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Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch

3.2 70
by William S. Burroughs

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Naked Lunch is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, a book that redefined not just literature but American culture. An unnerving tale of a narcotics addict unmoored in New York, Tangiers, and ultimately a nightmarish wasteland known as Interzone, its formal innovation, formerly taboo subject matter, and tour de force execution have exerted their


Naked Lunch is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, a book that redefined not just literature but American culture. An unnerving tale of a narcotics addict unmoored in New York, Tangiers, and ultimately a nightmarish wasteland known as Interzone, its formal innovation, formerly taboo subject matter, and tour de force execution have exerted their influence on the work of authors like Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballard, and William Gibson; on the relationship of art and obscenity; and on the shape of music, film, and media generally. Naked Lunch: The Restored Text includes many editorial corrections to errors present in previous editions, and incorporates Burroughs's notes on the text, several essays he wrote over the years about the book, and an appendix of 20 percent new material and alternate drafts from the original manuscript, which predates the first published version. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume is a valuable and fresh experience of this classic of our culture.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

William S. Burroughs's classic tale has been fully restored by his longtime editors, Grauerholz and Miles, and is invigorated by this enthusiastic reading. Mark Bramhall offers a professional performance peppered with every trick of the actor's trade to make it a resonating effort. He approaches the work with such energy that the story seems like a new entity, freshly relevant and timely. Listeners will lose themselves in the journey of junkie William Lee as he makes his way from bizarre destination to even more bizarre destination in this unforgettable novel. A Grove paperback. (Feb.)

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Herbert Gold
It happens that Burroughs possesses a special literary gift. Naked Lunch is less a novel than a series of essays, fantasies, prose poems, dramatic fragments, bitter arguments, jokes, puns, epigrams--all hovering about the explicit subject matter of making out on drugs while not making out in either work or love... (Naked Lunch) takes a coldly implacable look at the dark side of our nature... William Burroughs has written the basic work for understanding that desperate symptoms which is the beat style of life.-- Books of the Century, The New York Times review, November, 1962
"A masterpiece. A cry from hell, a brutal, terrifying, and savagely funny book that swings between uncontrolled hallucination and fierce, exact satire."
From the Publisher

“A masterpiece. A cry from hell, a brutal, terrifying, and savagely funny book that swings between uncontrolled hallucination and fierce, exact satire.” —Newsweek

“Ever since Naked Lunch…William S. Burroughs has been ordained America’s most incendiary artist.” –Los Angeles Times

“A great, an essential novel…[that] prefigures much that has occurred in history, the popular media and high and low culture in the past four decades.” –The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)

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Time Warner AudioBooks
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What People are Saying About This

John Ciardi
"Only after the first shock does one realize that what Burroughs is writing about is not only the destruction of depraved men by their drug lust, but the destruction of all men by their consuming addictions... He is a writer of great power and artistic integrity engaged in a profoundly meaningful search for true values."
Terry Southern
"An absolutely devastating ridicule of all that is false, primitive, and vicious in current American life: the abuses of power, hero worship, aimless violence, materialistic obsession, intolerance, and every form of hypocrisy."
Norman Mailer
"A book of great beauty.... Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genious."

Meet the Author

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was one of the foremost writers of the Beat Generation. He is best known for his experimental novel Naked Lunch, a subversive and highly controversial book that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 he was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France. In addition to writing, he also collaborated on numerous projects and recordings.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 4, 1914
Date of Death:
August 2, 1997
Place of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
Place of Death:
Lawrence, Kansas
Los Alamos Ranch School; A.B., Harvard University, 1936; graduate study, 1938

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Naked Lunch 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
Forget you ever read a book in your life. All the standards and rules and everything you have read up to this point, just toss it out the window because it will do you absolutely no good when reading this book. In fact, it will probably be detrimental. This is probably the most difficult book I have ever read. Literally. I sat down and read five pages. I put the book down and realized I had no idea what was going on. Sure that I must have missed something, I went back and read again. About twelve pages in, I again realized I was not getting it. Frustrated I put it away.

