5 min read

Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.

William S. Burroughs and the conflict of deviant privilege.
The dapper writer, William S. Burroughs leaning against a blank wall in a grey suit.
Wiliam S. Burroughs. Credit: Ulrich Hillebrand

Whenever I meet a weirdo, I try to figure out how they got that way. Some folks do it on their own - arising gloriously from a family full of squares - but others have a multi-generational story about how they deviated from the cultural mainstream.

William S. Burroughs II is in the latter group.


“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” - William S. Burroughs

A Quick Bio

Born in St. Louis in 1914, Burroughs was the grandson and the namesake of William Seward Burroughs, inventor of the Burroughs adding machine. His company would become the Burroughs Corporation, which, after many acquisitions, is today lumbering along as the information technology conglomerate Unisys.

While his parents had no stake in the company, they had grown rich off it's sale, and until he was 50, Burroughs enjoyed a $200 a month stipend at a time when that was a decent chunk of cash.

Burrough's family money gave him the liberty to graduate from Harvard and traipse about the globe in a way that even I find enviable. He tried his hand at many things. He studied medicine, took flying lessons, worked as a private investigator, a gentleman farmer, and as an exterminator.

This post is for subscribers only