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Naked Lunch

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  58,242 Ratings  ·  2,526 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
Paperback, 289 pages
Published January 26th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1959)
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Evan Pazur No it was terrible. I listened to it as a audio book on a long drive I don't think I could have gotten to the end otherwise. Just a bunch of random…moreNo it was terrible. I listened to it as a audio book on a long drive I don't think I could have gotten to the end otherwise. Just a bunch of random words. I think people who pretend to enjoy this book are just too afraid to admit they don't understand it.(less)
Lydia Nah, it's a classic. It was however banned in Boston (1965).

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 09, 2007 ryan rated it did not like it
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.
May 29, 2007 Michael rated it it was ok
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
mark monday
Feb 07, 2013 mark monday rated it really liked it
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
AJ Griffin
Jul 02, 2007 AJ Griffin is currently reading it
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.
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
Oct 09, 2007 Hunter rated it really liked it
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
Joe S
Nov 29, 2007 Joe S rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
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
Feb 22, 2008 Ivy rated it did not like it
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 18, 2009 Lauryl rated it really liked it
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
Mar 29, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 20, 2008 Inder rated it did not like it
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
Petra X
I've just seen that there is a David Cronenburg film of this book. It's the perfect pairing. The only other person who could have filmed this is perhaps John Waters, and he's maybe a bit friendly.

If you've read the book and ever watched a Cronenburg film, you're eyes just bugged out and jaw dropped at the idea of it, right? If not, why not? Explain.

The book is sparklingly brilliant, awful, nasty, wicked and beautiful. The work of a genius. There are a lot of good reviews out there, I'm not up t
Michael Kneeland
Jun 26, 2012 Michael Kneeland rated it really liked it
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 Tang
Jul 05, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing
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
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 01, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 01, 2011 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, drugs
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
Jeffrey Keeten
May 20, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”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
Jan 21, 2012 Lou rated it liked it
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.
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Arthur Graham
Jan 30, 2014 Arthur Graham rated it really liked it
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

“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 its 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 fr
Oct 07, 2015 Lyn rated it it was ok
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs is a corrosive mash-up of Hunter S. Thompson, George Carlin and a hoarse whisper of Jim Morrison, (and the good doctor Thompson no doubt kept a volume of Burroughs on his desk between the dictionary and the thesaurus).

Wake up Charles Bukowski at noon, scrape him off the floor of an Oakland flophouse, feed him, sober him cold, clean him up with a shower and shave and tailor a nice suit around him and you APPROACH the simmering rage of Burroughs, the feral, hau
Barry Pierce
Oh boy. One part of me wants to throw this novel away because some parts are written like a 15-year-old's first foray into erotic fanfiction while another part of me wants to hail this as a masterpiece of filth that would make John Waters sick. So I'm going to settle in the middle. There are some parts of this novel that made me go "what the actual fuck" but I like that. I like it when literally every boundary is pushed as far as it can go. The prose is nonsensical and disorientating which is pr ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Apr 15, 2014 Kelly (and the Book Boar) rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Ksenia Anske
Jun 12, 2016 Ksenia Anske rated it it was amazing
Colorful. Spastic. An ejaculate burst of prose. You don't need to know what "hallucinating" means, just sink your head in Burrough's words and let them get you high. Human mosaic. Hard cocks and pink tender asses. Junkies, hustlers, prostitutes. You can read this book from any page, really. It'll dazzle you, or piss you off, or make you giggle to luxurious death by satire from hell.
Ryan Leone
Dec 15, 2014 Ryan Leone rated it did not like it
I shot heroin for a decade, and at the time, I had this wrongful solidarity towards the culture and arts that surrounded it.

My first exposure to Burroughs was the novel Junky - a trashy pulp book with a thin plot. Even at 19, a period when starring at my tennis shoes for multiple hours at a time entertained me, I found no enjoyment from this man's prose.

Fast forward about 6 years, I'm in the middle of a long federal prison stretch, my literary receptors have become more pronounced. I'm getting
Sep 22, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
A merry-go-round of grotesqueries and infinite pain. The life of the junky means nothing and so the experience is circular-- a self-(or is it?)punishment, an act of extreme nihilism-- this is a cry from the very depths of hell, and the last time I checked the most successful account of it was by a man named Dante Alighieri.

Burroughs out-writes those terribly true duds of literary fame, mainly Henry Miller, Kerouac, et. al. This is incendiary, fantastic, simply put, a bonafide WORK OF ART. In my
Jun 10, 2014 RandomAnthony rated it it was amazing
So I finally finished Naked Lunch. The (uh...) novel blew my mind. And he wrote this shit in the 50s! Holy Christ! I picture the average guy with a crew cut standing outside an aluminum-sided house (was aluminum-siding invented yet?) jumping up and down, looking for someone to punch, in black and white. But Naked Lunch is so much more than any obscenity controversy or Beat Generation (barf) pigeon-holing. Hipsters, junkies, New York art scenesters, whatever, they've all tried to claim this book ...more
Glenn Russell
Nov 03, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Glenn R --- Speak to us straight about your Lunch that’s bare
Twisted, dirty and anything but fair.
Your words like needles sticking in our veins
As you write of dopefiends, coke bugs and dames.

William B --- Rube, the word we use in this world is junk
You’ll hear straight without funny stuff or funk.
Read the damn book; I have nothing more to add
For embellishing perfection has never been a fad.

This is a one-of-a-kind novel. I'll be posting a review in the next week. Couldn't help myself with the rhy
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  • The Atrocity Exhibition
  • Visions of Cody
  • The Man Who Loved Children
  • The Recognitions
  • William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle, Brion Gysin
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn
  • At Swim-Two-Birds
  • Story of the Eye
  • William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible
  • Falconer
  • Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs
  • Dog Soldiers
  • Black Spring
  • Kaddish and Other Poems
  • The Thief's Journal
  • Go
  • The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr Norris/Goodbye to Berlin
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
More about William S. Burroughs...

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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” 370 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.” 137 likes
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