Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Club: Review: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

So, I mentioned a while ago (I know, I haven't been as great at updating as I would like to be/as I promised I would be. I'm aiming for once a week, but I figure, as long as I manage at least twice a month, I'm good) that I'd joined a book club. We had our first meeting last week, and we talked about the book Naked Lunch. Amazingly, all of the girls in the club seemed to feel the EXACT same way about this book.

Title: Naked Lunch

Author:William S. Burroughs

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read This?
Honestly, no one. I genuinely can't think of a single person to whom I would recommend this. Not one. And yet, obviously there are people that enjoyed it. I don't know them, and, honestly, I can't even imagine them. If you're one of them, please tell me, WHAT about this book appealed to you?

What I Have to Say:
I can think of no way to describe this book other than "piece of trash." Normally, I would feel AWFUL about calling any book, no matter how terrible, a piece of trash. No matter what I think of it, a book is the author's life blood, their baby. And yet I have no qualms whatsoever saying just that about Naked Lunch. It's a piece of trash. And the fact that the author claims he doesn't actually even REMEMBER writing it makes me feel even less guilty about calling it such.

And honestly, all of the other girls in the book club thought so, too.

Naked Lunch SEEMS to be about a spy, though it's really hard to say, as the moments of coherency are few and far between. Written while he was on heroin, as well as a slew of other drugs, and it seems to be him TRYING to tell a story but actually spending more time describing the ludicrous and ludicrously trashy life of a drug addict who just may also be a sex addict. Sometimes, it felt like his entire purpose in writing was to shock, whether it be with the extreme descriptions of extreme sexual acts, or with what came out just by being lost on drugs. And then, every time he wrote something that actually did manage to shock, it felt like he loved himself a little bit more for it. Honestly, it felt very self-congratulatory. Like "oh, check out how AWESOME I am, I do lots of drugs and know all about the drug world!" or "Yo, check out how TOTALLY RAD I am! I have lots and lots of gay sex in ways and positions that you never even daydream about."

It literally manages to glorify something that should NOT be glorified while at the same time remaining COMPLETELY repulsive (and that's why it gets 1 1/2 stars from me and not just 1 star, because that's pretty impressive)!

Somewhere along the way, it also manages to STOP shocking. It gets to the point when you just expect next-to-non-stop "I love myself and am amazing for being able to write something that will shock you like this" "shocking" scenes about sex and drugs. And then, you're not shocked. You're just annoyed that there's still no coherency and that you can tell he's being totally self-indulgent.

Anyhow, so that's what I thought of Naked Lunch. I guess there's one thing, though - if I EVER had any thoughts of doing drugs (which I didn't), this book would have managed to turn me off. Maybe it should be mandatory reading for high schoolers. Right, well, I could go on about how much I DIDN'T like this book, but I imagine you get the point. In the mean time, if you read this book, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Summary (that I totally disagree with) (taken from Goodreads):Since its original publication in Paris in 1959, Naked Lunch has become one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. Exerting its influence on the relationship of art and obscenity, it is one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume—that contains final-draft typescripts, numerous unpublished contemporaneous writings by Burroughs, his own later introductions to the book, and his essay on psychoactive drugs—is a valuable and fresh experience of a novel that has lost none of its relevance or satirical bite.

Cover Story: I can't actually find the cover of the version I read, but it doesn't matter. Kind of like the book, I find the majority of the covers for this book totally devoid of interest.

2 comments:

hmsgofita said...

I first learned of this book while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But I keep hearing how incoherent and pointless it all is. So I doubt I'll ever pick it up. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Just because you didn't understand the book doesn't mean it is trash. Possibly use a dictionary next time

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