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Next Up: Naked Lunch

Okay, then, here we go with Naked Lunch.

William Burroughs writes in an experimental style—imagine William Faulkner as a beat writer. I believe I’ll really need to focus to stay with this one…it just has that feeling. According to Wikipedia, “Naked Lunch is a non-linear narrative that is difficult to describe in terms of plot.” Oh good.

Plus, oh yeah, lots of drug use and sketchiness.

So here are a few quick facts about Naked Lunch and its author, William Burroughs:

  • Originally published in 1959.
  • Because of obscenity laws, a complete edition of the novel didn’t appear until 1962.
  • Boston banned the novel in 1962, but that decision was reversed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1966. The court found that Naked Lunch didn’t violate obscenity laws, “as it was found to have some social value.” Ringing endorsement there.
  • According to Burroughs, the title came from a suggestion by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac said his suggestion was “Naked Lust,” and Ginsberg misread the title.
  • The band Steely Dan took their name from a certain “device” that’s used in the novel.
  • In the 1960s, Mick Jagger was in talks to make a musical based on the novel, but the project never came about.
  • Burroughs was a part of the beat writer movement, and he lived an adventurous life–which we’ll definitely be looking at on the blog in the coming weeks. He passed away in 1997 at the age of 83.

I’ll just say I’ve read 20 pages of this novel so far and, ironically, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to read it at lunch. It’s, well, graphic.

We’ll see how it goes. Wish me luck.

Who’s read Naked Lunch, and what can you tell me about it?

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Teresa #

    As I see it, Naked Lunch reflects the entirety of Burroughs up to that point in his life. It’s hard to separate the book from the man. It is an abstract painting – through the haze of drugs -of his time in Tangier, as well as his political and sexual views. It’s quite a swirl – but it comes together every so often and you can make sense of it.

    There was a movie with the same title that does not follow the book, but really makes the book’s imagery come alive. I found it fascinating and it helped me to interpret what I was reading.

    Good luck with it – especially if you are reading at lunchtime.


    March 12, 2015
  2. Read it. Can’t tell you what it was about though. Just seemed to be relentless drugs, sex and death. Think there’s a talking caterpillar in it at some point.


    March 12, 2015
  3. Robert
    This is a big book for me. And one of the best I’ve read. For me, this is what writing is about. I’ve read probably half the books on the TIME list, and this one blows the socks off all of them in its depiction of what it really is like to be human. I’m a massive fan of JG Ballard, who loved this book as well. I understand why, as Ballard loved trying to understand the human psyche. This goes deep into that in my view.

    As for the non linear narrative. It doesn’t make the book hard to read at all. Au contraire in my view. You simply read it and take it in. Just like eating your lunch. Put it this way, it’s about 500 times more enjoyable than Housekeeping.

    Hope you enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 12, 2015
  4. Love the Kerouac line!


    March 12, 2015
  5. Terry #

    I read this last year and really had to force my way through it. Often I had no idea what was going on and I felt like I was just reading words. There were other parts that were cohesive but I had a hard time fitting them into the whole. I understand that it isn’t a book that needs to be read linearly and I really wanted to fall under its spell, but it left me wondering why it is considered a classic. Will I read it again? Probably, but only because I really want to understand the draw.

    While the book had some parts that aren’t for public consumption, I didn’t find it too over the top. Now American Psycho is a different story…


    March 12, 2015
  6. I read it at the suggestion of my boyfriend who was a recovering heroin addict. (Still clean too) It helped me understand that drama and the world of drug use a little more. However, I was not a fan of this type of writing. Not surprised that Burroughs was a friend of Jack K. “On the Road” seemed terribly self indulgent to me. Guys hitch hiking across the US several times eating, having sex and sponging off others. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and comments.


    March 12, 2015
  7. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.


    March 12, 2015
  8. Seems like you just finished one tough one and now you’re ready for another. You deserve high kudos for that.


    March 12, 2015
  9. I read it over 30 years ago and still some scenes come to me in impactful snippets of suspended time and distortion whenever the book is mentioned. I have never experienced heroin, but I suspect reading this book is similar to the way the images are absorbed. I hardly remember the plot of even the point other than the experience of it. Though I was a horrified 20 year old at the time, in a literature course, I recall the read being scarring but worth it.


    March 12, 2015
  10. I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t get past about page 30. It wasn’t about it bring graphic or rude, it was the fact that it made no sense to me whatsoever. It felt like a complete chore to read…life’s too short!


    March 13, 2015
  11. Reblogged this on mustapher01's Blog and commented:


    March 15, 2015
  12. The Beat Generation always seem way self-indulgent to me. Their pretty prose is somehow negated by their misogyny and rampant drug use (although I’m aware this often helps with the pretty prose). I wish you the best of luck with this book!


    March 17, 2015

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