this book, wow, this book, is f****** amazing. I've read Howl, I've read On The Road (excellent by the way), I've read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kingdom of Fear, The Rum Diary, and such by Hunter S. Thompson. I feel like the other beats were building up to this, and HST was impossible WITHOUT William S. Burroughs. Naked Lunch is a masterpiece. I don't think there is another book like it, so full of invention, creativity, like a zoo of freaks or a jungle of mountain lions. Be afraid, be very afraid, this is not for middle schoolers, nor even high schoolers (Burroughs himself obviously inspired by Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World). I would even say that college might be a bit too soon (most of my peers were idiots (unless it was a philosophy class [hey ho!])): "that's too much reading!"
No, Naked Lunch is something I have spent time building up to. I have spent time with counter-cultureists and know their style. I read maybe a quarter of Ulysses, and while that was way harder, Naked Lunch also induced headaches. I wouldn't say someone should just jump into it in terms of literary retrospective, but in terms of imagination, the novel is in a class all its own.
Some are going to really dislike the use of sex. Some are going to really dislike the mention of drugs. Some will just hate the inventive use of language that is more like a poem and a riddle than an essay. I say dive in! Why not just go with it? Don't feel like you have to read Naked Lunch to get onto the next thing, read it like a fine wine, taking in a little bit here and there. After all, Burroughs spent at least a decade getting Lunch complete. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in pieces over two and a half years. Joyce wrote Ulysses over about the same time Burroughs took. If you rush through you'll just squander the gift of the novel.
Naked Lunch is not your common book, it is a pamphlet: anti/counter-culture propaganda/information/invention. Lunch is the most explicit piece of material probably anyone could ever think of while still keeping it within the realm of art.
It's worth is just for the fun you'll have.
Read it and try it, and if you don't like it, then burn it like some communist. I recommend this book.
==it's also the funniest dang book I've ever read.