Friday, August 10, 2018

Curation #109 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Item #109 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover 1959 copyright Grove Press, Inc. 12th printing of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch. 255 pages, it measures about 5-1/2" x 8" and is in very good condition. The provenance is that I bought it from Twice-Sold Tales, a used bookstore in Farmington, Maine, for $10.50 a few years ago.

Naked Lunch is widely acknowledged as Burroughs' masterpiece, the title of which was suggested by Jack Kerouac. It means "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork" (p. v). The book is a series of vignettes that Burroughs would say can be read in any order. It deals with familiar Burroughs themes: drug addiction, sexuality, the "establishment." The book was banned in Boston for obscenity, but won on appeal as having "social value."

Confession: I've tried to read Naked Lunch twice and stopped both times. Most recently, last month, I made it to p. 51 (a section titled, "The Black Meat") before I stalled out. To me, it is as incoherent as The Wild Boys, which I opined about here (make sure to read Kurt Phaneuf's comment). But that is part of Burroughs' genius, the unsettling of the reader not only by topic but also by the writing itself.

I'll slog through it eventually.

Below is a picture of Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (3rd from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: One and Only: The Untold Story of On The Road & Lu Anne Henderson, the Woman Who Started Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on Their Journey by Gerald Nicosia and Anne Marie Santos.

Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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