Naked lunch : the restored text

by William S. Burroughs

Paper Book, 2001

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Grove Press, c2001.

Description

Bill Lee, an addict and hustler, travels to Mexico and then Tangier in order to find easy access to drugs, and ends up in the Interzone, a bizarre fantasy world, in an edition that features restored text, archival material, and an essay on psychoactive drugs.

User reviews

LibraryThing member CosmicBullet
So you get twenty or thirty pages into this book and you go WTF? And you run to Google or Wikipedia, or maybe LibraryThing to see what you are supposed to think, because clearly you missed something. You're not one of the chosen ones - the work doesn't speak to you - you're too thick to appreciate it - you skipped class that day . . .

So now you are online, searching reviews, and you see words like: 'groundbreaking,' 'visceral,' 'audacious,' and 'non-linear.' Ahh, the reassuring authority of terms. That feels better! You go back to the book, and for while you succeed in wearing some of the reverence you read online - for this writer whose beat words spew out like overripe fruit and broken glass, and which he glues to the page using every conceivable and unfortunate body fluid.

Your eyes glaze over at sentences that promise temporary handholds of sense and then forget their origins without notice. You catch at the swirl of crude images and broken meanings that come and go like random bursts of machine gun fire. Clearly, some of the bullets are hitting you, though many fly harmlessly past. But the ones that do connect. . . you begin to wonder what the hell they might be doing. Is there a subliminal agenda? Are you being corrupted by this book?

But maybe getting a little unhinged is not such a bad thing. And really, the book isn't so long. You can stomach the uneasiness. Finally you settle into a pattern of reading one sentence after another - dubiously and a little mechanically - like a puzzled arts patron given a one inch window to move randomly over a Jackson Pollock canvas. This task is not easy. You just wish the words would all shout their meanings at once - discarding the sequential - so you can hear it as one grand howl of pain and confusion.

And you start thinking about the metaphor of the canvas; and maybe just standing speechless in front of it is OK. And then finally, Burroughs tells you at the end to start anywhere in the book. (“Gee, thanks!”) All of which underlies the suspicion that this book doesn’t even exist while you are reading it, that it coalesces into a book sometime after you finish, and to say you "read" it is to say that you remember pieces of a confusing and relentless pipe dream.
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LibraryThing member labrick
I had railed on this book to an acquaintance who expressed the opinion that it was a high point in modern literature. When asked why I finished reading it I gave a halfhearted explanation about a compulsion to finish something partially completed. This book seems to fall into the category of so offensive it must be "high art". Sort of like the South Park episode where the kids write a story using all the naughty things they know and their parents think it's genius.

Trying my best to draw meaning out of this I've come up with a few theories. First, Burroughs, being a homosexual and frustrated by the seemingly puritanical culture in which he lived, decided to set the bar for debauchery so low that once the reader came back into reality they would decide that the "deviant elements" in their world weren't so bad. This would then hopefully create a more egalitarian society that wouldn't persecute Burroughs for his comparably mild deviations from the status quo. Somewhat insipid, but necessary in finding the meaning of sodomizing a boy so violently that his spine snaps--a short time before the character "finishes up"(I may have gotten the specifics wrong, I'm writing this review a good deal after having read the book. Although, I do remember the sodomy/spine-break thing being a theme). Secondly, it could have been a commentary on what a culture could be, given the right set so circumstances. Attempting, again, to create that egalitarian society. Thirdly, as much as I hate to admit it, this book could be truly seminal and I'm unable to understand the message. This, I'm assuming, would be due to the nature of my experiences; an existence that shelters me from minority thought, making it difficult or impossible to see subtle, and some major, themes in writing that I don't identify with. I prefer to call this ignorance, but some may call it bigotry.

This is something of an accomplishment: After reading this I felt shame for myself, not disgust for the writer. Shame because I hated it, thus making me a bigot. Such is the beauty of this 'belles lettres'.

Next I plan to watch the movie Salo. Hopefully I will feel the intellectual fervor that some people have felt for Naked Lunch.

