The Naked Lunch
William S. Burroughs
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The Naked Lunch

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  41,207 ratings  ·  1,790 reviews
Naked Lunch (sometimes The Naked Lunch) is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier...more
238 pages
Published 1971 by Ullstein (first published 1959)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED lunch--a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of the fork.” The book title was suggested by Jack Kerouac.


If not for the intervention of William S. Burroughs friends, Naked Lunch would have never seen the light of day. Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac decided to visit Burroughs in Tangiers and see if they could salvage any of the fragmented writing that had been dripping from the mind of Burroughs while he was nurs...more
mark monday
WARNING: nasty language ahead, including the use of some of my favorite phrases from the novel; these include such choice nuggets as mugwump jism and to turn a massacre into a sex orgy and a bubbly thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell and the subject will come at his whistle, shit on the floor if he but say Open Sesame. anyway,


I’ll be honest, mugwump jism, it took me a while to get into Naked Lunch, to turn a massacre into a sex orgy. Three attempts, to be exact, a bubbly thick stagnan...more
Joe S
So, basically, the meaningless drivel of the very first circuit boi? Seriously? Maybe I would have liked it better if I weren't already sick to death of all the hallucinatory narratives this book spawned. This is a structure that needed to be created only once to get the bastard over with and properly buried.

Drug narratives are always only autobiographies obsessed with the author's secret obscene wishes and (inevitably) Neanderthal politics. They are the literary equivalent of a frotteur on the...more
This book is beautiful in a sick-grotesque-wild-hilarious-creative-mind-bending-outlandish-drug-filled-dirty-brave kind of way. If I could use one word to describe it, it would be “bizarre”; although “hilarious” and “important” could work, too. In Naked Lunch you are taken into the mind of William S. Burroughs -- a twisted, drug addicted man, who also happens to be genius.

When considering its content, it’s no wonder Naked Lunch was banned and railed against when it was first released; it’s also...more
Mar 18, 2009 Lauryl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people who are not my mom
The flaw of the 5-star rating system is in trying figure out whether you should award stars based on how much you liked a book, or based on how "good" you think a book is. These two criteria are often distinct from each other, and Naked Lunch, at least for me, is a perfect example of this. I think that Naked Lunch is a brilliant book, an that Burroughs is one of our century's great literary geniuses. So, that makes it a five star book. But did I enjoy reading it? Sometimes very much, sometimes n...more
AJ Griffin
Jul 02, 2007 AJ Griffin is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: drug addicts and crazy people
From the 20 pages I've read so far, it seems like starting a heroin habit is a bad idea.
Feb 22, 2008 Ivy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people who are into this sort of thing
Recommended to Ivy by: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker
Shelves: read-half-of-it
I made it just a little bit past the passage mentioning Steely Dan the dildo (actually, it's three generations of dildos all thriving under the Steely Dan name). And then, at the request of my old man who was sick of hearing me complain and puzzle over this book, I put it down for good. I don't like to leave books unfinished, but a girl can only swallow so many reiterations of the same tired orgiastic death-by-hanging scenario before she puts her foot down and says NO MORE!
I almost liked the bo...more
Ugh. I'm sure this is very brilliant and all, but it's extremely unpleasant to read. Physically repulsive, it's enough to scare anyone away from heroin, and yet, in some ways, it glorifies the experience in a self-indulgent way. Mind you, the book has no plot, and is just one drug-induced hallucination after another. It gets pretty boring after a while. Even extreme disgust gets old after about 50 pages. You're so numb after a few pages that Burrough's attempts to get nastier and nastier and sho...more
Arthur Graham
I'd love to rate this one higher, but however groundbreaking it was at the time, I always felt that Burroughs went on to produce much better books. Just like Kerouac had stronger stuff than On the Road, so too did WSB in comparison to this.

