Naked Lunch

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The publication of Naked Lunch in Paris in 1959 captured the spirit of the counter-culture revolution that was to grow in Europe and America throughout the '60s. Its author, William S. Burroughs, was hailed as a leader of this 'beat generation', along with such luminaries as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Publication of the novel in America in 1962 added fuel to the fire of this avante-garde movement, which gained impetus with his Nova Trilogy; The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket That Exploded (1962) and Nova Express (1964).

This last novel's title lent itself to the formation of The Nova Convention, a series of New York seminars attended by beat-poets, novelists, essayists, social critics, spoken-word performers and musicians, with William S. Burroughs at the helm. Frank Zappa attended one of these performances in December 1978 and read The Talking Asshole, from Naked Lunch.

Burroughs wrote a covering article for the DVD release of the movie Naked Lunch (filmed by David Cronenberg in 1991) in which he said; "...In 1979 Frank Zappa came to me with the concept of 'Naked Lunch' as an off-Broadway musical. This struck me - and still does - as a pregnant idea, but it was not to be." They remained friends and FZ sent a dozen roses to Burroughs for his 70th birthday in 1984.

FZ's use of caricature, satire and parody in his work has similarities to those of Burroughs. In Naked Lunch Burroughs exposes the pitfalls of America's consumerist state, and the overall human addiction to control. Its sub-plots of taboo fantasies and drug-addiction, peculiar and monstrous creatures, eccentric personalities and corruption help unmask mechanisms and processes of control, but led to much controversy among American readers.

Naked Lunch was banned by Boston courts in 1962 due to obscenity. A decision reversed in 1966 by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the last major literary censorship battle in America. The Appeals Court found the book did not violate obscenity statutes, as it was found to have some social value.

Burroughs states in the book's introduction; "The title means exactly what the words say: Naked Lunch, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork."


See Also