I gave this book 2 stars, and not 1/2 star, because I hated it. And any book that makes you feel a strong emotion is worth something...right?
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LibraryThing member MaryWysong
This was the most incoherent ridiculous book I've ever read... but I guess that's the point. I had meant to read this book for years since I'm a Steely Dan fan, but didn't actually read it until it was required for a graduate English class. This was definitely controversial and class discussions mostly included one girl constantly ranting about how horrible and offensive it was. I think she missed the point and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her ongoing rants.

I did not enjoy this book one bit. It was, as I said, incoherent and nonsensical. It was also filled with degrading scenes and disgusting descriptions written simply for the sake of being shockingly nasty. I will never read this book again.

That said, I think it's important to be open minded about the point of the book. It wasn't meant to be a fun little fairy tale. It was supposed to portray the life of a junkie and that it does. It certainly has its intended effect, although I think that it could have the same effect with one third of the length.
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LibraryThing member adpaton
Oh dear, I simply couldn't read this. I did try but it was boring and incomprehensible. Obviously I am one of those thickies who should not aspire above airport best-sellers. The thing is that it was banned in the old South Africa and one heard whispers of gross sexual depravity and yearned to know what it was all about.

Now it is freely available and lauded as a literary classic so no funny looks when buying it at the bookshop - sort of like getting Playboy for the articles while there's no way to excuse buying Hustler. Anyway, I hoped to elevate my mind, improve my reading and sit goggle eyed at all the filthy sex. Hmm, I should have learned from Lady Chatterley's lover: no such thing as readable literary porn.
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LibraryThing member IsotropicJoseph
One of my key criteria when evaluating any work of art is the time test. I view this test as twofold. I start by asking if the piece is relevant beyond the moment, generation, age in which it was published. And if it is relevant, I ask how does the piece stay with me during my brief life time.

I first read [Book: Naked Lunch] during my frosh year in High school. I didn’t have a clue as to who William S. Burroughs was, I hadn’t heard of the beat poets, sex was an allusion, and opium was merely an incense scent. I think I only picked it up because it had the shocking word naked in the title.

I didn’t fully understand it at that point in my life. Who could with so little context and a lack of worldly experience? But I knew that I was reading something just as important today as it was when it was published in 1959. Here’s what I understood then: A society had gone terribly wrong; life was cheaper than sex; and sex wasn’t sex but some sort of trope (I guess it’s metaphoreplay, ha ha).

As I’ve gotten older, different images and scenes from the book pop into mind, like acid flashbacks, and I realize that I’m standing in what Burroughs was writing about. This book should be required reading for every college freshman if not for all high school seniors. I’m not saying they have to agree with it or even like it, but it’s an extremely important piece of writing.

Beware: [Book: Naked Lunch] is a gateway novel. It leads to reading other works by Burroughs, [Book: Cities of the Red Night] (1981), and it opens the flood gates of subversive literature. People who suffer an adverse reaction to this book are advised to read volumes 8 through 14 of the most recently printed versions of the U.S. tax law.
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LibraryThing member bfr2210999
A horrible, disgusting mess. The essence of addiction. Everything terrible about the mind of man thrown in a blender and set to frappe. A long distance endurance race through grotesque imagery. Highly recomended.
LibraryThing member wrk1
Even though Naked Lunch is a hodgepodge of entertainingly puzzling scenes, I got tired of the lack of story and Burrough's relentless pushing of what I think is his single theme--that individual identity is itself a hodgepodge of the results of inter-penetration with other individuals and with society. I put it down after having read about half the book, thinking I'd pick it up again, but found myself reading quick books as excuses for not getting back to it. Life's too short.… (more)
LibraryThing member guhlitz
The most vividly and sexually surreal book I have ever read. To call this book a poetic exercise in the grotesque would be somewhat misleading, though, all together accurate. Translating the book into a linear narrative or brief synopsis is equivilant to breathing under water; a near impossibility with the witt of interpretation hiding around every proverbial corner...Burroughs' imagination is a beast off the gods zoo's chain in this obscenity inducing lawsuit and precedent setting work of fiction that will set your sympathetic soul on fire with an empathy that will, at the same time; apologize to your shame, or for it !… (more)
LibraryThing member AndrewBlackman
What a disappointment. I'd heard a lot about this book, and was greatly encouraged by the tremendous "deposition" at the start, in which Burroughs eloquently describes the "pyramid of junk", with dealers at the top and the addict at the bottom, needing more and more junk to "maintain a human form" and willing to lie, cheat or steal to satisfy their need, unable to do otherwise as "a rabid dog cannot choose but bite." I liked the fluid style, punctuated with the repeated question "Wouldn't you?"

