19 December 2007

An hellish banquet of control and addiction, seen clearly, vividly, nakedly

Naked Lunch
William S. Burroughs
Grove Press, 1992

A difficult work (I finished the second-half of the novel after a three-year hiatus) that definitely demands re-reading. My difficulty in reading this novel stemmed both from the disturbing starkness of the subject matter and from the experimental prose through which this subject matter is presented. In other words, don't expect a plot, character development, or any other standard literary convention in this exploration of JUNK.

According to the author, the title refers to experiencing life without any blinders, preconceptions, etc., i.e., a "naked lunch" in which everyone is aware of what precisely is on the end of every fork. From what I gleaned in the front matter, portions of the novel--probably the sections that most disturbed me (e.g., those involving hangings, necks snapping, and strings of "rancid jissom")--were written as a Swiftian satire against the brutality of capital punishment. Although it is the barbarism of capital punishment, akin to the religious sacrifice of human beings, that Burroughs specifically wants us to see nakedly, this "banquet of naked awareness" applies equally well to all areas of human endeavor in which we blind ourselves to our true motives, feelings, etc.

Being a clear perception of the Hells created by the blind pursuit of technoscientific domination and the addiction to power and control makes this novel utterly important and incredibly difficult.

(This review was originally written March 21, 2006.)

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