29 Down, 23 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Where to begin, really? Naked Lunch is a seminal work about drugs and homosexuality, a series of stories about gore and mutilation tied together with gratuituous blood and spunk, written in the cut-up technique, and pretty much nigh-incomprehensible.

Seminal or not, the book is not for the faint of heart, and it’s easy to see why I can’t find it in the NLB catalogue. Much of the activity described here is well and truly nauseating, though always absurd and surreal enough for the reader to know that this is the product of a sick, drug-addled, if brilliant mind. Burroughs was a well-known narcotics experimenter, and quite the authority on addiction and withdrawal.

In fact, the tail end of the book is a lengthy letter on the various effects and cures for the many chemical delights of the day, written as lucidly and academically as the preceding novel was Dada-esque and stream-of-consciousness.

Meant to be an indictment of sorts on the seedy underbelly of the American experience as well as a cathartic release for Burroughs, Naked Lunch works pretty well as a warning against substance abuse. Seriously, no way do I want to end up with the likes of those who people these pages. Some of the satirical passages are hilarious though, you haven’t lived til you’ve heard about the Talking Asshole, I kid you not.

So did I like the book? No, I guess not. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece of the beat generation and whatnot, but there’s no way I could get into all 180 pages of outrageous (in a bad way) hedonism and gore, all written in a narcotics-fueled stupor with no regard for the niceties of the English language. Apart from the occasional quite hilarious interlude, Naked Lunch left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. (Hey, I made a pun!)

My next book will be Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That.

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1 Response to “29 Down, 23 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)”


  1. 1 avalon July 22, 2006 at 14:25

    I got another book to recommend you: Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album. Doable in a week. And meaningful and well-written.

    It is about the young Muslim sub-culture in London and how the protagonist copes with the contrasts of his roots and the metropolitan upbringing he has gone through as a Londoner.


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