Jennie Skerl and Robin Lydenberg have selected twenty-five critical essays on Burroughs that reflect the historical reception of his work, both positive and negative, decade by decade, and that represent the best essays written about him.
The essays cover Burroughs’ major novels—including the cut-up and new trilogies—the censorship issue, and his work in film and painting. The chronological organization brings into critical focus the shift from moral questions raised by the novels’ content, through examinations of Burroughs’ relationship to humanism and modernism, and finally to more focused literary and linguistic issues. In their introduction, the editors survey the progress of Burroughs’ critical reception and examine the reasons for the varied and intense responses to the work and the theoretical assumptions behind those responses.
The reviewers include prominent figures such as Mary McCarthy and Marshall McLuhan as well as major academic critics such as Cary Nelson, Tony Tanner, and Ihab Hassan.