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Naked Lunch: The Restored Text Paperback – January 26, 2004
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Ever since Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs has been ordained America’s most incendiary artist.” Los Angeles Times
A book of great beauty . . . . Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” Norman Mailer
A great, an essential novel [that] prefigures much that has occurred in history, the popular media and high and low culture in the past four decades.” The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
A creator of grim fairy tales for adults, Burroughs spoke to our nightmare fears and, still worse, to our nightmare longings. . . . And more than any other postwar wordsmith, he bridged generations; popularity in the youth culture is greater now than during the heady days of the Beats.” Douglas Brinkley, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
Naked Lunch will leave the most amoral readers slack-jawed; and yet a trek beneath the depraved surface reveals interweaving caverns that ooze unsettling truths about the human spirit. . . . In the same galloping, lyrical way Walt Whitman celebrated democratic toilers of all stripes, Burroughs gleefully catalogs totalitarian spoilers and criminal typesbe they human or monster, psychological or pharmacological.” Mark Luce, The Kansas City Star
[Naked Lunch] made Burroughs’s reputation as a leader of the rebels against the complacency and conformity of American society. . . . An outrageous satire on the various physical and psychological addictions that turn human beings into slaves. . . . Burroughs’s vision of the addict’s life, by which we may infer the lives of all of us in some sense, is a vicious death-in-life of unrelieved abnegation, utter enervation and baroque suffering. Dante could not have envisioned such a post-Holocaust, post-apocalyptic circle of hell.” Frederic Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal
An absolutely devastating ridicule of all that is false, primitive, and vicious in current American life: the abuses of power, hero worship, aimless violence, materialistic obsession, intolerance, and every form of hypocrisy.” Terry Southern
Only after the first shock does one realize that what Burroughs is writing about is not only the destruction of depraved men by their drug lust, but the destruction of all men by their consuming addictions . . . He is a writer of great power and artistic integrity engaged in a profoundly meaningful search for true values.” John Ciardi
Praise for William Burroughs:
Of all the Beat Generation writers, William S. Burroughs was the most dangerous. . . . He was anarchy's double agent, an implacable enemy of conformity and of all agencies of control-from government to opiates.” Rolling Stone
William was a Shootist. He shot like he wrotewith extreme precision and no fear.” Hunter S. Thompson
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The book itself is not written using a traditional 'narrative.' Instead of having a beginning, middle and end, it's written with a non-linear style-- meaning you can pick it up at any time, turn to any page and read any sentence on any page that you want, in almost any order. Theoretically, if you were so inclined, you could read the book in reverse-- the last sentence first until you finish with the first sentence. In this respect the book is a true work of art. But like I said, it's not for everybody-- and you'll either get it or you won't get it-- and that's okay.
In a sense, the book is like visiting a modern art museum and seeing an abstract painting or sculpture-- it might mean something different to you than the person standing next to you-- or it might not mean anything at all. That aside, Burroughs has been said to have said that the book's title, "Naked Lunch" means exactly what it says: A frozen moment when you see exactly what's on the end of your fork-- or, in layman's terms, when you see something as it truly is. The book also makes several heavily politically charged statements, most notably being against the death penalty.
Many people will ask what the "plot" of "Naked Lunch" is. That's a little hard to explain, seeing the book is written in such a style that it can be read in any order the reader desires. But, I'll give describing the plot a shot: A heroin addict in a dystopian alternate 1950s New York City is on the run from forces he can't quite describe-- whether or not they're "real," he seems to feel there is a very real threat. His paranoia takes him on a journey across the sea to a town in Morocco and eventually to the extremely dystopian city of Interzone and the barren wastelands of Annexia. Along the way, he meets a variety of colorful characters, including the mad doctor Dr. Benway who performs horrendous and abominable experiments on people which transforms their flesh in pure 'bodily horror' style. The main character, Lee, also encounters the "Mugwumps," strange creatures who are omnisexual in nature. If read from start to finish with the right kind of eyes and imagination, "Naked Lunch" is a tale of sex, drugs, murder and mystery set in a nightmarish sci-fi dystopian world that only American writer William Burroughs would ever describe.
If you're confused by the book the first time you read it, don't worry-- you're not alone. I was confused the first time, too. In fact, it's probably best NOT to read "Naked Lunch" first if you're going to get into the works of Burroughs. Start with "Junky" or "Queer," or even "The Wild Boys" (if you're feeling brave) because those have comprehensible narratives with a definite beginning, middle and end (maybe not 'The Wild Boys' entirely, but still more than 'Naked Lunch'). All in all, if you're a fan of 1950s beatnik literature, Golden Age science fiction or just looking for something completely out of the ordinary, pick up a copy of "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs.
It is dark and vile and gets you into the mind of the author who was deep into Morphine addiction as well as other drugs. The characters developed will leave a gross feeling in your gut and there are many scenes that literally left me with my mouth agape in disgust as I read them. Characters and scenes come and go often dissolving in to chaotic events that can leave the reader bewildered and disturbed. Very little makes any real sense as you dig though the mind of Burroughs deep in the torments of his addiction.
The ending of this edition (I cannot speak for others) is where the author explains what it was like creating this book and wreathing in his addiction. The ending of the book really ties it all together. It does nothing to answer any questions about the stories themselves, but it provides a very real glance into Morphine addiction.
Based on what I experienced reading this book and how the authors ending justified the book itself, I would push to have such a thing as mandatory reading throughout this nations high schools. I believe scholastically studying this book at a young age in an atmosphere such as high school would provide a very real look for our youth at what hard drugs do to the brain. This could provide not only a genuine fear and distaste of these things but a real education into empathy for those who are buried in addition. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is up for the ride.