Naked Lunch was published in 1959 and was subsequently banned in the U.S. Wikipedia claims it was “the last major literary censorship battle in the U.S.” There is virtually no work of art (literary or otherwise) that I think should be banned, but this book certainly should not be read by the faint of heart.
It’s loosely a tale of a heroin addict and his travels across the world, centered around a fictitious city run by addicts and the criminal underworld. It’s one account after another of life as a heroin addict (and other types of addicts), in vivid, repugnant detail. I found it hard to read at times, mostly because of the barrage of disgusting imagery. Burroughs’ use of color to add a weird tangible reality to surreal situations is incredible.
I just finished it today and I can’t tell if I liked it or hated it. On the one hand, Burroughs does an amazingly effective job at showing how detrimental addiction of all kinds can be on society. On the other, the way he gets there is through graphic details about the nastiest parts of the human condition. At times, I felt like his commentary on society’s addictions got lost in the debauchery.
But what’s the point of a book if not to make you think? Reading this certainly made me question society and human relationships in a new way. If you’re looking for a book that will make you marvel at the power of words and will beat you over the head with everything that is wrong with society, then I’d recommend it. “Naked Lunch” is definitely not for the faint of heart.
“Please to be restful. It is only a few crazies who have from the crazy place outbroken.” (p. 38)