In the book itself, however, there are only brief glimpses of this fluid style. These brief moments are often fantastic, but they are not enough to make up for the endless puerile fantasies about masturbation, semen and bodily functions, the unfunny jokes, the bizarre hallucinations, the utter incoherence of 90% of the book.

I can't help wondering whether this book would have received so much attention if it hadn't been banned for a few years by US and UK censors. Perhaps all that gratuitous sex did serve a purpose after all.

The only other explanation I can think of for this book's fame is the fascination the drug culture seems to hold for so many people. Incoherence is fine, nonsense is fine, lack of any believable characters or any point at all to the story is fine, as long as it's written under the influence of a drug or, preferably, a cocktail of drugs. I wonder if books like this hold any interest for addicts themselves, recovering or otherwise. Or are they just a voyeuristic thrill for those with more conventional lives, those who would never dare or even actually want to shoot heroin, but who want to know what it feels like from the safety of their living rooms?
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LibraryThing member immaculatechaos
It is really raunchy and detailed. I only gave it two stars because I really like Burrough's letters about addiction at the end. I agreed with some of his philosophies, and he painted a very visual picture of what it is like to be an addict without all the disgusting stuff.
LibraryThing member mustreaditall
What the fuck was that? You're telling me they made a motherfuckin movie based on that? How? I've got to rent the thing just to see if they added a plot or what.

That being said, I have to admit I kinda loved this book. It's all characters and language play and dirty talk - some of the my favorite stuff. I've had druggie friends, so I recognize easily enough the way things come and go in their minds, reality taking a backseat to whatever chemical's working its way through their minds at the time.

All the parts about dealers and their habit of turning up late - if at all - and keeping the buyer waiting rang way too true for me. I've smoked my share of green in my time, and the man is never home when you want him, never comes over when he says he will, and never has a steady supply when you have the cash. Is it because he gets a power high off making the user conform to his actions? Well, I can see where that idea would come from, certainly. I can see how those feelings would lead to a book like Naked Lunch, essentially the rantings of a dry junky recovering from or waiting for his hit.

The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

I recently read the novel Hogg by Samuel R. Delany, which is probably the flat out dirtiest thing I've ever read. And I've read a lot of porn stories online. In reading Lunch, I could see a major influence on the style and subjects and various sex acts detailed so extensively in Hogg. If anyone wants an interesting and disturbing experience, I suggest reading them one after another. And then taking a long, hot shower with lots of strong soap. Burroughs was less concerned with storyline, though.

final thoughts: Burroughs was a bastard, but the man could fill a page.
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LibraryThing member PeeringFromTheCosmos
I'm not quite sure what I think of this book. When I began it I did not have much knowledge of what it was about, I had just known about WillIam Burrough's reputation and influence in the world of writing. So I casually picked this book up one day, and upon starting it, it had actually angered me, or some other form of distrubance/disgust stemming from unknowingly jumping into a novel that is much like a day that drags on for 48 hours, filled with the hysteria of a drug induced confusion, complete with the strange and dark shadows that emerge when coming down, and the dirty, raw sexual lust that most people deny completely.

I was not expecting this.. and at first I hated the book. I hated it for the lack of plot, for the long winded, confusing whirlwind of experiences that had no reference to a plot or a continuum of experience (or so it seemed). But then about halfway through I began to think more of the actual experience I had during my journey through this book and it clicked. I had put aside my disdain for it's unconventionality and began to realize that the response from the book must be somewhat like what this character (or characters) in this book must be experiencing.

Now that I am done with the book I have come to appreciate it for what it was meant to be. I was disgusted, shocked, annoyed, and intrigued, and the year is 2009. I cannot imagine what it would have been like reading this around the time it was finally published. So in summation I have to say I didn't necessarily 'enjoy' reading this book, it was more like I couldn't turn away from it.. it was a guilty intrigue that made me stick it out to the end, and when I finally put it down I wanted to crack it open and peer into it again. Which is the point of this book in my opinion.. just like the junk fiend.
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LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
I am sure that I will not be the first to compare this book to James Joyce's Ulysses. It is a work which contains sentences of a construction that I would never dare to attempt: large passages seem to drift into almost, but not quite, nonsense; parts are still genuinely shocking, almost sixty years after they were penned.

