Six Degrees of William S. Burroughs

It's the game that never ends.

Six Degrees of William S. Burroughs

We’re all connected.

In Hollywood, the link – and source of many a parlor game – lies with none other than prolific actor Kevin Bacon. But in the literary world, that honor goes to the junkie king of Beats, William S. Burroughs (or at least it does for our purposes).

So let’s play.

Burroughs, inspired by the work of English writer Denton Welch, called Welch the greatest influence on his writing. So inspired in fact, he dedicated his novel, The Place of Dead Roads, to him and penned the introduction to an edition of Welch’s classic, In Youth Is Pleasure. Moreover, he used Welch’s rich inner life, which he attained through tragedy – after becoming paralyzed, Welch turned to writing to express his pent up emotion and frustration – as the basis for his main character in The Place of Dead Roads. But we digress …

Welch, who never intended to be a writer before his accident, achieved literary success through the patronage of British poet and critic Edith Sitwell.

Sitwell, who years after Welch’s death began participating in a critical correspondence series in the Times Literary Supplement, comes from a long line of literary Sitwells, who just so happen to be the subject of an essay written by contemporary critic Rebecca West.

West, also known as a critic of the critics, dabbled in acting, too. She cameoed in a Warren Beatty-directed movie called Reds, as did writer/actor Henry Miller.

Miller, who is known for breaking literary norms (Tropic of Cancer, anyone?), shares a thematic similarity with literary greats like Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Patchen, but more importantly – our man of the hour – William S. Burroughs.

But even Burroughs can’t escape the Bacon.

Get this: Burroughs, who cameoed in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), shared the marquee with John Hurt, who played a role in director Billy Bob Thornton’s film Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012) alongside – you guessed it –  Kevin Bacon.

William Burroughs Kevin Bacon

Oh, the tangled webs we weave. Next up: six degrees of separation between William Styron and … Miley Cyrus.


Photo One: Denton Welch Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; William Burroughs Courtesy of Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library / Flickr; Edith Sitwell, Rebecca West, and Henry Miller Courtesy of Getty Images

Photo Two: William Burroughs, John Hurt, Billy Bob Thornton, and Kevin Bacon Courtesy of Getty Images

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