That’s a strange title, isn’t it? Well, one of the best American writers of the 20th century titled what is probably his most bizarre book just that. I’m referring to William S. Burroughs. Someone who Norman Mailer described as “the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius.” I don’t know about that, but he was “possessed” by something.
I never read Naked Lunch. But I’ve seen the film adaptation of it. I misspoke in my article The Curious Case of the Davids when I said Lost Highway is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. Naked Lunch surpasses it by a light year. I first saw it years ago while very high on weed. I’m positive Burroughs would’ve wanted it that way. He fought heroin and other drug addiction his entire life. But heroin couldn’t possibly have inspired this. No drug could. Not even LSD. The only thing that I can think of that comes close is Total Locked-in Syndrome, something that is extremely rare, and usually not survived. But I have been through it and obviously survived the experience.
There’s just no way that I can describe the film. It’s semi-autobiographical. In that it describes a writer by the name of William Lee (Burroughs’s pen name), who accidentally kills his wife (Burroughs did) and then he gets lost in a “drug” fueled realm called “The Interzone”. After that, you’ll just have to see it for yourself. Because even Burroughs said that the chapters were meant to be read in no particular order. But the film does have a flow. So it has something like a story. It deals with bisexuality, and underwent a court battle during its publishing due to anti-sodomy laws. It deals with all kinds of bizarre things.
If this film doesn’t stretch your perception of reality to its breaking point, nothing ever will. Maybe an extended Salvia trip is what you’ll have to resort to. Here’s a sample quote:
IMDb Naked Lunch (1991) –
Bill Lee: “Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. This asshole talk had sort of a gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell. This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriliquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called The Better Ole that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, “Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?” “Nah I had to go relieve myself.” After a while the asshole started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his asshole would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time. Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and start eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him, “It is you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we dont need you around here any more. I can talk and eat AND shit.” After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpoles tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have have amputated spontaneous – except for the EYES you dig. Thats one thing the asshole COULDN’T do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldnt give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes WENT OUT, and there was no more feeling in them than a crabs eyes on the end of a stalk.”
That was small talk. In a car ride, with his gay lover resting on his shoulder, enjoying the sound of his voice. If that’s artistic genius, it’s beyond my capacity to understand. Of course I can understand and even relate to the mathematical variety. But artistic genius is alien thought to me.