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am 12. Juli 1999
Naked Lunch is, for better or worse, the key to most people's experience of Burroughs' writing. And they either love it or hate it. Most people I talk to say they couldn't get through it, and this is easy to understand. What is it about this book that people keep talking about it?
So NL was/is a revolutionary book, and reading it for the first time can be a fireworks experience. At the same time it must be admited that the writing is uneven - since everything was so new, he and his fellow editors could hardly tell what to keep and what to discard. NL is like visiting a genetics lab before they've had a chance to throw out all the failures.
Naked Lunch is a record of a Burroughs' writing break-through. He started trying to write another Junky (see NL's first chapter) and ends up trying to destroy language (the cut-ups he slips into the end of the book - contrary to common belief, NL is not a "cut-up" book in the sense of the technique Burroughs later employed).
My own advice to first-time readers is to skip or skim the first chapter, which drags and creates a wrong impression of the rest of the book. Thereafter you should read as the mood takes you, receiving the writing as a series of darkly-humorous skits, lectures and moods.
It's perfectly valid to just dip into the book anywhere, and read for as long as the mood holds you. The structure Burroughs' originally planned for this book was disposed of in the final edit, and the published version is almost completely random. The book may also be a little disconcerting because of its period - a lot of the satires and characters relate specifically to the repressive USA of the late 1950's, and many of these archetypes are now extinct.
Finally, it's important to remember what came after the revolution - Naked Lunch was only the beginning. The 1960's saw his strangest period - the "cut-ups" - when he pursued his destructive/creative technique as a philosophy, and pushed it beyond all rational limits. The 1970's and 80's saw another revolution - the return to narrative, in a distinctly Burroughs way, and a refinement and enrichment of his style. Some would consider his finest writing to be in these later works.
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am 1. Juni 2000
I don't want to sound stupid or something, but it took me three times to get through this book. It wasn't because I was offended or anything but because it was so weird in parts that it lost me. Determined that this book was not going to kick my butt I went back and read it, and this time finished it. And it blew my mind. There were parts of the book that I wouldn't call offensive (maybe because I'm not easily offended), but there are parts that are not for the weak of stomach...the whole affair with Slastubitch (I believe that's his name) comes to mind. Yet it's there for a purpose. Burroughs was pointing out just how ignorant and hypocritcial society of his time (and of our time too) was, and writing about Mugwumps secreting juices out of their penises was a sure fire way to do this. There are also parts of this book that I found to be downright hilarous, particularly anything involving a purple assed baboon. I've practically lent this book out to all my friends, or have convinced them to buy it. One of my professors here at RU told me that of all the beats, Burroughs was the true visionary of the bunch, and upon reading the Naked Lunch, his remark is easily justified.
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am 22. Oktober 1998
This book is important now as ever. Think of it as a public service announcement, a warning against heroin. More important today as there are 3 times as many users than there were 10 years ago. I can't help but think that if some of these users had first read this book they'd have never started. That's because Naked Lunch draws the peramiters of hell on earth and hell on earth is caused by pure and total addiction. Addiction to drugs, sex, political power or what have you. It's not an easy read because much of the prose style is fragmented, just as our actual thoughts are...but if you take time to examine some of these paragraph length fragments, more often than not you'll be rewarded with thought provoking insight, and sometimes with lyrical poetry. And then sometimes you'll just be discusted. But you don't wade neck deep through Borroughs filth and get nothing in return. He's dredged the bottom and brought back some important messages. I suggest not begining this book at the begining but randomly opening it to the middle and begining. Read it at random just as it was written and you'll get more out of it. Finally, if the US government were a bit more hip they'd be wise to how much this book could help them in their anti-drug campaign. Naked Lunch is a friend to the US government? Now that would really make Buroughs roll in his grave.
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am 11. März 2000
What else can I say, other than that this is "the" book that has brought William S. Burroughs the most fame(infamy?) and glory. Most people interested in Beat Literature choose Kerouac for insight, but I feel that Burroughs gets to the root of the Beatniks' most defining element: Drug use/abuse. His style is unrelenting. His prose harsh and ragged, not unlike himslef for some 15 odd years of his life in which he lived as a junky. I urge the reader to not read this book in sequence from beginning to end as a traditional novel. Instead, read a chapter or two at a time. Then, set it down and leave it alone for a day. The next day, return and continue reading. Each pargraph; each page is a message unto itself. Burroughs uses a rehab center in a place called Interzone, the character William Lee, and a sadistic orgy to help convey the over-all idea that the junky is a sad and tragic individual. But, what makes the junky so tragic is not his position in life. It is the sad fact that he put himself there in the first place. And, to spite himself, the junky's body must continue this act even though his mind says no. It is sad that this book has not been given the credit that it is due. Only at the end of his life did Mr. Burroughs begin to reap the rewards of his, and his comrades' work. As though he couldn't stand another minute in the world of the straight and narrow without a friend(Allen Ginsberg, the last Beat), he died after a life of extreme hardships and bittersweet success. Needless to say, this book sums up Burroughs' early life on the streets before any real intimations of success. It is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those of you who prefer "popular" literature. It is for those of us who seek the truth, and read books about certain topics for an element of reality.