It still has one of the most apt titles ever. Contrary to what the small-minded prudes who brought the obscenity case against it assumed, this book has nothing to do with some lewd midday meal. "Naked Truth" might've been a better title, if it weren't such a m...more
What can you say about Uncle Bill that hasn't already been said? I know that there was an obscenity trial over this book back in the day, but it still amazes me that he wasn't killed by an angry mob in the streets. Remember this was published in an America that didn't allow married couples on television shows to sleep in the same bed or use the word "pregnant". The text is obviously extremely disturbing. Make no mistake, reading this book is an endurance test. If you make it through you will fee...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 01, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012); Time 100 Best Novels; 501 Must Read Books (Modern Fiction)
This book is not easy to read if your idea of reading is that it has a linear plot, characters that are either good, bad or somewhere in between, spirit-uplifting narratives and dialogues and inspiring theme.

This book has none of those. Yet, this is one of the best-written books that I've ever read. Reading this was just a different experience: you don't know where Burroughs would take you every time you lift the page, you don't know who would appear as the characters and what they would say or...more
Found this file I started on my computer June 9, 2007:

Hypertext Reading of Naked Lunch

Reading Naked Lunch as it was intended: open the book at any page and just read what is there. Keeping track of pages read, so that there is no duplication and each page is given its consideration. Am a bit anal about these things, so I'm not going to cut in the middle of a chapter...going to read nearest chapter from where I pry open the book. The book is never meant to end, because it's an immortal junky's ni...more
This book needs plenty of warnings on the front. Possibly drive you crazy and scar you for life. He goes to the edge and over full laden with drugs, profanity, sex, grossness and sadism. I think he has gone a bit too extreme, it seems that was his purpose to hit a nerve and cause revulsion in the reader.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
A love/hate relationship...I'm thinking about it still, at least overnight. God, I hope this doesn't intrude on my dreams...

As far as I can tell, Naked Lunch is a series of drug related or induced experiences. My thoughts at the beginning of this book were variations of "I hate this. Why am I reading this." Around page 40/50, I realized that I was trapped. I kept putting the book down but would pick it up rather quickly thereafter out of curiosity. Creepy, trippy, and unnecessary, the words suck...more
Michael Kneeland
I'm not an uber beat generation guru, but I'm fairly certain that Naked Lunch is the final destination to the journey started by Jack Kerouac in On the Road . It is very rhythmic (try reading it out loud) but also incredibly stream-of-conscious, much more so than Kerouac's novel (and he can get pretty damn stream-of-conscious).

This novel depicts the life (if you want to call it that) of a junkie in the '60s who travels from America to Mexico and finally lands [halfway across the globe] in Tangi...more
Feb 19, 2008 Christos rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: college students desperate to look cooler than their friends who read the DaVinci Code.
Recommended to Christos by: Dr. Kevorkian
To quote Nelson Muntz of Springfield,

"I find TWO things wrong with that title".

All kidding aside, there are some books that I will dub way, WAY (did I say way?) too self-indulgent that others will brand 'genius' or 'groundbreaking'. This is probably one of them. It may be 'cool' to dig the hipster vibe and carry around a worn paperback copy of (for example) On the Road in your backpocket with your notes scribbled in the margins, as verification of membership in the Intelligentsiassociation, but...more
Oct 09, 2007 Hunter rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: The few, the brave, and those eager to know where Steely Dan got their name.
This book makes no sense, not that it matters. Burroughs wrote it over the course of a year in a one-room apartment over a Moroccan male brothel, strung out on heroin. What resulted is a disturbing, satirical, bitter flood of images. To call it a meditation or a portrait doesn't do it justice: "Naked Lunch" is the lifeblood of a dying mind. It is a collection of vaguely-linked scenes, images, and flash pieces some humor, some horror, some pornography. As you might expect, it drags in places, bu...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Hmmmmmm, what can I say about Naked Lunch????? I think I’ll let the immortal words of Gwen Stefani speak for me . . .

