New York : Viking press, 1973. First edition. Hardcover. 168 pages ; 21 cm. $6.95 dust jacket. Very good copy; no underlines or markings within the pages. Satisfaction guaranteed!
Exterminator! by William Burroughs
You may not realize the importance of the discovery you have made the uh SUCCess of your preliminary experiment. Is it in your power to shape the future of this planet.
Does it have a future?
Thus an exchange between two of the characters in William S. Burroughs's new novel, his most important since his masterpiece of a decade and a half ago, Naked Lunch. Like that earlier work, Exterminator! is savage, but also savagely funny, with exchanges that might be straight out of the Marx Brothers if they were not so harsh and hallucinatory.
Exterminator! is about various kinds of exterminators and exterminations, from the individual ( H During the war I worked for A. J. Cohen Exterminators ground floor office dead-end street by the river") to the collective and cosmic. It takes place in crummy hotel rooms and under a dim moon and dim stars; it is both here and now and on the lonely fringes of a remote galaxy a million light-years away. It is peopled with junkies and pimps, adolescents with exploding pimples," pitchmen and pushers, quack doctors and phony freedom fighters, with characters from both inner and outer space. In its pages you will meet not only the Exterminator but the Lemon Kid; Clinch Smith, your local Scientologist; John J. Hudson, known as basic J. to his many friends; Dutch Schultz and "Johnny 23"; Pinkie, who trades his young face and body for $100 down; Agent W. E. 9 and FBI man Joe Rogers; Clem the conspirator and Audrey the homosexual; and many more.
Exterminator! is about power and the abuses of power, about aimless violence and studied hypocrisy. It is as devastatingly serious as it is witheringly funny. It is political, but only in its broadest sense, for as Terry Southern once noted: "One must never mistake this author's work for political comment, which, as in all genuine art, is more instinctive than deliberate—for Burroughs's first and foremost a poet.
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