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this book certainly has its high points. it seems, at times, however, to be a myriad of unconnected thoughts. then again, it was written in the midst of a heroin "trip". or whatever you call it. burroughs said himself, near the end of the book, that he was not concerned with an author-reader relationship, or plot for that matter. he was definitely pushing the boundaries with this work. some may proclaim it a work of genius (as norman mailer did), an innovation on the conventional method of writing prose; others may pass it off as a load of garbage, a subliterary work written by an erratic, delusional drug addict. I won't dispute either view--that's all subjective, I suppose. This book is definitely, however, humorous (subjective also, I'm sure), lurid, different (and not arguably), and, most importantly, real. under the surface, that is. (I've never seen any man-sized centipedes, or people transferring junk with their..... well nevermind....). If anyone ever reads this review (yeah, right) and hasn't read Naked Lunch, do. It's worth at least checking out--then if you don't like it you can come on this page and write another review no one will ever read, trashing the novel....
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am 4. April 2000
People think Burroughs was some shortcircuit junkie with no idea what he was doing who, for whatever reason, got paid for his insane notes. Not so! Burroughs knew what he was doing. He just had an extremely odd vision of the world (and an interesting new writing style to tell the world about it). He saw irrationality in rationality. Reading Naked Lunch, you'll have to see vice versa if you want to learn anything. The going-ons in the book seem bizarre (and they are), but they're actually directly parallel to the going-ons of the modern world such as fascism and overall hypocrisy. And if you don't want to learn anything, good enough. This book is funny as anything, and it's good to have a laugh. The shock value is something to read too (this book works on so many levels). It's still more shocking than anything else out there. It's hard to imagine what people thought of this when it was published in the 50's (the fact that it was banned tells you something, I suppose).
Read this book. Even if you're bound to hate it, I'd still reccomend it. Reading it isn't as hard some would have you believe. This book is just cool.
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am 3. Mai 2000
I read this book in 3 1/2 days, after receiving a reccomendation from a friend. This book is absolutely unbelievable. It twists your reality and perception to new points. It mocks government and people, and shows what lies at the base of every human action; lust, greed and addiction. It shows humanity as its uncovered self, and exposes the bizarre society He has created. This book is deliciously warped and will blow your mind with its awesome descriptions and well-selected scenes. It is drugs sex and society. It is life. I highly reccomend this to anyone looking for a life-changing book. This book had me spell-bound, nothing like anything I had ever read before. I'm immediatly going to buy "Junky"-its sequel- now that I've finished "Naked Lunch." This book is a lot like one of its main characters (heroin) in how damn addicting it is. Get this book for a motivating and enlightening experience.
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am 15. Juni 1998
Naked Lunch must be the most horrifying, the most revolting, the most disgusting, the most repulsive, the most depraved, the most obscene book I've ever read. Not that I didn't like it. It has many moments of fine satire and surrealism, though the graphic scenes of homeosexuality and constant profanity are a bit over the top. Consider a scene in which a Mugwump graphically rapes and mutilates a young man. Read Naked Lunch, but only if you have a cast-iron stomach.
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am 20. November 1997
"Put this in your pipe," muttered Dr. Benway, "I've just returned from Interzone and well...lets just say the flys are definitely on top of the substance that is hitting the fan." He seemed world-weary and timeless, what the hippies might call an "old soul." Hah - the patchouli people had never been so damn close to hitting the nail on the head. "In Interzone you'll hear, among other things,Hassidic hip-hop heroin sit-com novelty songs, Metallica-Prozac marching anthems and Gestapo acid-jazz. The circus recently came to Interzone but nobody noticed. A typical Interzone afternoon usually involves hilarity and carnage. Clowns juggling severed heads, geriatric shopping-cart ladies doing unspeakable things to pimple faced Nebraska quaterbacks while Walter Cronkite wannabes tape the glorious proceedings on camcorder. "I fell down, scraped my knee and never came back," laughs the good Doctor. "A surgeon by trade - sidetracked by the needle and the mysterious whispering boys of Interzone. The NFL was looking to add an expansion team, the story goes. They sent some scouts to the 'Zone -- some corn-fed all-american types, complete with the cell phones and the beer guts...never saw 'em again. Football could never survive in the Interzone. Never -- not enough blood for the locals." A real unusual place, Interzone. There is always the smell of death. "A nice place to see in your rear-view mirror," said Benway with a smirk. "Club Med it's not. Personally, I can't wait to get back. Think of Disneyland for the incredibly disturbed." Why should we shudder at a Naked Lunch when we are force fed reality sandwiches? Saddam Hussein was recently seen dancing the achey-breakey with a snot-nosed and palsied Shaun Cassidy. You could tell they were in love. Put it this way, you never know who you might see in Interzone. Pack some extra socks you might find yourself extending your vacation. Just don't drink the water. We'll see ya real soon. Bye-bye.
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am 12. Juni 1998
I don't think I could add anymore to the multitude of reviews below me without being redundant. The book is fantastic. By far Burroughs best work and the best piece of non-linear writing to come from the beat generation. I have to respond to morbeus' review below. I agree with Burroughs trying to con us, in a way that's true, but the comment on not thinking Burroughs was a day to day junkie slumming it out in morocco in the late fifties is completely untrue. It was the allowance from his parents that allowed him to get into the junk scene in the first place without much effort. By the time he descended to where he was in Morocco he was a full-fledged addict, have no doubt, and I have it on a good source that when Ginsberg did find him in the single room apartment he was very close to gone. Maybe its a misunderstanding of heroin's effects that leads to this belief but there are moments of clarity in between fixes, and there might be a couple of days inbetween fixes (usually when the addict decides he's quit) before resistance wears thin. Burroughs thoroughly used these moments to type. I think the biggest con to the reader, and the best, is how one's lead to believe the book was incedental to his experience when the experience was almost setup to produce the book. In that regard he knew that something could come from this binge, something that would be extremely well suited to his style of cut and paste writing (which is by the way aa attempt to mimic a junkies thought patterns, but I think someone already said that.
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