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James Grauerholz collection of William S. Burroughs' journals and papers

Call Number: MS 319


This collection is comprised of ten manuscript journals kept by William S. Burroughs in the last year of his life, circa November 1996-July 1997, and transcriptions, photocopies, and drafts for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, edited and with an introduction by James Grauerholz (2000).


  • Creation: Majority of material found within undated, 1993, 1996-2000


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

BIOGRAPHIES of William S. Burroughs, James Grauerholz, and Jim McCrary

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was an influential writer, artist, and countercultural figure. Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Harvard. While living in New York in the mid-1940s, he befriended a younger group of aspiring writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who would come to be known as the Beats. Burroughs’s fiction includes Junkie (as William Lee, 1953), Naked Lunch (1959), The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket that Exploded (1962), Nova Express (1964), The Wild Boys (1971), and Cities of the Red Night (1981). His writing is recognized for its technical experimentation (including the use of the cut-up method) and its explicit treatment of themes related to drugs, sexuality, and counterculture. After having spent time in Mexico City, Paris, Tangiers, London, and New York City, Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1981, where he resided until his death on August 2, 1997.

James Grauerholz was born in Coffeyville, Kansas and attended the University of Kansas before moving to New York City in the early 1970s. In New York, he forged a deep friendship with William S. Burroughs that lasted until the writer’s death. Grauerholz served as Burroughs’s manager and assisted him in the editing of his writing. In 1981, he helped the author relocate to Lawrence, KS, the city to which Grauerholz had himself returned in 1979. Following Burroughs’s death, Grauerholz became the executor of William S. Burroughs Trust. In addition to compiling and editing Last Words, Grauerholz has edited several book projects related to Burroughs, including Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader, edited with Ira Silverberg (1998), and Naked Lunch: The Restored Text, edited with Barry Miles (2001).

Jim McCrary is an American poet who has lived in California and Lawrence, Kansas. His volumes of poetry include Coon Creek (1972), West of Mass (1992), and All That (2008). McCrary was a friend of Burroughs, and served as his office manager for ten years.


1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection consists of nine journals kept by William S. Burroughs circa November 14, 1996 – July 30, 1997; a painting notebook, which also contains journal entries dated January 30, 1996 –February 6, 1996; a journal transcription created by Jim McCrary during Burroughs’s lifetime, with Burroughs’s manuscript annotations; as well as drafts, transcriptions, photocopies and other materials associated with the production of Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, a volume edited by James Grauerholz and published in 2000.

According to the acknowledgements by James Grauerholz in Last Words, Jim McCrary set about transcribing the Burroughs’s journals in late August 1997, following the author’s death earlier that month. McCrary (referred to by his initials, JOM, in the transcripts) had previously transcribed one of Burroughs’s journals during June of 1997, and Burroughs had reviewed and emended the transcription prior to his death. After a mourning period of nearly two years, James Grauerholz began reviewing and editing the journal transcriptions in the spring of 1999. The literary agent and editor Ira Silverberg also assisted Grauerholz in the editing process. In the acknowledgments, Grauerholz estimates that 5% of the text of the journals was omitted from the published volume for privacy reasons and for avoidance of repetition.

The first series contains materials created or reviewed by William S. Burroughs during his lifetime. It comprises ten bound journals kept by Burroughs, including a painting journal and nine manuscript journals. Topics covered include literature, politics, art, philosophy, personal reminiscences, and details of Burroughs's everyday life. Items found loose in the journals have been removed to separate folders in this series. These folders are organized according to the journal from which the items were removed. This series also includes a transcription of one of Burroughs’s journals generated in June of 1997 and annotated by Burroughs, in his hand, before his death. In listing the journals, the arrangement gives the first and last date noted in each journal; however, occasionally there are non-chronological entries that may fall outside of these date ranges.

The second series consists of materials assembled and produced by James Grauerholz and others in association with the publication of Burroughs’s journals. It includes photocopies and transcriptions of Burroughs’s manuscript journals, and draft materials for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs (2000). Grauerholz was often traveling as he edited Last Words, so the photocopies of the journals assisted him in the editorial process. Some of the drafts contain manuscript emendations. Included in the series are a relatively small number of photocopies of journal entries by Burroughs (circa 1993 and undated) for which there is no original among the journals in the first series. Additional materials include notes regarding the transcription of Burroughs’s journals, a transcription draft titled “Swine, Swine,” and a draft of the “Last Words” piece for The New Yorker.

Physical Location

MS 319

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, James Grauerholz, 2013.

Related Materials

William Burroughs collection, MS 63, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Separated Materials

This volume was inscribed by James Grauerholz to Kenneth Spencer Research Library, 2013 December 30:

Burroughs, William S. Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs / edited and with an introduction by James Grauerholz. New York: Grove Press, c2000. Located at Spencer Research Library at B16359.

Guide to the James Grauerholz Collection of William S. Burroughs
James Grauerholz collection of William S. Burroughs' journals and papers
Finding aid prepared by eeh, 2014. Finding aid encoded by eeh, 2014.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James Grauerholz collection of William S. Burroughs' journals and papers, MS 319, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States