Naked lunch : the restored text

by William S. Burroughs

Hardcover, 2001

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Grove Press, c2001.

Description

Since its original publication in Paris in 1959, Naked Lunch has become one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. Exerting its influence on the relationship of art and obscenity, it is one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume-that contains final-draft typescripts, numerous unpublished contemporaneous writings by Burroughs, his own later introductions to the book, and his essay on psychoactive drugs-is a valuable and fresh experience of a novel that has lost none of its relevance or satirical bite.

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
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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 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
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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 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 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
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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 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
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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,
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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 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
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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.
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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
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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!
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LibraryThing member Gregorio_Roth
A classic book that should be read before critiqued. I remember loving this book as a teenager full of angst, but my first reading was not a good one. I have now heard it at the age of 37 and have gotten much more out of the narrative.
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member shawnd
Hated it. Can the man write? Yes. So too bad it's ruined by pornography. Way too explicit, enough said, disgusting acts that are probably illegal, certainly stomach turning. The parts where he talks about the druggie community and addiction and withdrawal are enlightening. And I'm sure this is some
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kind of cult classic and I'm not prurient at all but this was too much.
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LibraryThing member yarb
"The boy felt a silent black clunk fall through his flesh. The Sailor put a hand to the boy’s eyes and pulled out a pink scrotal egg with one closed, pulsing eye. Black fur boiled inside translucent flesh of the egg.

The Sailor caressed the egg with nakedly inhuman hands — black-pink, thick,
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fibrous, long white tendrils sprouting from abbreviated finger tips.

Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood. He leaned against a wall that seemed to give slightly. He clicked back into junk focus."

Not sure how it took me so long to read this book that's absolutely foundational to lit, especially the kind I like. You see the influence on Pynchon, Gaddis, Ballard, but there's no hit quite as pure and incandescent as Naked Lunch itself. A fiery star of a novel, perpetually going supernova.
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LibraryThing member StevenJohnTait
I went into this without knowing what I was in for. The sentences flow very well regardless of the content, perhaps so well that I passed through them too quickly to really take in the quality of the writing. Another reading at some point may be required.

The copy I had - I'm not sure if others do
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- had a fascinating appendix about the different drugs he tried and how addictive they are and how the affect you.

As this book is unconventional I've left the rating blank, but Id say it's a book you're going to read if you're interested in that era of writing.
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LibraryThing member piquant00
Classic dystopian, postmodern 20th century novel by the "literary outlaw" William S. Burroughs.
LibraryThing member campingmomma
This is the first book I have read of his & the guy is a NUT JOB!!!! Though it is a realtively small book, it took a couple of weeks to read orig. intro.'s & additions by the author along with the texts annexed by the editors.

In the chapters that weren't overtly sexually descriptive, Burroughs
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writes with such delineation that I started to wonder how much of the delineation was true and factual and how much was just his f___ed up, drug induced imagination'

This book took longer to read because it was sooo....I don't know the right word?! The writing is intense interesting & requires intelligience to read. My problem was that it didn' t seem to be a story, just a random set of chapters in the same book; or something like that.
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LibraryThing member octopusphil
I love Burroughs' character in On the Road, or at least i get a little envious of having a house in the counrty outside of new orleans, not sure about the heroin...
i go back and forth with this title. a week in a halucitory state from herion withdrawl wrote most of this one, i think i even read
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once that Burroughs didnt even remember writting it.. but i have to appreciate the scope of cultural voice that it provides, and in this arena i think it screams.
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LibraryThing member joelshults
It was an interesting read. I stopped halfway through and read another book and almost didn't come back to it. This book is definitely more in the Beat style of Allen Ginsberg than the Beat style of Jack Kerouac. Although it is called a novel, it is similar to a lot of Beat poetry from the same
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era. I feel like I used to enjoy this type of book a lot more in my younger days. So it goes, I guess, our tastes are ever-changing.
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LibraryThing member joelshults
It was an interesting read. I stopped halfway through and read another book and almost didn't come back to it. This book is definitely more in the Beat style of Allen Ginsberg than the Beat style of Jack Kerouac. Although it is called a novel, it is similar to a lot of Beat poetry from the same
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era. I feel like I used to enjoy this type of book a lot more in my younger days. So it goes, I guess, our tastes are ever-changing.
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LibraryThing member billable
not for the squeamish. Beware Dr. Benway.
LibraryThing member KallieGrace
This is very well written, there's no complaint there. I just can't rate this any higher because I did not enjoy this at all. The subject matter and description are stomach-churning, leaving me jaw-dropped and nauseated. I wish the author's notes had come first, because it gave much needed context
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for how to conceptualize what was happening. It's so bad yet you keep going back for more, like the junkie. A very creative way of portraying the experience of addiction.
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