Just this once I’m going to live with a blurry photo (”ha ha,” long time readers respond, “the hell you say. You’re shit at photos.” Yes. Yes I am). It seems appropriate somehow for Burroughs.
I’m not going to link to it, but I just ran across a blog post decrying this novel, and in the end it’s the same old tedious arguments: “too hard to understand, not traditional enough, too much sex and drug use.” Look, this isn’t my Favorite Novel Evar, but it’s really not that weird. Indeed, I suspect said blogger didn’t even get to this section of the book, because it’s the thesis statement (and I know they read the same edition I have). Said blogger is clearly “taking his own pulse.” The point of the book is simply to get the reader out of his or her own head. Of course it’s about drugs – no one would write about drugs in the 50s. The book shows you how to “open the door at the end of the hall,” a phrase reminiscent of Blake’s “doors of perception.” Given this passage starts with a reference to Beowulf, I think it’s not unreasonable the book we already know is erudite is dropping some Blake on us.
I didn’t actually start the calligraphy with the intention of yelling about this guy online. I hadn’t read the post yet. But this was the line I chose to write out, and it is perfect for the circumstances.
Long story short: the book isn’t perfect. It’s almost not good in the traditional sense. It exists to do something to the reader, as all literature does, but in this case it’s almost the action that is the only content – most books want to “open your mind” to *something*. Naked Lunch just wants to jar the door open so you can see what gets in.
(It certainly doesn’t lionize drug use. Read this book if you never, ever want to try heroin but think you might be tempted sometime.)