Thursday 23 January 2014

Naked Lunch

I've talked about Burroughs before in such a way that might suggest that I am familiar with his work. I like to think that this is true. He pumps my engine, literarily speaking. Not literally speaking. I don't have an engine. It would be fair to say that I have read a great deal of what Burroughs has put out into the world. Most, but not the vast majority. It should also be made clear that this does not take into account the huge body of work that was not 'put out into the world'. There was this sort of odd beginning to it in which I was first put onto Burroughs by a video game magazine. This was in 1993. I gradually made my way through the books discussed within over the years to follow.

It would've been about late '95 that I read Naked Lunch, which would've made me twelve or thirteen. I honestly didn't really know what to think of it right away. This isn't to say that there was no thinking. There was. I thought things about it. I thought a lot of things about it. I very quickly thought it was the kind of book that I shouldn't really let people know that I was reading. I was kind of operating in that mode at the time. I also thought that there were a lot of things in it that I didn't really understand to the extent that the author had perhaps intended. There were a lot of things being thought about a lot of the things that I came across in the book. It's that kind of book though. That's what it does to you. There will be things about things.

Naked Lunch is an experience in literature. A lot of people have tried to emulate it over the past 54 years, with varying degrees of success. As is the way with such things. For my money that's what Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was. Naked Lunch is scarier though. It's far more deranged. It is the product of a really broken mind. Where Thompson's glibness manages to pull off comedic, Burroughs is dark, because the situation he is in falls pretty neatly into the 'nightmare scenario' category.

The surreal vignettes give it life as the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland of a different time and place, which I'm fairly certain that I've said before. I know I've said it with my mouth at parties and bus stops, but I'm fairly certain the main gist of that message exists somewhere else here in writing.

I should be clear at this stage. Where Fear and Loathing is a recounting of actual(ish) events, Naked Lunch is 'semi-autobiographical'. The degree of actual biography involved in Naked Lunch is probably less than in the two books that immediately preceded it, Junkie and Queer, but those don't really give you much of an indicator. I ended up reading Junkie and Queer afterwards, but I think you should read them before hand. Order of publication is probably the way to go in this case.

Burroughs was responsible for a whole literary armada. I'm not sure that he really gets the recognition that I feel he deserves in this respect. His work inspired other literary admirals who were more directly influential, but all those subsequent ships wouldn't have set sail without Burroughs. They wouldn't even have been wrighted. It would've been an entirely different naval scenario. 

The boats are books here.

No comments :