So, I Finally Read Naked Lunch...

I believe that William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch is most likely a work of genius. It's exceedingly difficult to be sure, though. At the extremes, revolutionary structure and slapdash organization can look much the same. There may be no better example of this than Naked Lunch, since, by design, it's meant to be a book you can open to any page and start reading. I took it as a series of thematically linked vignettes, but at a certain point, who really knows? 

It's a shorter book than it looks; the edition I read contained only one hundred and ninety or so pages of text. Its padded out by extensive notes by both the author and the editors of this particular version of the book. It felt a good deal longer. It was probably the most difficulty book I've read, surpassing Pynchon by a good distance. 

It's fierce, it's evocative, and it's funny as hell if you squint at it. It's also obtuse, repetitive, and not nearly so shocking as it surely was when it was first released. That's the danger of being a trailblazer. The efforts of cutting the first path through the forest are seldom appreciated decades later when an interstate now runs directly over the trail you blazed. That doesn't diminish Naked Lunch, but it certainly changes how the reader experiences the book.

Unlike most books, I'd say that reading the material at the end of the volume is essential to Naked Lunch. The sections covering the process which produced the book explain a great deal about the finished product. Burroughs' unflinching descriptions of his experiences with opiates and their various cures is not only gives you more conventional view of what he went through, it also shows what a clear, concise writer he could be when he chose to do so.

It's a hell of a book, utterly unique in my experience, and not at all the sort of thing you should read on a train surrounded by fellow commuters. I know this from personal experience. Trust me.