What does a book have to do to get this sort of reaction? That’s the easy part. Naked Lunch has enough visceral violence, sex, sexual violence, general depravity, and drug use to make even the most jaded reader blanch. But Burrough’s masterpeice isn’t out for cheap shock value. Rather, the disturbing, surreal images serve to underscore the book’s cry for freedom from the invisible prisons of a culture that treats people as merely means to an end. It’s the revelation of our own everyday inhumanity, reflected back to us in grotesque and larger-than-life form, that makes this book hit home.
Naked Lunch is a great book. Not just a Great Book, but actually a fascinating, disturbing, mind-opening and gut-wrenching read. Naked Lunch is also a hard read. Much of it is written in Burrough’s signature “cut-up” style--the literary equivalent of impressionism, if Van Gogh were to paint his worst nightmares, tear the canvases to shreds, and glue them back together at random. Trying to trace the thin threads of theme and motif tying together words, sentences, and scenes quickly leaves the reader bewildered, mentally exhausted, and open to the full impact of the text’s delicate and dangerous poetry.
Star Rating: 5. Caution: This book doesn’t play nice; expect to be appalled.
Sum it up: If ever a novel begged to be banned by the powers that be, this is it. Strike a blow for your own freedom, and pick up a copy today! (Incidentally, the movie adaptation is no more understandable, but other than that it has little in common with the book. Give it a pass unless you're a fan of cinematic surrealism--in which case, you've probably already seen it.)