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Installation view of "Rip It Up and Start Again" at Artists Space
Panoramic view of William S. Burroughs' bedroom in "the Bunker" at 222 Bowery, New York City (2010)
Photo by Daniel Pérez
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by Elisabeth Kley

William S. Burroughs, the inimitable literary master of hard living and apocalyptic horror, was a heroin addict who cut off his own pinkie, worked as an exterminator, and accidentally killed his common-law wife in 1951 while attempting to shoot a cocktail off the top of her head as they were playing William Tell. Nevertheless, he retained a lifelong affection for firearms and continued target practice for the rest of his life.