|Author William S. Burroughs|
Naked Lunch (1958)
by William S. Burroughs
All you need to know about me as an adolescent is that I told people William Burroughs was my favorite writer for about 2-3 years in high school/college. I read Naked Lunch for the first time mid-way through high school. I'm sure I read it once more in either college or law school. I've seen the movie version at least three times. Naked Lunch remains relevant today both on it's own merit as a canonical text of the Beat Generation, and as a key early text for later movements like "cyber-punk" and retro-futurism.
I read Burroughs originally with some knowledge of his Beat contemporaries, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Howl by Allen Ginsburg. I had read a decent amount of 50s science fiction and fantasy, a key reference point for Naked Lunch. I hadn't read any golden age detective fiction, another key reference point. I certainly hadn't read anything written by James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and other high modernist whose prose experiments made a plot-less novel about Mugwumps and the interzone something that readers could treat seriously.
Revisiting Naked Lunch having had the benefit of reading the books that Burroughs read, I am most struck by the similarity between his junk-sick apparitions and the nameless non-protagonists of Beckett's trilogy. His pulp fiction reference points, mostly detective fiction and science fiction also seem to anticipate the dystopian sub-genre of speculative fiction.
|Burroughs and a Mugwump from the David Cronenberg directed movie version.|