In an age when every sensationalism has been brought into the artistic field, and little seems to shock, it is difficult to review this work fairly. In the 1960's, this would have been a decent warning about the excessive use of drugs; written by a self confessed addict, it does not preach and gives some idea as to the highs, as well as the lows.

It is probably true that a hardcore drug user has precious little self-esteem, but this leads to a problem: it is incredibly difficult to feel any empathy with any of the characters. I am fortunate enough not to need scaring away from potential drug abuse so, I am left with a feeling of being a voyeur upon unpleasant people at the bottom of the pile. I am not sure that I have gained anything but, it is undeniably, a powerful piece of writing.

I cannot recommend this book but equally, I would not advise against its reading.
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LibraryThing member reread
If you like books, this is not an enjoyable read.

At the back of the book in Deposition, Burroughs writes "I apparently took detailed notes on sickness and delirium. I have no precise memory of writing the notes which have now been published under the title Naked Lunch."

That's what this book is, a scrambled, pinball shark attack of unpleasant imagery and colloquialisms. I've read previous reviews here, some of which extremely high and mighty proclaiming to have absorbed the "message" and that they "got it". Well done to those. I'm not undermining its importance at all. But to say you read this and thoroughly enjoyed it is outing yourself as quite possibly disturbed.

The first 20 pages excite you. If you want a story, don't read the rest.
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LibraryThing member ungoliant
Looks like I’m not a fan of beat literature. I started On the Road when I was 15 and stopped after 30 miserable pages, and getting through Naked Lunch was like pulling teeth.
LibraryThing member dczapka
On page 200 of Naked Lunch, our narrator (perhaps we are to believe it is actually Burroughs?) confesses, "I am a recording instrument. . . . I do not presume to impose 'story' 'plot' 'continuity.' . . . Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function. . . . I am not an entertainer. . . ." Of course, if it takes you this long to figure this out, you must not have been reading the same book.

Naked Lunch is certainly not entertaining. It is not coherent, it is not logical, it is not pretty, it is not for the faint of heart, and it is not in any way concerned with making any sense whatsoever. In this paragraph, which in most of my reviews is devoted to plot summary, I say these things because I have nothing to say about the plot at all. What plot? What series of events? Often, Burroughs is content with merely offering vague ideas of scenes and then inundating us with scatological and sexual imagery, body parts and fluids and substances freakishly spewed across the page. Grammar need not apply in this world.

I've read other Burroughs before, so I probably should have expected this, but it's just not something I have a great deal of interest in or enthusiasm for. It is a trial just to read through the whole thing, and I like to think that I have a pretty strong stomach for the kind of graphic images that Burroughs thrives upon. It's just that, once you get past the grossness, I don't see much behind it. I don't feel the need or desire to dig deeper to understand the subconscious ideas underpinning the words. I don't care enough about what I've read to try and make sense of what happened. Burroughs wants us to see the horror of drug abuse and the disgust that is our capitalist lives, but nothing in the text makes me care all that much.

