The Marginalian
The Marginalian

William S. Burroughs on Love

“It’s funny that it’s so plain that it’s love that makes the world go round,” Iris Murdoch wrote in one of her magnificent her love letters, “although it’s so very difficult to get it right.” In those rare moments when we’re able — or, rather, willing — to strip away our cynical resistance to sincerity, we can glimpse the plainness of love and relish it as the richest reality of life.

Nothing strips of our self-protective cynicisms more effectively than the approach of death with its inescapable invitation to look back on our days and recognize love as the central animating force that made life worth living. Even William S. Burroughs (February 5, 1914–August 2, 1997) — a writer whose exceptional genius was undergirded by the lifelong darkness of addiction and personal tragedy — reached for the light of love at the end of his days.


In a diary entry from March of 1997, found in Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs (public library)– which also gave us Burroughs on creativity and his his daily routine — he writes:

At 83 just emerging from a stormy adolescence, costly to myself and those around me. Of course, no more nonsense “love” at my old age.

As he approaches the end, he grows all the more intent on disposing of the nonsense and peering into the reality of love. In an entry penned six weeks before his death, he writes:

Sounds sappy, but love is a very definite force, like electricity.

The very last page of his journal, penned three days before his death, read:

Only thing can resolve conflict is love… Pure love.

Love? What is It?
Most natural painkiller what there is.

Complement Last Words with Burroughs in conversation with Tennessee Williams about writing and death, then revisit the advice he gave young Patti Smith, which became a guiding principle in her life.

Published February 5, 2016




Filed Under

View Full Site

The Marginalian participates in the and affiliate programs, designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to books. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book from a link here, I receive a small percentage of its price, which goes straight back into my own colossal biblioexpenses. Privacy policy. (TLDR: You're safe — there are no nefarious "third parties" lurking on my watch or shedding crumbs of the "cookies" the rest of the internet uses.)