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Naked Lunch


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I bought this book back in 1996 and had several failed attempts to read it, before replacing it in the bookcase, from which it has been taunting me ever since. This year, a good decade since my last attempt, I decided to give it one last try and I was surprised to make it through from start to finish.


It's easy to see why I had previously struggled. Just a couple of chapters into the book it becomes clear that there is no storyline to follow. In fact, it is said that Burroughs randomly mixed up the chapters of his manuscript in the publisher's office, claiming that it would create as good an order as any.


Each chapter is essentially a short sketch based on Burroughs' experiences as a junkie, with some of these sketches involving recurring themes and characters and occasional glimpses of social commentary and satire. There are some seemingly never ending graphic sex scenes in the middle of the book, which were pretty off-putting and many of the chapters rambled along without grabbing my attention, but every now and again a fantastic bit of imagary or an amusing set-piece would spring out of nowhere and drag you back into the seedy, grimy world Burroughs has created.


Given how much effort I had to make to get through the book, I didn't feel I got enough from it to merit my perseverance. It's cited as a 'Beat Generation' classic, but I didn't see much of a link to other novels I've read from that genre. It reminded me more of a drug-fuelled version of Miller's 'Tropic of Cancer'. I'd be interested to know if anyone's managed to fare better with this book than I have.

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  • 4 years later...

Well, back in my drug- fueled youth I thought it was totally amazing, but I don't remember a darn thing from it. Had the thought recently that I'd like to revisit it someday. Recently re-read 'queer' and ' junky' and found them just as honest and illuminating as I did the first time. But they ain't happy books!

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