I will probably read the other Burroughs that are on the 1001 list, simply to say that I have, but I will confess that I simply don't get it. If that somehow makes this review useless to you, that's a risk I'm willing to take. Anyone who picks up Naked Lunch deserves to know in advance what they're getting themselves into--I did, and there's a part of me that wishes I'd never bothered in the first place.
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LibraryThing member ChristaJLS
Throughout this book there were a number of times where I thought “This book is exactly what I expected and at the same time nothing like I expected”. Now that I've finished it I can think of no better way to sum up my feelings towards it. Burroughs penned this work while suffering from a very severe addiction to “junk” and as a result the book does not follow a traditional narrative and I often had no idea where he was going to take me next or whether or not what I was reading was part of the story or just a random thought that had materialized in his heroin addicted mind. Though this could make it difficult to read at times it also made it exciting and surprising.
The parts I found the most well written and clear, often revolved around descriptions of fictional dystopian communities. I found these sections chilling and they effectively communicated how little faith Burroughs held in humanity (or the “human virus”). Of these sections the descriptions of the world Annexia and that of the Divisionists and their replicas were my favourite and the paranoid idea of the future held within those passages made me want to keep reading.
I do believe that this book is an amazing piece of literature, even in the midst of chaos Burroughs manages to find moments of clarity which truly reveal the dark and twisted world he was buried in. For example on page 56, when he states “I woke up with someone squeezing my hand, it was my other hand”. Nevertheless, there were still parts that disgusted me or that I thought were unnecessary and although later a sober Burroughs tried to explain the satire of characters like the Mugwump, I am still not convinced.
It is a book that you need to go into being prepared for whatever it will throw at you. It is one for which you will need to forget what a novel is supposed to be. It will most definitely shock and surprise as you follow Burroughs twisted “narrative” to...well to nowhere really. If you get the chance, the afterword written by a sober Burroughs later in life is a sobering finale which reminds us that this wasn't just a book but a living nightmare. At the beginning of Naked Lunch, Burroughs himself unknowingly provides us with, what I think is the most accurate way to describe his writing. He states “be just and if you can't be just, be arbitrary”. That is exactly what this book is, arbitrary and bizarre but at the same time the most accurate account Burroughs could give into the mind of a junkie.
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LibraryThing member owen1218
It's hard to imagine why anyone would have accepted to publish this book, and strains the imagination to realize that this has become a major American classic. Although there are some occasional moments of lucid brilliance ("American have a special horror of giving up control, of letting things happen in their own way without interference. They would like to jump down into their stomachs and digest the food and shovel the shit out"), by and large this is incoherent dreck.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarianbryan
I've said that Naked Lunch is the Rosetta Stone work by my favorite author for so long now its hard for me to know if either proposition is true anymore. It's been a number of years since I'd had read any of his works. The release of the first ever audio edition of his most famous, if not his finest, artistic artifact seemed the perfect opportunity for re-visitation. William Lee is a junky running West from the law. His consciousness slowly segues itself into a nightmare world called the Interzone. The chapters are in random order so the reader is constantly navigating shades of gray between “reality” so called and the Interzone. Burroughs calls upon his life long struggles with heroin addiction illustrate how all of are addicted and controlled by something, most importantly the controllers are addicted to controlling and the controlled addicted to being controlled. The majority of the scenarios Burroughs envisions are too horrific or obscene for me to mention here. They also are terribly funny. You'll be laughing your way past the graveyard and needle filled garbage dump. Like when “all American deanxietized man” is brought before the “international conference of technological psychiatry” and reduced to the ectoplasmic homicidal centipede he really is. As most critics have argued, Naked Lunch is a satire and Interzone is actually represents a place for more real than any of us would like to admit. It's the place were all our fears and most cynical assumptions about medicine, government, sex, and law are painfully true.The book is not some much pornographic as it is grotesque and it is not without good reason that Burroughs work is often compared with that of the painter Hieronymous Bosch. There is surrealism and there is horror but there is not sexual arousal. If it is pornography, it is pornography for psychopaths. Personally, I encountered this work as a teenager and after reading it any possibility of abusing opiate drugs was out the window. Since then I've only had to laugh/grimace at the thin veiled glamorization of heroin addiction that blossoms in the media every few years. Burroughs taught me early about the black putrid zombie death world addiction will transport you to. It won't transport you to hipster cruising with Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto. Praise be to Blackstone Audio for hiring Mark Bramhall, a reader who understands the tone of the work and brings enough verve to enliven material that can be very difficult. In a lot of ways, it is a work that is meant to be read aloud. The most psychotic chapters are prose poem rants that need a certain umph in the delivery. Bramhall knows when to turn it on and off. His interpretation of some of my most beloved denizens grated me a bit (why give Dr. Benway a Texas accent), but this probably due to my being overly familiar with the material. Blackstone also did right releasing an audio edition of the so-called “restored text” which puts the novel itself first, and all the various introductions and appendices that have appeared over the years as supplemental materials in the back. For concerned parties this supplemental material will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the writing and publication of this singular work. My final verdict: Naked Lunch remains the bug bomb of 20th century America. If your house has yet to fumigated, it's time to call the exterminator.… (more)
LibraryThing member Btt45
Burrough's travels through this drug induced hell may have been triumphant and life changing for him but for me it was just plain painful to have to read through this incoherent druggie babble. I can appreciate Ginsberg and the flow and rhythm of "howl" and Kerouac's style and story from "on the road" but this to me just didn't make any sense. The homo-erotic nature of some of the scenes definitely could be considered controversial especially when this was written but Burrough's glimpses of possible genius are overshadowed by all the other crap you have to wade through.… (more)
LibraryThing member elissajanine
This is a book I've left full of pink post-its a folded pages (I know, I'm one of those!) Even before reading about Burroughs' use of the cut-up technique, I loved the way motifs, images, and lines repeated throughout the narrative, like a pattern of interweaving hallucinogenic nightmares laced with a line of lucid satire. There are all these memorable characters and bits in each "routine", and I suppose some of them were more entertaining to me since I have heard recordings of them being performed by Burroughs in that inimitably awesome voice. "The man's not to be trusted. Might do almost anything...Turn a massacre into a sex orgy....Or a joke.... Precisely. Arty type...No principles." I'm glad I finally read it!… (more)
LibraryThing member Sylak
Naked Lunch was one of those books that, while growing up, I had earmarked as something I felt Would define me as an individual even before I'd read a word.
In those pre-Internet days when information was hard to come by, there could still exist a certain mystery and uncertainty about many things which now are quickly resolved by a quick 'Google' search on the internet. But in the 'Information Dark Age' things were not so transparent. Therefore it was easy to misinterpret many things and accumulate and harbor false expectations for years.
Certain books were also far harder to source. Bookstores generally did not stock many cult titles because they needed the space for more fashionable authors. Books could be ordered naturally, but they had to be paid for in advance so you couldn't browse through a few pages to find out if the work suited your tastes.
There existed specialist independent bookstores, in fact far more than exist today, but they were notoriously located in hard to get to places or rough areas of the city not generally within easy reach of a young boy living in the suburbs.