I started the book from the beginning three days later. I got to the part where I kept stopping and realized, there is no way I am going to force this book to make sense. So I had to shift a little, and make myself give in to the book instead, which for me is relatively uncomfortable. And yet, only in that manner was I able to sink into this hellish book.

If I were to describe this book in one line, it would include the words trip, crazy, troubling and edgy accompanied by a handful of expletives scattered around for good measure.

Once you give in to the book, prepare yourself to go on one of the most disturbing, surrealistic, humorous, perverted, unbelievable rides of your life. Take ¿Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas¿ and multiply it times four.

As a point of warning, this book is NOT for the average reader. It demands an open mind, because it deals with drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, sexuality, homosexuality and science fiction in very explicit ways. VERY. Though not overtly descriptive in a lot of cases, this book does have some scenes that will make the tamer side of the crowd cringe. It is not every day that an author describes a characters fright, by picturing him pissing and defecating all over himself. It is not every day that an author tells the story about a man that teaches his bonghole to talk. It does not make sense, it is not supposed to. The world that this author describes, which is at times in Mexico, Tangiers and the Interzone, is one that can not really be described as anything other than one massive sex, drug and violence trip.

Furthermore, sentences come at you broken and the story jumps from one scene to the next without following any rational thought. It is no secret that a lot of this was written while the author was under the influence and it shows. At times disgusting, twisted and at other times incredibly humorous, this book is going to test all literary conventions.

