Saturday, November 16, 2019

Naked Lunch

William S Burroughs
Completed 11/16/2019, Reviewed 11/16/2019
3 stars

I’m glad I read some summaries and reviews of this book as I picked it up.  It helped me understand that there is no plot and that it’s a collection of loosely related vignettes.  I kinda got it and I kinda didn’t.  I realize that this book is about the author’s drug addiction and the vignettes are a mixture of actual events, hallucinations, and fantasies.  It was very hard to follow.  It’s very stream of consciousness.  I gave up trying to understand it and just reveled in the author’s word choices and creative sentences.  The book is beautiful, grotesque, offensive, funny, pathetic.  And in the end, I feel like I don’t know what I’ve read.

I have no plot summary for this book, because there is no plot.  I can say that it takes place in New York, Tangiers, and a strange hallucinogenic place called the Interzone, the first two being places where he actually lived.  There’s a lot sex, mostly homosexuality, and violence and it is all disturbing.  One might even conclude that Burroughs was obsessed with drugs, sex, and death.  It is definitely a transgressive work. 

I can’t say that I actually enjoyed the work.  At times, I thought that the way Burroughs strung together these random thoughts was genius and other times just lazy.  He plays a lot with mixing tense and number.  At the end of the book is a preface, which I thought might explain some of these choices, but it was as complicated as the novel itself.  In the preface though, is a great description of the book.  It’s a very long paragraph, so I’ll only include the beginning here (all words are exactly as written, and not typos):

“This book spill off the page in all directions, kaleidoscope of vistas, medley of tunes and street noises, farts and riot yips and the slamming steel shutters of commerce, screams of pain and pathos and screams plain pathic…”

I can’t say that I’d recommend this book to anyone but the adventurous reader.  Maybe if you liked other stream of consciousness works such as “Ulysses”, you might get this.  As I said, I kinda did and kinda didn’t.  So I give this book a questionable three stars out of five.  I saw the film “Naked Lunch” many years ago, and thought it would help me understand this book a little better.  It didn’t.  In fact, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a scene between the narrator and a giant talking insect like there was in the film.

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