When I eventually did buy one of the books I'd committed myself to liking before I'd read it; 'Catcher in the Rye' (see my review) is a good example of this, I was disappointed beyond belief! This, for a long time put me off taking another chance with my fantasy author list. Eventually, around the time that the Cronenberg film was released, I set out to track down a copy of Naked Lunch, aware that the movie I'd watched at the cinema had very little to do with the book of the same title (although for very different reasons, I actually enjoyed the film too).
I can tell you that as far as the book goes, it is one of those rare times where my expectations were completely satisfied in full. I adore this book, not because it is well written or that it has a good story; it is not and does not! In fact the syntax is so unconventional that many have argued that William Burroughs writes like a pre-teen, and an uneducated one at that! This is rather harsh and his use of words and the construction or rather deconstruction of some of his sentences unbalances the reader in a manner that, in my opinion, only adds to the disorientating atmosphere of his dystopian nightmare worlds; dark, seedy backstreets where pornography rubs up against filthy hospital wards where unlicensed surgeons gratify themselves by performing unethical procedures on the trash of society. Where taking exotic drugs are the norm. And where the reader loses themselves in a world more remote than any science fiction author could ever take you to on the furthest planet in the most distant galaxy.

This book was like getting the exact present you were hoping for on Christmas Day and being overjoyed!
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LibraryThing member uthor
I struggled with this book for a month. After only getting half way through it and seeing no redeeming value, I had to put it away (sadly, the second book I have never finished reading).

I'm okay with the violence, drug use, sex, and depravity, but there is nothing in the prose beyond that. It is offensive for offensive's sake. The first chapter or two promised a greater narrative with the narrator moving through the druggie society and avoiding the law, but it quickly devolves into hallucination upon hallucination and not much else.

The "prose as poetry" writting doesn't help, turning any coherence into a dreamlike sequence. It's fine if you're into that type of writing, but I find it difficult to read.
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LibraryThing member AMD3075
"Wouldn't You?"

