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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Nastiness
I read this 20 years ago and was frustrated by its inability to fit into my conception of a comprehensible novel.Now what was once its greatest flaw seems to be its greatest asset.It is a collage of sometimes grim scenarios peppered with the odd titbit of medical/anthropological/sociological insight and probably literature's first attempt at abstract impressionism...
Published on 25 April 2011 by nicholas hargreaves

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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Small doses before bed may work best
Imagine you were able to recall all the weird dreams and nightmares you ever had in clear, vivid detail; taking in sights, smells, feelings, and those odd moments when the dream changes completely, but still - inconceivably, but somehow rationally - connected to the events of the moment before. Imagine you are a hopeless heroin addict, having sleeping and waking dreams...
Published on 30 Dec 2003


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Nastiness, 25 April 2011
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This review is from: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (Paperback)
I read this 20 years ago and was frustrated by its inability to fit into my conception of a comprehensible novel.Now what was once its greatest flaw seems to be its greatest asset.It is a collage of sometimes grim scenarios peppered with the odd titbit of medical/anthropological/sociological insight and probably literature's first attempt at abstract impressionism.
Obviously not for people with conservative tastes or delicate sensibilities.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Small doses before bed may work best, 30 Dec 2003
By A Customer
Imagine you were able to recall all the weird dreams and nightmares you ever had in clear, vivid detail; taking in sights, smells, feelings, and those odd moments when the dream changes completely, but still - inconceivably, but somehow rationally - connected to the events of the moment before. Imagine you are a hopeless heroin addict, having sleeping and waking dreams compounded by an addict's hallucinations and paranoid excursions, often perceiving things through a trancelike psychosis. Imagine you have a pen in your hand. You've imagined William Burroughs disturbed, distorted and dreamlike prose. You've imagined what Naked Lunch would look and sound like.
That's my take on this almost impenetrable novel. It's fairly short by today's standards, but like old fashioned toffee - extremely chewy, time consuming and ultimately frustrating in all but small chunks. If the Naked Chef stripped down recipes to their bare essentials, then Naked Lunch is the complete opposite; a gorge-fest of dense, lyrical prose and vivid images melded together to form a collage around the subjects of addiction, sexual fascination and satire of the medical profession.
I gather this book doesn't employ the cut'n'paste narrative experiments of his later work, because with this book there is no coherent narrative. Yes, you could take any of these pages and put them pretty much anywhere and they would still make as much sense. But the cut up method implies a structured (but merely fragmented) narrative as many of us would know it. Naked Lunch is not like this. It is more random, flicking off onto tangents, as dreams do.
Does the sum of these Frankenstein parts add up to a meaningful whole? Well, that depends on what you enjoy in a book. If you enjoy prose loaded with lyrical dexterity, lurid images and simile; constant bemusement, and re-reading sentences because they seem unrelated to each other, with unconnected thoughts and images from one moment to the next - you may enjoy this book. Burroughs has a way with images, if nothing else. But if you are used to more conventional writing and narrative - a story even - then, like me, you may find it a frustrating experience. If James Joyce was a junkie, he would probably have written something like Naked Lunch first.
But I could not leave it alone, and persevered in small portions. The writing is intriguing and the images fascinating, but I was only 2-3 pages in when I wondered when the weirdness would stop and a book would begin. Maybe that is the triumph of Burroughs' work, that many will read it in spite of its avant garde nature. For those who find it heavy going, 'Junky', written earlier, may help. It foreshadows the style and experiences employed in Naked Lunch, but has a conventional narrative and gives some useful background to Burroughs' psyche, before he completely tripped out.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey into paradox, 9 Sep 2007
By 
Dr. Robert C. Hayward "robbyhayward" (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (Paperback)
It took me several weeks to get into this book: then I got to half-way and suddenly felt comfortable with the style and the remainder got gobbled up in a couple of days. It is a very different "novel", and one which certainly won't appeal to everyone - particularly unsuitable for immature readers or religious fundamentalists of any persuasion. There is extensive explicit reference to heroin use and homosexuality throughout, with an often sadomasochistic or twisted medical angle.

