." I'm certainly not a reader that needs an action-packed novel by any stretch of the imagination, but there is nothing that compels the reader to keep reading - not even a chance of catching the two characters in licentious acts.

But for anyone out there that wants to discover Burroughs for themselves, I definitely recommend this as a first step: it is immanently readable, unlike some of Burroughs' later, more experimental fiction. For this reason, it is a perfect choice for readers who have not hitherto been introduced to some of the more difficult aspects of twentieth century fiction, like non-linear narration, that symptom of dread postmodernism.
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LibraryThing member JWarren42
Such genius. This is a second read for me, trying out this new edition. Beyond the trip down memory lane, the manuscript notes are just fantastic. Very interesting editor's introduction. The scenes where Lee is alone with Allerton are heartbreaking in their emotional dryness. Staggering work.
LibraryThing member blanderson
A clean and intriguing book that goes absolutely nowhere. The prose isn't as sharp or funny as Junky, and the characters/situations seem flat in comparison, as if Bill Lee himself was just going through the motions while awaiting trial for his wife's accidental murder.

Still, an interesting portrait of lust as an addiction, but you can really tell that the novel wasn't completed. It ends, seemingly, halfway through a chapter.… (more)
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Burroughs can be a tad difficult to understand at times. His writing is often poetic and so subject to interpretation. Essentially you often only get out of him what you are willing to put [of yourself] into his writing. He takes us on journeys into his mind, his reality. Long before the days of Identity Politics, he makes us think about how we are all political.… (more)
LibraryThing member poetontheone
This sequel (of sorts) to Junky introduces a vulnerable figure in Lee, a thinly veiled Burrroughs who pines for the affections of Allerton, a bar phantom hovering on the outskirts of Lee's acquaintance circle. In parts, an unrequited love (or lust) story, a mythical drug quest, and bursts of weird monologue. In the second half of the book, when the latter two elements come to the fore, the story really gains momentum.… (more)

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