Dead Fingers Talk – William Burroughs (1963)

“… The Dead Fingers Talk is the more desirable book. Dead Fingers Talk is the coolest first edition hardcover available to the Burroughs collector. In a publishing history dominated by incredible paperback editions like the Olympia Press titles, the Ace and Digit Junkies, Time, Minutes to Go, APO-33 and The Exterminator, Burroughs’ Dead Fingers Talk holds its own on a visual level. This may be because the Dead Fingers Talk dust jacket refers back to all the great Olympia Press dust jackets. The title of the book refers to the line ‘Only dead fingers talk in Braille’ from Naked Lunch. The imprint of the mangled hand over the front cover also adds to the dust jacket’s appeal. The cover slyly references Burroughs’ Van Gogh act of his youth, when he cut off his finger to impress a crush. The icing on the cake is the fantastic photo of Burroughs on the back of the dust jacket where he looks particularly spectral and menacing: a fitting mug shot for a literary outlaw. Besides looking good, Dead Fingers Talk is pretty hard to find. Many people do not even know the book existed. The book was published in late 1963 in an edition of 4,000 copies. Although the book was issued in paperback throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, it has been out of print for quite awhile, so not many people have actually read it. That includes me. Horrible to say, but my hardcover copy is too nice to actually read. This is one of the downfalls of being an obsessive book collector. It is difficult to fully enjoy all one’s books. Over the years, I have never happened upon a readable paperback copy. I would be interested in hearing from anybody about what Dead Fingers Talk is like. I have heard differing opinions. Some describe it as a mere cut and paste of the Olympia titles and other proclaim it a totally different novel altogether. In any case, the Naked Lunch material appeared in a different order than the Olympia Press edition thus adding to the legend that Naked Lunch was collated on the fly by Burroughs, Gysin and Sinclair Beiles. Dead Fingers Talk is interesting on a historical level as well. (See wikipedia on Dead Fingers Talk. John Calder, the avant garde British publisher, issued Dead Fingers Talk as a Burroughs reader to prepare and introduce the British public to the shocking nature of Naked Lunch which had yet to be published in Great Britain. …”
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1 Response to Dead Fingers Talk – William Burroughs (1963)

  1. Kenny Wilson says:

    Reblogged this on Kenny Wilson's Blog and commented:
    This book is amazing. It uses material from other books and incorporates cut up as well. I read it on a bus from Leicester to Glasgow in 1969. It hasn’t been in print for years and is hard to get hold of. The title is one of the best ever and was used by a British Punk Rock band in the late 70s.


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