I’ll gladly admit I’m probably too stupid to see the genius that Burroughs created with this book, but I just don’t see it. A series of incoherent ramblings from a drug-addled mind published in order to blur the boundary between art and obscenity that just don’t stand the test of time. 50+ years ago, this work was shock...more
Jul 05, 2008 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Maureen by: Patti Smith
Shelves: novel, experimental
I am not sure if Naked Lunch is really a book, or a piece of experiential art. On either level, it works if you relax, let the words wash over you, and don't spend too much time trying to figure it out. It is like one of those mosaic pictures where, on the micro level, all it looks like is a bunch of little squares. When you step back, though, you see the Mona Lisa. This book wormed its way into my psyche to such an extent that I started spontaneously quoting from its pages in all sorts of impro...more
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Marco Tamborrino
Questo libro può essere considerato capolavoro da alcuni e spazzatura da altri. Io non mi sento di chiamarlo in nessuno dei due modi, anche se propendo più per il secondo. 'Pasto nudo' è, come dice anche Burroughs stesso nella postfazione, proprio ciò che il titolo sta a suggerire. Burroughs ha passato quindicini anni a drogarsi, sperimentando tutti i tipi di droga esistenti o quasi, e in questi anni ha scritto 'Pasto nudo'.

"Uno scrittore può scrivere soltando di una cosa: di quello che c'è dava...more
Oct 30, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: oh yes
well...nothing is true and everything is permitted. that is the lesson, isn't it? cut up the words, more words come. cut up the book, get a new book. cut up your life, get a new life. however, shoot heroin for years and accidentally kill your wife and you could end up writing one of the greatest literary achievements of all time.
“THIS IS NOT A NOVEL”, capitalized emphatically Burroughs in a letter to his editor, mimicking the horrified denial of any respectable 16th century writer suspected to have embraced such a minor genre. And he's right, Naked Lunch is definitely not a novel – not even in a post-modern, experimentalist or nouveau roman sense – it’s at most a series of short stories or rather vignettes, kept together by some narrative hooks, which are sometimes a narrator, William Lee, or characters migrating from a...more
James Newman

As a man William S. Burroughs was probably not the best example for the moralists to look up to. The old junkie's reputation has however, remained as strong as it ever was. To this day Burroughs is worshiped by many a grown up literate libertine, who probably should know better. Whisper his name and see images of the Hombre de invisible wearing a three-piece suit holding court at the Beat Hotel, talking at length about growing weed in Mexico, the dreaded candiru or planning explorations to lost...more
Call me unhip, but...
When Burroughs was living in Tangiers, Allen Ginsberg went to visit him, and found the former so gone on heroin he (Burroughs) was just lying in a heap on the floor of a dingy, purulent apartment. Ginsberg spent an hour at his friend's side, without getting any response, or ever bearing witness to Burroughs even knowing he (Ginsberg (or, hell, Burroughs himself)) was there, and then left. Burroughs' life in Tangiers was evidently lived this way: only moving when he was out o...more
Mike Philbin
though it was an honorable pseudo-biopic, screw that David Cronenberg film - it was sex-dead. I want my Naked Lunch RAW, dripping blood, other bodily fluids and sexual grease, for K-rist's sake.

as for the book, it's lovely-strange in a way that needs to be experienced by most adult readers.

it's mankind's right.
This book is crap. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg should have left it on the crusty, filth-laden floor of Burrough's apartment where they found it. If you want to read a book written by a guy on enough drugs to kill a stallion, please, by all means, subject your brain to hell. Otherwise, read "Junky," at least it has a plot. Sort of.
I give up.
Maclain Rigdon
I read this book because Burroughs shows up as Old Bull Lee in several of Kerouac's books, and I wanted to get a different perspective. What I got was a bombardment of the senses. I had to literally fight my way through this book, but by the end I started thinking of it like one big long joke, like "The Aristocrats" and I was able to stomach it much easier like that. To be honest, I am fascinated by this work, and I plan to read essays online and otherwise to find out more about this famous work...more
Jan 07, 2008 katie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys reading about abject human desolation and squalor of mind
I know this is one of those hip books you're supposed to like, but I found it nauseating, self-indulgent, revolting. It made my psyche ill. So I guess I should say it was effective... still, I had to take about seven hot showers after reading the little bit I actually got through, to remove this fetid exercise in grotesque nightmare-craft from my being. That said, this book stands as an important remonstrance against literary and social censorship - an issue very dear to my heart, and becoming d...more
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William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century...more
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“You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative” 234 likes
“The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.” 92 likes
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