“Naked Lunch”: In Defense of the Irredeemably Obscene and the Blatantly Pornographic

My friend told me that he read this book when he was 20, on the recommendation of a buddy who described it as his favorite book of all time.

“I read it, and I liked it, but I don’t understand how it could be anybodies favorite book of all time,” he told me.

I completely agree with this. It’s a weird book (obviously). It took the accumulated effects of a lot of processed poppy seeds to build up the inspiration for “Naked Lunch”. It’s damn close to plotless, rather incoherent at times, and delightful to read. I wouldn’t even say it’s 100% novel -there’s something decidedly in the oral tradition here. There are voices that aren’t completely of the written page.

This book has garnered intense notoriety for its obscene depictions of perversion and violent sex. There is a consistent strain of pederasty and other assorted perversities, and orgasim is often more than just a “little death” -there’s also a consistent thread connecting climax to violent mortality. I’m a a rather strong-stomached reader, but I was still shaking my head a bit at some sections, trying to visual the logistics of some particularly extravagant and high-risk copulation (and smirking a bit -this book definitely causes smirking).

Things like the character whose prolapsed sphincter inches it’s way out the window and down to the bar like an earthworm for anonymous sex… it’s weird and it’s gross, but it doesn’t have that kind of teenaged excess that makes a reader roll her eyes. It’s not torture porn and it’s not there just to try to provoke a reaction. It’s all in service of creating this horrible dream-state, this kind of suspended opiate reality in which the prose unfolds. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a damn fun ride.

Recommendation: If my description hasn’t already put you off, give it a read. Damn fun little book.


Naked Lunch: The Restored Text
by William S Burroughs

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