The book's plot is loose to say the least, and the stream of consciousness style caused me great difficulty in the early stages. Once I realised that this was the books strength and started going with the flow, it became much easier to read and was highly enjoyable. Although the subject matter is often disturbing and the characters generally frightening and detestable, the prose is beautiful and often very poetic. Loose concepts such as Interzone, Islam Corp, Dr Benway etc are intimated like pieces of exquisite modern art.

If you think you won't huff and puff due to the references to homosexuality, drugs, casual violence, and florid prose, give this dizzying journey into dark beatnik fantasy a go. And hope you never have a GP called Benway...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary yet Fantastical, 29 Nov 2001
I read this book, not knowing much about the author. The cover just drew me to it, (I know, books, covers, you shouldn't judge, but I couldn't help it). When I started reading it I thought, 'what?', but then I just couldn't put it down. I think it's probably a very good insight into the mind of a heroine addict, I can't be 100% sure on that as I am not a heroine addict, and I have to say that this book makes me very glad that I'm not. It is exceptionally dark in places and very grusome, messy even, but there are some very funny bits too. Read it now!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grow up. Cheer up., 26 Jun 2014
By 
James the King (...under the stairs) - See all my reviews
I first read this book as a teenager. I cannot really remember what I thought of it, except that it was awesome. At this time, I also thought Beavis and Butthead were awesome. Re-reading it a couple of decades later, I can only conclude that Naked Lunch is so self-consciously repulsive and provocative that only a teenager would find it amusing. Not a chapter goes by without countless “look-at-me” dirty words and singularly vile ideas, including but not limited to any and every conceivable kind of sexual malpractice, such as child sodomy and various creative forms of rape.

Is there a point to it all? Well, not really. Naked Lunch was intended to be the deranged scrawlings of a mind shredded by years of truly heroic drug intake. It was also intended to be as foulsome, offensive and controversial as conceivably possible. For a book written in the 1950s, it is astonishingly daring. This, however, adds limited value.

More than anything, the whole thing just feels so… immature. Like I said, think Beavis and Butthead. I am neither impressed nor shocked by the C-word, no matter how many times you use it per page. Nor are stories of sexual deviancy particularly amusing. Nor do I find it appealing in any way to be dragged through such a pointlessly bleak and unpleasant world, especially when there is no pay-off. To be absolutely clear, I am not someone who is easily offended or put off by gloomy cheerlessness – I love Cormac McCarthy for Pete’s sake – but Naked Lunch amounts to such a dreary experience.

By the end of the first few chapters I found myself a little tired of being repulsed, and just plain bored by the cultivated misery of it all. By the end of the book, I couldn't wait to move on to something a bit cheerier. Like Jude the Obscure.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sick, slick and very clever, 13 Sep 2002
By A Customer
Burroughs wrote this book in the fifties, in Tangier, and it's in this context that the book needs to be read. In as much as Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn was the seminal twisted gay/TV New York novel of the fifties, so Naked Lunch is the equivalent early gay/drug novel.
It slips and slides and glides through alleyways and canals of madness, degredation and perversion but, in the final analysis, it becomes one of the great pieces of fifties literature, and ranks Burroughs up alongside his friends Kerouac and Ginsberg.
A shocking read? Certainly. But also unforgetable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Naked Lunch, the blur of a book I still recommend, 13 Mar 2012
This is the kind of book that nobody reads for the plot, because, frankly, there is no plot to speak of, aside from Bill Lee's journey into his own sick and twisted subconscious. And it's all inspired by Burroughs's travels in Tangier. Note to self: avoid Tangier.
But all jokes aside, this is a mind-blowing book, but hard to read nonetheless. Nothing makes sense, but in a strange way you can feel that the author wrote all this nonsense with every bit of conviction in his body. It's mesmerizing, that's what it is.
Like another reviewer here stated, it's best to read bits of Naked Lunch before bedtime, preferably a chapter at a time. There's nothing to lose because there's nothing you remember the day after anyway! Certain episodes spring to mind, like the man whose ass began to talk Jim Carrey style, taking over his whole body in the most disgusting way possible, but other than that, it's all a blur. I think Burroughs actually succeeded in cleaning my brain of all the toxins, by pouring a ton of metaphorical acid on it. A bit of gamble, I'm sure, but my fried brain is thankful for the experience.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grove press - 50th anni Hardcover - Review of Naked Lunch, 5 April 2011
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This review is from: Naked Lunch (Hardcover)
Just some thoughts on this particular edition of Naked Lunch.

