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Ghost of Chance [Paperback]

William Burroughs
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2002 High Risk Books

Ghost of Chanceis an adventure story set in the jungle of Madagascar and filled with the obsessions that mark the work of the man who Norman Mailer once called, ‘the only American writer possessed by genius.’ While tripping through the author's trademark concerns—drugs, paranoia, and lemurs, this short novel tells an important story about environmental devastation in a way that only Burroughs can.

Born in 1914,William S. Burroughsis the author ofJunky, Naked Lunch andThe Soft Machineand many other contemporary classics. A major figure of 20th century American literature, Burroughs died in 1997.


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From Publishers Weekly

Burroughs (My Education: A Book of Dreams) turns 81 this year, but, much to the delight of loyal readers, his latest fiction continues to display a febrile imagination, corrosive wit and edgy desolation recalling his preeminent early work. This peculiar, short volume is a whimsical hodgepodge, interweaving, among other matters, a natural history of Madagascar; a jeremiad for the environment; a colonial adventure and a takeoff on the Book of Revelations. It opens as Captain Mission, an 18th-century pirate, founds Libertatia, a utopian colony on Madagascar dedicated to protecting the indigenous landscape and lemur population (lemurs are known by island natives as "ghosts"). When international bureaucrats conspire to decimate the colony, overpopulate the island and plunder its flora and fauna ("the Garden of Lost Chances," preserved for 160 million years since the island split from mainland Africa), a series of fantastic, ancient plagues are released, destroying much of the earth. This strange and fragmented story presents?in supple prose that requires no parental advisory?an environmentalist twist to Burroughs's quintessential theme: the cosmic struggle between bureaucratic Control and the embattled, individual soul.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Burroughs continues to topple literary, social, and cosmological walls in this short but bittersweet version of the rise and fall of a unique settlement on Madagascar in the late 17th century. Captain Mission "threatened to demonstrate for all to see that three hundred souls can coexist in relative harmony with each of their neighbors, and with the ecosphere of flora and fauna." Mission forms a personal bond with lemurs and explores the Museum of Lost Species and the Biological Garden of Lost Chances before Libertatia's fall. Burroughs vividly depicts a variety of horrifying plagues and both the wonders and horrors of drugs as only he can. He traces the roots of the environmental crisis to the replacement of Pantheism with Christianity, deconstructs language, and concocts some powerful moral brew in one of his most accessible and finest books. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. (Illustrations not seen.)-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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CAPTAIN MISSION STRAPPED on his double-barreled flintlock, which he kept loaded with shot charges, and thrust a scabbarded cutlass under his belt. Read the first page
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4.0 out of 5 stars a later novella Sept. 6 2010
Format:Paperback
burroughs' later works are hard to put your finger on. most are overtly autobiographical (the cat inside, my education, last words), as if providing apocrypha to his major myths (cut/ups, dead roads, wild boys, port of saints). in contrast, ghost of chance is sort of the secret myth, the back story of captain james mission, who is the basis for the dead roads trilogy: he's the gay pirate who starts his own commune, which, in reality, was obliterated, but in burroughs is the basis for the ongoing revolution of the wild boys against the control system.

that's basically the burroughs myth, right? his books are the narrative of his phantasmagoria building up and overthrowing reality. junky is the gateway. naked lunch is the infernal vision; the cut/ups outline the opposing forces, the nova mob vs the nova police, with individuals starting to wake up and fight for themselves, learning to exchange their bodies, making contact, getting all reiched up; i haven't read exterminator or the short fiction, experimental phase, but the wild boys/ port of saint diptych at the end of it outlines asexual reproductive methods and time travelling guerrilla warfare, no need for the nova police we can take care of ourselves, thanks. and no girls allowed. the dead roads trilogy takes it a step further, specific "boy's adventures" eras, sailors, gunfighters, and shades i guess, continuing the fight under the flag of james mission and his "Articles".

ghost of chance is the secret origin story, and a tale of the great plagues of the 20th century. it's not an exact fit. burroughs works with alternate universes, anyway. i guess its a book for completists, a read for a drunk afternoon.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ecological anxiety in hallucinatory mode April 6 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the first book by Burroughs I've read, and one I found quite disturbing. If this is one of his minor efforts, I just wonder what effect the most respected thomes in the Burroughs canon would have on me.
"Ghost of Chance" deals with extinction, both of animal species due to human stupidity and of man by exotic plagues. And that's just a simplified description. Burroughs adds commentary on Christianity, language as an evolutionary evil and man's stuborness in trying to capture time.
This was a quick read, taking me under an hour to finish. Yet, it resisted being easily grasped: Starting with the story of Captain Mission, a pirate settled in Madagascar and obsessed with preserving the native lemurs, moving then to the hipocrisy of Jesus Christ as Savior, and ending with plagues scarier (and more surreal) than ebola, the book packs into a small bottle a big punch. So big, in fact, that I wasn't able to describe my reaction to it clearly enough to write this review. (I hope I didn't babble too much here!)
Burroughs shows a wicked sense of humor, specially in the Notes at the end. And with imagery as wild and scary as a bad trip, this is a good introduction to one of the most discussed authors of the last half of our century.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you pay attention, this book could change your life. July 7 1999
By souldripper@hotmail.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There is nothing more exhilirating than discovering an author who disgusts the established academic community and thrills them at the same time. Not to mention the rest of us. Granted, this is one of Burroughs' minor efforts, but that may only be said due to its length. I found the 50-odd page a book to be read in one hour, or ten years, depending on what you were looking for. With his usual genius, Burroughs lets you get out of his prose EXACTLY what you are willing to put into it. Read this one slow... it pays.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun Aug. 29 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not a typical Burroughs novel (boiled down to a series of disconnected events) but a fairly straightforward ecological essay/allegory/adventure. Burroughs searingly denounces Christianity, language, civilization, then proceeds to destroy humanity by bringing back the extinct diseases which make Ebola look like a headache or a blister on your toe. Looks like he got his ideas by making cut-ups of "The Hot Zone."
And, of course, there's lemurs. If you are already a Burroughs fan, this is a great little book, but nothing more than one of his minor efforts. Sort of like the inflamed and pus-oozing appendix to Cities of the Red Night.
4.0 out of 5 stars Ghost of Chance by William S. Burroughs Jan. 18 2009
By Greg Bem - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this through a couple of shifts at work at the book store. This particularly slim volume is as radiant as it is intoxicating. Burroughs blends his comedic theatrics with researched biology, drug use, and Central/South American culture to form a story that's actually a direct statement on humanity's relentless meddling with nature. The use of the lemur is particularly powerful, where Burroughs consistently drives the point home by describing how friendly, intelligent, and pet-like the lemurs can be, yet how we humans, who kill for pleasure, will never have a positive relationship with the lemurs.

In addition, there are some horrific descriptions of disease, and the analogy that humans take on to viruses is quite awesome in its success.

The problems with this book lie in that it almost feels incomplete-it is far too schizophrenic for any coherent plot to be formed (there are three major sections and an afterward, and each has its own plot-sometimes characters pass between one section, sometimes they are confined), and at times it almost seems far too pretentious. Being one of Burroughs's later books, I wonder if he took his prolific status and abused it to put forward something that didn't meet previous work's standards.

Despite its failings, this book is short enough to read and not consider a waste of time, and the facts on South America and animal extinction are so eccentric and hard to find in other literature that the book will seem more worth your time than it actually may be.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is really good. Jan. 16 2014
By Alex S - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There's nothing bad about this book. Wherever it goes threadbare it makes up for it every time. Forces you to think more.
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