I have read Junky, by William Burroughs.

The novel is one of the strongest depicted I read lately (maybe ever). It presents all the aspects of heroin addiction and peddling, in a personal but almost cynical way, without hiding anything. Our main character and the first person story teller, starts to be a normal person,  we are presented with a small background, and we are forced to understand how this person can turn into someone else, totally changed, whose life starts to circle around junk, the name they use for the heroin, opium, morphine and derivatives.

Being permanently in the low circles of the city, without much distraction, with a lot of experiments and without having a real goal in life, our character starts his habit by first trying out junk out of curiosity, or just because he had it and did not sell it, or because some of his acquaintances told him he can try it himself. Will, by his name, does not look to have much to do with his time, and is eager to try out new things. He starts with smoking tobacco, weed, trying out homosexuality, and eventually begins using plenty of substances more or less legal to see how they feel.

He starts off to sell junk, buy, spending time with a lot of junk addicts, how at some points he is broke and cannot sustain his habit,.He describes how they were stealing from metro drunkards (lush) to get money to be able to use junk, because just buying and selling was not profitable enough for their personal demand. One of the most strong emotion is depicted when he starts to experience junk sickness: withdrawal symptoms. The feelings are very strong, and the physical pain, which is said to be as worse as it can possibly get.

He is arrested, charged, imprisoned, and multiple times he attempts to get rid of his habit, at some point he even takes a two weeks cure inside a rehabilitation hospital. During his junk experience, he manages to get rid of junk several times, sometimes even for more months in a row, until eventually turning back to junk and being enslaved again.

The story is very sharp, very personal, made of very accurate observations, starting from how they were preparing the junk, how they could not inject it properly, how they were feeling when they could not get the regular shots. The darkness and the horrors of junk addiction and sickness are very real and blunt for the reader.

Junky is a story of the falling, it’s an explanation of how a normal person like you and me, can degrade to the point where to do anything to be able to get the next shot, to get a habit that is solely their purpose in life, even though they could have believed it at the start. It also clears out many things for me at least, that I did not consider previously, and some myths that have less sense after reading Junky. One of them is the addiction: one does not get a habit after one or a few shots, months are needed. Others are that no peddlers want kids as customers, since they spill out everything if questions and have no real money, and that cocaine and other substances do not give a real addiction: junk sickness.

I did previously read A scanner darkly,  but Junky is much stronger in emotion, feeling and personal involvement. My verdict is that it’s a brilliant book for everyone, not just people interested in the subject.


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