Posted by: Ele Quigan | February 7, 2014

Junky – William S Burroughs

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks now, and the surrounding impact of losing Philip Seymour Hoffman just made me put it off even further.

It feels weird to write again about something I’ve never experienced, never understood, peaking in through someone else’s words, trying to attach or even discover an element of something that’s far from reach.

It feels weird to be reading all of these articles looking for reasons for addiction, experimentation, blaming prohibition, demonising behaviour, but some asking for reviews of laws, some asking for expanded support, but still at the end of the day these articles are just words – another life was still lost.

It feels weird to be pushing myself through this same fiction route again, like its own weird addiction, like I’m on a search for something but I don’t know what I’m looking for. Understanding? Pushing myself to look at others experiences to put a name to the things I feel like I see on the street everyday? Real life is less glossy than fiction. Real life screams of death and desperation and last resorts. Fiction makes the whole thing sound larger than life. I almost want to use the word ‘fun’ – however inappropriate that is.

I feel like it’s surrounding everything I’m reading, seeing, being at the moment. Maybe I’m looking for it? The desperation on the streets, the halfway houses I see everyday on my commute, sheltered by my headphones and stream of music, I at times wish for a camera, knowing full well I’d never raise my hands to attempt a shot. Because what am I shooting?

The streets around my area are amazing yet degenerate. I love them, but it’s often so depressing. It’s an insult to see average house prices around £500k yet still so many people stuck and in need of help. The addict who has been sitting next to Bethnal Green Station for the last 4 years is still there. He’s looking a lot worse of late.

These places have always existed. I think that’s what struck me most about Junky, is that it could have been written yesterday and still be relevant. The lingo hasn’t changed. The people haven’t changed. The cycle between junk sick and well hasn’t changed. The addiction hasn’t changed. So what has?

There’s still (if anything I’d say even moreso than ever) a fear of the unknown. There’s even more judgement. There’s an us and them mentality of “not in my backyard”. Even when there are several regimes that have been proven to help (Portugal, Switzerland, Norway) continually governments squash these back, with the view that ALL is bad – rather than looking at overall harm reduction.

Making it a crime to have a disease is something alluded to by Russell Brand in his brilliant article in The Guardian posted yesterday , people need help & support not prison. Otherwise, like all through Junky, it’s a never ending cycle of dependency, relapse, rehab/detox, relapse, dependency.

The book? Oh yeah back to that. It’s really good – honest, frank, dark – I think next I’ll read The Naked Lunch, classed as one of his best.

Interestingly Junky is this months Guardian Bookclub (which I’ve just joined) book – will be interesting to see their thoughts on it too.

And Will Self’s commentary about Junky, offering an interesting viewpoint.


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