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Naked Lunch

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  88,063 ratings  ·  3,761 reviews
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 U.S. to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone.

The vignettes are drawn from Burroughs' own experiences in these places an
Paperback, 289 pages
Published January 26th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1959)
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Nick Ross In response to Evan: I've heard people say the same of Joyce and Faulkner. Usually people who have short attention spans, closed minds, or no understa…moreIn response to Evan: I've heard people say the same of Joyce and Faulkner. Usually people who have short attention spans, closed minds, or no understanding of the text itself. If you aren't willing to read external material on Burroughs' literary styles, nor have any experience with the strain of modernism they were built upon (this is post-modernism after all), it's no wonder your experience was pointless. But the world (the literary world) revolves around more than just yourself and whether or not you are caught up to speed on the established innovations of the early 20th century, books are written in response to other books. Perhaps you haven't spent enough time at the forefront of style and have only exposed yourself to linear narratives with comfortably accessible narrative forms and are unable to note Burroughs' use of "cut-up" junky dialect; can't pick up on the fact that the plot is composed of sub-stories; that the book is opposed to chronology and linearity, mirroring Burroughs's own opiate-induced psychoses.
Each chapter is full of grotesque humor, political innuendo, and (albeit drugged) adventure. You just need to know what you're reading and who you are reading. (less)
Buck The cover of the edition I'm reading says, "the restored text," so it may depend on which edition you have.…moreThe cover of the edition I'm reading says, "the restored text," so it may depend on which edition you have.(less)

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Average rating 3.46  · 
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 ·  88,063 ratings  ·  3,761 reviews

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AJ Griffin
Jul 02, 2007 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. ...more
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 n
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 sta
Mar 11, 2008 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
Joe S
Nov 29, 2007 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
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
Petra X is feeling very sad
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
Glenn Russell
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Glenn Russell ---
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 S. Burroughs ---
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. Couldn't help myself with the Alexander Pope-style heroic c
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A merry-go-round of grotesqueries & 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 mind
This was freakishly amazing, simultaneously making me wish I was on a full H binge with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Infinite Jest, and a whole slew of Stephen King books to cap off this horrific tome of pure poetry.

1959. And still absolutely harrowing today.

I thought movies like Requiem For A Dream or tv shows like The Wire were the most absolutely effective anti-drug memoir ever created by richly immersing us in the addict's life... but no.

Naked Lunch tips the reader right off a cliff into
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 08, 2009 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
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Way back in 1967 I caught the Postmodern English Lit bug.

I celebrated New Year by gorging my literary appetite on the short stories of Franz Kafka. I started Joyce’s Ulysses after reading his autobiography of Stephen Daedalus, whom I mistook for myself.

Suddenly I had an attitude.

And travelling to Montréal that summer for Expo - The World’s Fair - I immersed myself in its heady postmodernism, and discovered there a cornucopia of literary leads that would take me down fictional rabbit holes throu
Feb 14, 2008 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
Mar 29, 2008 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
Michael Finocchiaro
I kind of detest Burroughs for his abuse of boys in Morocco, but his writing was influential and quite a trip to read. This particular book - one of his most famous - is a druggy trip from the US to Mexico. It is sort of On the Road but taking about 10x more mescaline and cocaine and acid than Kerouac and his friends did. If you want to get a feeling for the crazy off the rails atmosphere of the 60s, this is the book for you.
Arthur Graham
Mar 09, 2012 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

"Nothing is true; everything is permitted,"

- Vladimir Bartol

Chinese translation: 萬事皆虛 諸事可為

This book is purely crazy (tons of crazy shit have gone on in this story), that's all I can tell you after I finished reading the Chinese translation (published in Taiwan). I also admit I don't think I fully understand what William S. Burroughs tried to tell us, and some parts of the story really tend to drag on and on for no good reason.

The whole story reads like a series of junkie's nightmarish, incoher
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
Michael Kneeland
Jul 04, 2008 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 Ta
Oct 09, 2007 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
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drugs, classics
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
Apr 19, 2008 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
Apr 22, 2013 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
Ryan Leone
May 03, 2014 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
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
This novel is the literary equivalent to Jackson Pollock's drip paintings: Cut-up in a myriad of individual pieces that were then re-assembled in a more or less random manner, the story becomes liquid, and the panicked reader is adrift. You can certainly try to put everything Burroughs throws at you in a coherent order, but this author's aesthetic intentions will probably defeat you. Much like in the case of Pollock's drips of paint which create random patterns that seem to shift the longer you ...more
Steven Godin

"They call me the Exterminator.
At one brief point of intersection I did exercise that
function and witnessed the belly dance of roaches
suffocating in yellow pyretheum powder"

Can't believe this junk-lit classic is more than half-a-century old, as it feels as fresh and relevant today as it did back then. Its clear to see why this would have a cult following, like, for example, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It's that kinda novel. And whilst I had problems with the narrative structurally, it was an
Naked Lunch is a symphony of smut; a fever-dream of filth; a hallucination; a work of art. This is not a novel that charts an easy course. It is wild, erratic, crude to the extreme, and largely incomprehensible but for occasional moments of clarity. There is genius in these naked pages, a raw and fractured genius, the voice of the depraved and drug-addled, mainlined, unfiltered, directly into the vein. This lunch is opulent, sumptuous, but excessive, tainted, vomit-inducing. Burroughs's masterpi ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Feb 07, 2014 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 sh
Jan 08, 2012 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.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
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
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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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