In a nutshell - it's wonderful.
Hardback is housed in a handsome slipcase. (the photo Amazon has used is of the slipcase. The art on the book itself closely mirrors that of the usa 1st edition i.e. PERFECT!)

Page ends are black - Nice touch.

Contents wise we get -
The restored text.
And 100 + pages of extras inc assorted outtakes - Original introductions etc by Bill.

For a new edition - Grove press have done us proud - Any Bill fan should be very pleased to add this very fine volume to their collection and I should not at all be surprised if this version becomes a collectable in the future.

The novel itself?
A work of art and a unique novel that is worth every ounce of it's reputation as being one of the most important/ landmark novels of the 20th century.

Edition 5/5
Novel 5/5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly confusing, 5 Jan 2014
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I understand that this book holds a degree of cultural relevance for the state in which it was written. However, it far too often reads like a series of incoherent ramblings. There is some social commentary in there, but it is often buried amid nonsensical rants.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most important novel since Ulysses, and only gets more important, 13 July 2008
By 
Jm Leven (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (Paperback)
I read Burroughs first when I was in my teens. The homosexuality was just like reading about the sex-life of Martians or something; his whole world was so bizarre that it just seemed like part of his freak show - I thought he was just trying to be as disgusting as possible. But that's not the point about Burroughs - if you can get hold of any recordings of Burroughs reading from the Naked Lunch, or the Soft Machine, the Ticket that Exploded, or Nova Express, you'll 'get it' more - it's a sort of beat poetry, stunningly inventive, imaginative and hilarious, if patchy. A lot of fuss is made about his 'cut up technique', which is just the equivalent of scrap iron or turds in art galleries - pretentious drivel. But actually, it throws up some interesting effects when he uses it on his own stuff. You'd have to read the first four novels in a row to appreciate that - Don't worry, he only uses it here and there. I don't think he uses cut-up in this one though, which makes it an easier read than the others.
The Naked Lunch would be enough to be going on with for most people, though. David Lynch's film is great, and as good a stab at it as you could get, but it's really only a few selected scenes and themes from all his books and his life - great but not the book.

Don't expect a straightforward story, but there are recurring themes and threads, that sort of link it all together. It was apparently written in Tangier, in installments which he then posted to Allan Ginsberg, as 'reports from Interzone', just for his own amusement. Ginsberg persuaded him to publish it all. That was the story a while back. I daresay this new edition will have some new insight on all that.
As to the substance: consider when the Naked Lunch was written, and what he was writing about, and what others were writing about at the time. It's not the homosexuality that's the point, or even remarkable. While everyone else was writing about the 'cold war', he was writing about the expansion of the drug-trade, and the symbiotic and parasitic expansion of law enforcement to parallel it, using heroin as a metaphor for all sorts of parasitic political and economic forces that insinuate themselves into the human world and deliberately create a dependence, and behind them the alien, child-sacrificing Mugwumps, and the Heavy Metal Kids, alien lizards from a high density world, with all their scams and projects, like 'the Oven Gang' (the nazis). Burroughs is sometimes credited with introducing 'heavy metal' into the vocabulary, but encountered other stories about that.
I haven't read it for a while so I can only give some hints off the top of my head, but I disagree with those who say Burroughs is someone who you read when young and never revisit - he gets better with age. The Naked Lunch is a remarkable work, and a remarkable prophecy which is getting truer by the day, unfortunately - 'the moment when everyone sees what's on the end of every fork'! The most inspired and bizarred science fiction ever!
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Harper Perennial Modern Classics - Naked Lunch: The Restored Text
Harper Perennial Modern Classics - Naked Lunch: The Restored Text by William Burroughs (Paperback - 3 May 2005)
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