13 June 2007

Have you eaten your Naked Lunch?

In my neverending spate of William S. Burroughs-related projects, I'm preparing an piece for a 50th-anniversary collection of essays on Naked Lunch to be released by Southern Illinois University Press. The anniversary, btw, will be in 2009.

I've taught the novel a number of times, and, always always forget that what I now gloss over in the text from my repeated readings...well...many readers still find shocking, patently offensive, disturbing, etc.

In fact, I've started to classify NL as one of those books, like Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, that many people own, but few actually read.

So, I wonder if any of you could share your thoughts on this--has NL been important to you? Have you read it? Do you own it?

My supposition is that the book's major legacy has been in non-print media: the adoption of Burroughsian editing/identity-mixing techniques in everything from YouTube to Second Life to MTV to the cult of popular celebrity. Conversely, I'm not sure that the text has been succesfuly co-opted, or "made safe" in the last five decades for the literary establishment. Thus, the literary legacy of the text may stand with the small presses such as Chiasmus or Spuyten Duyvil, willing to publish literature for concerns which exist to some extent outside the marketplace and the reversed economy of traditional academia (although, yes, I know, not completely).

Perspectives welcomed--and I'll integrate responses into the article. Reply here or directly to me at dschneiderman AT lakeforest DOT edu.