Monday, 19 August 2013

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (2/5)

First published: 1959
Page count: 201

The back says nothing, but Wiki says: Naked Lunch (sometimes The Naked Lunch) is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes (which Burroughs called "routines") are drawn from Burroughs' own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs (heroin, morphine, and while in Tangier, "Majoun" - a strong marijuana confection — as well as a German opioid, brand name Eukodol, of which he wrote frequently).
I say: Every once in a while I read something, and although I understand the words on the pages, none of it makes any sense.

This was one of those whiles.
And what a long while it was...

In the introduction Burroughs writes:
I awoke from The Sickness at the age of forty-five, calm and sane, and in reasonably good health except for a weakened liver and the look of borrowed flesh common to all who survive The Sickness... Most survivors do not remember the delirium. I apparently took detailed notes on the sickness and delirium. I have no precise memory of writing the notes which have now been published under the title Naked Lunch. The title was suggested by Jack Kerouac. I did not understand what the title meant until my recent recovery. The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch – a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.
What follows are insane ramblings about random nonsense filled with sordid details of rape, orgies and murder that were, far too often for my liking, nauseating to read. I have no idea why Burroughs is so obsessed with anal sex/rape, ejaculating penises and hanging people after copulation – nor do I want to know – but it was too much.
Far too much.

It took me about two weeks to bring myself to finish this, and I pray that I will never have to return to it again. People seem to either love it or hate it; whereby those who love it claim that those who hate it don’t get. And they’re right;
I don’t get it.

Nor do I want to get it, either.
The writing is too crude and base to warrant any excuse for the horrible acts depicted (not that one can ever write beautifully about such things, but Lolita is disturbingly about paedophilia but it’s captivatingly written). The only redeeming parts are the introduction and the appendix which consists of Burroughs' definitions of that what his experiences with the different drugs are. The appendix is an article written to The British Journal of Addictions in an informative and intelligent way.

2/5 because of the introduction and appendix, and I suggest that anyone who wants to read about Burroughs' drug abuse reads Junky instead.

This has also been made into a film that I initially was too afraid to watch, but after reading the synopsis and realising that it appears to be nothing like the novel, I may give it a go (when I have absolutely nothing better to do) because David Cronenberg.

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