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100 Banned Books Series: Naked Lunch, by William S. Burrows

on January 18, 2013

naked-lunch100 Banned Books Series: Naked Lunch, by William S. Burrows


What’s it about?

Naked Lunch consists of a bunch of vignettes that center around drug use and homosexuality, most of them very graphic. Burrows himself was bisexual and an avid drug addict, so it seems that the vignettes are based loosely on his life and the effects of his drug use. It’s interesting to note that many of the women in the book were shown to be quite violent. Also, in many of the vignettes, the drugs were shown to be literally destroying the user: either by a monster called a Mugwump, or with just the character using the drug melting away after the use.

There was also a vignette about the treatment of homosexuals at the time, in which a closeted character named Carl was literally interrogated by a government official about some of his relationships in the past.  In fact, the homosexual sex scenes were mostly shown in a fairly positive light (and if not, it was used to show how damaging the drugs can be and how they can make you do things that is considered wrong), whereas the heterosexual sex scenes (and women in general) were very violent.


Why is it controversial?

Like I said, it’s all graphic depictions of drug use and homosexuality. And considering this book was first published in 1959, the general public didn’t care for it too much.  However, my research indicates that Burrows knew the book wouldn’t be received well, but didn’t care either. He just wrote what he wrote.


My thoughts?

Well, to be frank, this wasn’t a pleasant read. In fact, it was actually pretty uncomfortable. The thing is, I swear I could feel Burrows  losing his mind to drugs. There is one other author I can compare him to: Sylvia Plath, who also wrote the insanities going on in her head, with the exception that hers came from depression while Burrows came from drug use.  And like reading Sylvia Plath, this book made me feel like I was exploring the mind of someone who was not all there and needed serious help.

Because of that, I can’t say I enjoyed this book. However, I can say I am glad that I read it, for it is a powerful work of fiction that is definitely worth reading.  The language was exquisite, and I was interested in what was going on. Because of that, I recommend it, but with caution. Because it’s really frickin’ weird.


Rating: Eh, I don’t know. Find out for yourself.


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