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William Burroughs' NAKED LUNCH

Updated on September 19, 2014

I know I'm some kind of interplanetary agent but I don't think my signals are decoding properly.

On July 7, 1966, the Supreme Court of the state of Massachusetts cleared William S. Burrough's novel NAKED LUNCH of obscenity charges, reversing an earlier Superior Court decision. They stated that Burroughs frank descriptions of drug use and graphic sex were protected by the First Amendment, and prevented the book from being banned in the state. The novel has also been declared non-obscene at a trial in 1965 in Los Angeles.

Why "Naked Lunch?"

as William Burroughs himself explained...

"I awoke from The Sickness at the age of forty-five, calm and sane, and in reasonablly good health except for a weakened liver and the look of borrowed flesh common to all who survive The Sickness.... Most survivors do not remember the delirium in detail. I apparently took detailed notes on sickness and delirium. I have no precise memory of writing the notes which have now been published under the title Naked Lunch. The title was suggested by Jack Kerouac. I did not understand what the title meant until my recent recovery. The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch - a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork."

-- William Burroughs, from the introduction to NAKED LUNCH

Burroughs was a drug addict for the majority of his adult life. This is what he is referring to when he speaks of "the Sickness." Over the course of his writings, he makes it clear that he didn't necessarily have one particular substance that was his favorite: he used and abused a stunning array of medications in his lifetime.

See Just What's On The End Of The Fork... - performance clips, videos, movie excerpts, interpretations

The Movie - directed by David Cronenberg

The matching of author Burroughs with director Cronenberg seems a natural one... I mean, who else could film an adaptation of a book deemed unfilmable? Cronenberg uses the novel as a jumping off point, dipping back into the text for delicious bits of dialog and bringing the themes of addiction and control to light.

Into The Interzone - what's your opinion of NAKED LUNCH?

How do you feel about this book?


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