William S. Burroughs in his frequent fictional form William Lee journeys through Mexico and into the jungle in search of the drug Yage in a search for transcendence. William Lee is an unemployed writer obsessed with finding and taking the drug Yage, a powerful hallucinogen rumored to exist in the jungles of Mexico. Written in the 50's, the story was not published until the 80's and features an illuminating introduction by the author that cannot be taken apart from the novel itself. The action in the story closely mirrors the actual events of Burroughs' life during these years. Having accidentally killed his wife, the author has mostly kicked his heroin habit and is searching for purpose in life in the painful light of sobriety. In part to find the miraculous drug he has heard about in drug circles and in part to avoid trial, Lee flees to Mexico with a paid lover and travel companion, Allerton. The two journey to Mexico City where Lee relapses repeatedly, sobering up into the horrifying guilt of what he has done. An increasingly resentful Allerton spurns him and eventually abandons him as he prepares to enter the jungle. Lee has a spontaneous orgy with street children as he leaves the city. In the jungle he meets missionaries and is able to convince, under false pretenses, them to connect him with the tribe who use the Yage in their ceremonies. He manages to convince the tribesmen to administer the drug to him which makes him violently ill for hours and hours. He hallucinates that everything he sees looks like the plant that the drug is drawn from. This experience is a painful and bitter disappointment. It is now, in middle ages, that the author begins writing in earnest.
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Best part of story, including ending:
This is a painfully honest book, more so than any other Burroughs work. Stories like this are priceless.
Best scene in story:
The introduction is very emotionally powerful. It puts the whole story in a very poignant context and is a great piece of writing on its own.
Opinion about the main character:
William Lee is truly pathetic much of the time. As emotionally needy as a child and completely preoccupied with himself, he is often difficult to like.