William S. Burroughs was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer. Much of Burroughs' work is semi-autobiographical, drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict, a condition that marked the last fifty years of his life. A primary member of the Beat Generation, he was an avant-garde author who affected popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs moved to Lawrence in 1981 and lived here until his death in 1997.
Burroughs is often called one of the greatest and most influential writers of the twentieth century, most notably by Norman Mailer. Many still consider his concepts and attitude more influential than his prose. Prominent admirers of Burroughs's work have included British critic and biographer Peter Ackroyd, the rock critic Lester Bangs and the authors J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Jean Genet, William Gibson, Charles Bukowski, Alan Moore and Ken Kesey. Burroughs continues to be named as an influence by contemporary writers of fiction.
He is also cited as a major influence by musicians Patti Smith, Genesis P-Orridge, Ian Curtis, Laurie Anderson, Soinc Youth and Kurt Cobain.