Armed with a collection of memorable characters such as junkies that believe themselves to be secret agents, or unscrupulous doctors that have absolutely no ethics¿this explosive book, is like a bullet, hard hitting and unforgiving. It will likely offend most readers in one way or another. But if you can find it within yourself to take yourself a bit more lightly, you may just enjoy it.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can honestly say that until today I had never read a book that has made me gag, laugh, and cringe in pain uncontrollably over and over again. No one who is at all narrow minded will enjoy the book as well as most who consider themselves open minded. Let me say that I think just about every review I have read is exaggerating in one extreme or another. This is not trash that should be burned and never read by anyone. But it is also not a masterpiece, and obviously some people read way to much into it. The book definitely has a message (although it is hard to find) and it is new, fresh, and challenging. The book is no doubt extremely important and to a degree revolutionary but to say that it changed American culture is definitely a stretch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is not one those happy books that you can read before you go to bed. It is a dark journey through addiction and madness. It is a brilliant book that can never be replicated. It is a must read. It is a must own.
malignant_madness More than 1 year ago
I'll admit, Naked Lunch (as well as Junky and the rest of Burroughs' books) are NOT for everybody. In my opinion you either love his work or you hate it. I am one of those who love him and can't get enough of his writng. I've already reccomended this book many times over the years and still reread it a few times a year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful weird flake consistancy world half-life stillness. This book is like no other. The sentences are disjointed and the words are jumbled--all on purpose to give you the feel of a heroin addict taking notes. And it works. A book that changed the course of literature. Parts are extremely disturbing. Parts are beautiful. Take the journey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Graphic material hard to follow at best! Wouldn't recommend if you are disturbed by nasty imagery! Book should have a 18 years and up reader rating, lol!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For my English Assignment I had to read a book and write review about it, I chose Naked Lunch the Restored Text. I have to agree it redefine American Culture, the book addicts you like William S. Burroughs was addicted to narcotics. He had written down mostly everything he had gone through while on the influence of drugs.  It made me go to a totally different world, at some points I didn’t know whether I should laugh or scream. Don’t get me wrong it is a good thing because in a world of happiness you’re always going to need pain.  This has to be one of my favorite books. I really enjoy sort of the side notes (if that’s what you call them) in text. The reason I read was because it was in the banned book list and I am rebel.  It was probably banned for every conceivable way a book should be banned, but who really cares.  If I were to recommend this to anyone it has to be to the people that are very open-minded or it won’t really make any sense to you. It is also difficult to read but once you get it, its genius.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How can I be the first to leave a review for one of the most important books in the world? Burroughs created something truly remarkable with this book. Want something different whilst still being highly entertained through a dirty, drug filled, cut up head? Then read this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everything every reviewer said about it
GeorgeBeam More than 1 year ago
Depictions, Howls, and Promotions Naked Lunch is a Beat Generation novel of drug infused depictions of the torment and rapture of homosexuality in a homophobic society, howls against conformity and control, and promotions of freedom, a “separate life”, and similar illusions. For the illicit drug scene and slams against modernity, I prefer Hunter S. Thompson, as well as Adam Thirwell’s, Lurid and Cute.
ryanseanoreilly More than 1 year ago
A mad trip into the tattered drift of subconscious undercurrents. Written in a “cut up” style this is one of the most non-linear books I’ve ever read. The author sets forth a series of disjointed vignettes he aptly calls “routines,” which I also found fitting. This book is designed so that you can jump in at any point and not be lost, which is to say you will be just as lost as you would be anywhere else. Narrative? Naw…. The routines in the book involve sadism and the bent thoughts of a junky’s subconscious flow of thought. Reality and perception of mind all seem to bend into each other. The way this book was written, make it difficult for me to recall much except for a pervasive mood and fragments of sarcastic witticism that sometimes played out in strange scenes of ultra violence (e.g. a plunger used in a surgical procedure-a toilet plunger…). The strength in Burroughs’ writing is his biting satire and irony. He takes a salacious slant on the culture, right from the bowels of the counter culture. Some of the material in here made me laugh outright, and other times I cringed. This is definitely not just a book you casually read. You have to gear up for it. The content is not for those easily offended (this was the last piece of written word subjected to federal obscenity laws in the United States—it prevailed). Burroughs was a known heroin addict and wrote this work after causing the death of his wife, and living life somewhat on the lam as he sought the sour comfort of illicit dealings in foreign lands. When he finally came to some kind of reckoning with what he had done, he managed to clean himself up (though I believe he continued to struggle with drugs), he wrote this book. Some of the book is about drugs (junk), some of it is caught up in science fiction elements (telepathic thought control), and some is almost like a political cartoon strip. Later in life, Burroughs got more political and made a name for himself giving spoken word performances. There are hints of this buried in the smoky riffs. Little laughable nuggets of wit. Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very hard to follow, even when you got the 60's refrences. There was a laugh or two between completely incomprehensible paragraphs. I wanted to like it, but couldn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maria73 More than 1 year ago
This is not the first work by Burroughs that I've read but it is the worst. The text flows through nonsensical chaos that will leave you scratching your head or staring at the page questioning what you just read. The language is graphic, confusing and deals heavily with the darkest sides of substance abuse. His descriptions of the characters, their drug use and sexuality are disturbing. This is not for the faint of heart nor is it for anyone who'd like to read an even remotely coherent book.
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Analogkid60 More than 1 year ago
Apparently written under the influence at a time when drug use was still underground. I just didn’t get it. For the life of me I could not make any sense out of this book. The only parts that were coherent were the essays at the end. It was like 196 pages of Jim Morrison poetry. There’s no discernable plot. Burroughs apparently wrote down every sick, obscene, filthy thought that ran through his drug addled mind. Some parts seem like they were nothing more than random phrases thrown together. I’m certainly no prude; I inhaled, and I have nothing against books that use profanity or describe sexual situations, but Burroughs uses obscenity just for the sake of shock. I had to resign myself to reading 10 pages a day just to get through it. The only reason I didn’t give up altogether was because I believe in finishing any book that I begin. Maybe you need hard drugs to enjoy this book. Perhaps Naked Lunch could be used in the anti-drug campaign as an example of how the mind disintegrates with prolonged drug usage, although I wouldn’t recommend anyone under the age of 16 read this. Unless you enjoy unintelligible mayhem, do yourself a favor and read something else.
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