Naked Lunch (published in 1959 by Grove Press) uncovers the filthy and depraved world of addiction, particularly drug addiction, though on a broader scale it can be applied to addiction of multiple and diverse forms. It is a fragmented exposition of the destructive effects of drug-addicted depravity expanded to the demise of humanity as a whole from its sickening and oppressive tendency towards addiction itself. Presented in a "cut-up" literary form, in which the fragmented sections can be considered from a variety of sequential patterns, Naked Lunch reveals the ugly realities of human need through Burroughs' strikingly vivid style and illusion-shattering, anarchic intention, a revolutionary work in post-war American literature exposing the manipulative elements of control agencies and challenging the standards of literary tradition. The 2001 version contains notes from Burroughs concerning the text, as well as a number of his essays on the writing of the book and its contents, and an appendix made up of previously unpublished material and pre-publication drafts. Also, the editor's note provides intimate details concerning the painstaking and fragmented process of the book's development and eventual publication, including the challenges it faced from charges of obscenity.

Burroughs is modern American literature's final manifestation of genius, with Naked Lunch his most essential work. He was a brave investigator of the hidden depths of the soul, fearlessly observing his own thoughts and desires, particularly the powerful forces of evil festering deep within. He was a black magic chemist and demented psychologist, and an eerily precise prophet of post-apocalyptic proliferations of the nightmarish characteristics of human nature. Above all, Burroughs was a great eradicator of illusions. His grim approach to social change and recovery from addiction was transcended by his ferocious humor and primal nihilism, making him something of a Voltaire of his time. His writing is distinct for its viciously inventive prose, harsh ridicule, conceptual depth, and morbid humor. Underneath his dreary disposition festered a dangerous, anarchic spirit and adversary of forced submission through institutions of control, be it social, political, or personal addictions.

This book is a treasure discovered within the hellish dimensions of the self. It possesses an abundance of expressive virility on its way to destroying comforting schemes of deception. It is a catastrophically sardonic attack of authoritarian dishonesty, social barbarism, and malicious egoism rampant in modern society, exposing corruptive sources of control, celebrity obsession, meaningless violence, consumerism, dogmatism, and all types of irreverent deceitfulness.

Naked Lunch is a courageous work of tremendous force and literary honor, a penetrating and purposeful exploration for the realistic conditions of moral substance. It was written with profound accuracy and a fearless spirit, confronting the possibilities of literary form, and expanding established perceptions of human nature. It is a challenging read, contemptuous, imaginative, liberated, humorous, and grim. Fueled by sheer desperation and paralyzing anxiety, it is also filthy, sick, dirty, disgusting, and utterly disturbing.

"You were not there for The Beginning. You will not be there for The End... Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative..."
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LibraryThing member asha.leu
I had been curious about 'Naked Lunch' for some time before I eventually read it. I really had no idea whether I would end up loving it or hating it, but what I knew of its reputation fascinated me. A lot of words get thrown around to describe this before: terrifying, obscene, mind-bending, beautiful... the edition that I own calls it "probably the most shocking book in the English language", a claim that is difficult to dispute.

Sadly, I mainly just hated it. The relentless gore, the disturbingly violent sex scenes, the terrifying medical operations... they didn't bother me nearly as much as the complete lack of plot and character. Yes, I realize that it's the point of the book and of Burroughs' cut-up-and-fold-in style, that it's basically the insane ravings of an addict in severe withdrawal, that it's better read as poetry than as a novel.... but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable to actually read. Being a straight male, it obviously didn't have any erotic appeal to me (but then I can't fathom anybody of any sexual orientation getting off to the horrifying fantasies presented here, unless they are violent psychopaths), and I ended up just found forcing myself from page to page, frustrated by the endless shifts to unrelated vignette every time I had managed to orientate myself to what was going on and desperately wishing for some to happen besides transvestites getting their throats slit after sex. Ultimately, for all of its shocking content, 'Naked Lunch' is really rather boring.

The only reason I have given this as many stars as I have is for the essays on the writing process and Burroughs drug experiences at the end of the book. They are genuinely fascinating and compelling, and far more interesting than the book itself. As an insight into the madness of a man going through heroin withdrawal, 'Naked Lunch' has merit - as a novel, it is, in my opinion, a complete failure. Instead, I recommend Burroughs' first novel, 'Junky', an utterly engrossing read which actually succeeds in both placing the reader into the mind of a drug addict and as a narrative in its own right.
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