Book By My Bedside: Naked Lunch // William S. Burroughs


Title: Naked Lunch

Author: William S. Burroughs

What I think so far: Despite having no shame in professing my love for Beat Generation literature, I was ambivalent when I began reading this. Burroughs’ prose style is a structural mess, cleverly designed to fit the hazy, transcendent feel of a psychedelic experience. Considering this book is explicitly about drug abuse, the effect of this and the consequences set to follow, I was struck by Burroughs’ ingenuity. However after initially being very impressed by his structural techniques, I was then disappointed that he couldn’t follow through with the rest of the aspects considered integral to the creation of a good book – characterisation, development of plot, use of imagery etc. It seems that the carefully crafted yet ultimately restrictive form has left gaping holes in the fabric of the novel itself which has led to a plot line with its monotony thinly veiled by expletives, innuendos and sweeping controversial statements. Considering the beauty of some of the works by Burroughs and his counterparts, I’m pretty disappointed.

Would I recommend: A glance at those incessant lists of ‘top 100 books you must read before you die’ and the like will tell you that Naked Lunch is an inherently divisive book: it either appears at the top or not at all. Sure, it’s controversial as hell, but it feels artificial, a crafty publicity stunt. For me, whilst the book shattered no glass ceilings, it shattered all my hopes as to what it could have been. Unfortunately, it’s a no from me.

Rating: 4/10

Words by Beth Chaplow


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