Dead Fingers Talk: The Restored Text
Edited and with an Introduction by Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature, Keele University
First published in 1963 and representing Burroughs’s literary breakthrough in the UK, Dead Fingers Talk is, in the words of Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris, “a prophetic work of haunting power,” a unique experiment in writing that has for too long been overlooked. Combining new material with rearranged selections from Naked Lunch and his cut-up novels The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded, the book is a fascinating precursor to remix and mash-up forms in art and music, which owe much to Burroughs’s influence.
This newly restored edition of Dead Fingers Talk, based on the novel’s archival manuscripts, will delight all Burroughs fans and lovers of experimental literature, and offer a new insight into the artistic process of one of the most original and influential writers of the twentieth century.
Burroughs has been called a writer of ‘good bits’, and Harris is correct to insist that he is much more. There are, nevertheless, plenty of good bits in Dead Fingers Talk. Those who insist on holding their noses on the way past are avoiding the stink but missing a lot of fun, and neglecting one of the true originals of 20th-century literature.
Widely recognized as being one of the most culturally influential, politically trenchant and innovative artists of the twentieth century, William S. Burroughs (1914–97) became a key figure in the generation of writers that emerged in the early 1950s. He was the author of eighteen novels and novellas, among them the 1959 classic Naked Lunch, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays.