Saturday, March 10, 2012

Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs

This was picked for our book club because of its common description as one of the most important classic novels of the twentieth century. After reading it, I can only assume the importance is due to the obscenity trials and censorship issues it spawned that forced a closer examination of our right to free speech rather than the novel itself. Naked Lunch is the delusional raving of a drug-fueled homosexual, with graphic descriptions of sadistic pedophilia and wild hallucinations. There isn’t much of a linear plot, as evidenced by Burroughs himself when he said that he intended for the chapters to be read in any order. It reads like the world’s worst Mad Lib which afterwards was randomly scrambled. “The nostalgia fit is on me boys and will out willy silly . . . boys walk down the carny midway eating pink spun sugar . . . goose each other at the peep show . . . jack off in the Ferris wheel . . . throw sperm at the moon rising red and smoky over the foundries across the river. A Nigra hangs from a cottonwood in front of The Old Court House . . . whimpering women catch his sperm in vaginal teeth . . .”

This book is a classic in the same way that Pollock’s paintings are: unique, random, and meaningless but holding great appeal for professors and critics. I know I sound like that old man at the end of the block shaking his fist at the world while yelling, “Get off my lawn!” but as far as I can tell Naked Lunch has no redeeming value whatsoever. Dull and non-nonsensical, this is a truly awful book.

First Sentence:
I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train . . . Young, good looking, crew cut, Ivy League, advertising exec type fruit holds the door back for me.

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