has been kind enough to supply us with a by-now stock interpretation of the title of his friend William S. Burroughs
"The title means exactly what the words say: Naked Lunch - a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork."
This book is the result of an unusually fruitful period in Burroughs' life, after he had (accidentally)(?) shot and killed his wife
and finally been detoxified (of harder drugs
) by Dr. John Yerbury Dent
treatment. Quick as a whip, he returned to his home-away-from-home Tangiers
where, on a nutritious marijuana
diet, he typed at top speed for six hours a day, not even stopping to pick up the pages of yellow foolscap manuscript as they were ejected from the typewriter, piling up in a scattered heap on the floor. This whole period is portrayed in a rather interpretive manner in David Cronenberg
's movie Naked Lunch
, about the writing of the book as seen through Burrough's drug-withdrawal delusional paranoia.
Upon deeming the text complete he called for his friends' assistance and in 1957 Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky arrived to help with the manuscript - no mean feat considering Burroughs' cut-up technique (dichotomyboi* would like me to note: a technique admittedly not employed until some time later -- but the germs of his post-modern approach to such bourgeois notions as a coherent narrative can certainly be observed in action here.) Ginsberg, with the further assistance of Alan Ansen, also worked six hours a day for two months putting the manuscript in order, at which point it arrived in the form of the coherent (har har) text we all know and love today.
Fearing (and perhaps expecting) censorship on account of the book's harsh language and its graphic depictions of drug use, homosexual acts and ... cannibalism, the manuscript was offered to Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press in Paris who eventually (1959, after about five years in limbo) bought the book. Naked Lunch was banned in the United States (surprise, surprise), and was only published on this side of the water after Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer was cleared of obscenity charges in 1962. Though it was critically spurned (not given poor reviews, but barely acknowledged at all) Naked Lunch's reputation grew from the notoriety of its author, his association with the Beat movement and the censorship trials it faced to become one of the most important novels of the Beat era and a striking moment in American Literature today.
(Also worth mentioning: in Simpsons episode 3F17, "Bart on the Road
", a posse of delinquents sneaks into this racily-titled R-rated movie. Two hours later they leave, Nelson Muntz
exclaiming "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title.")
* dichotomyboi says As I recollect, the typings in Tangiers were part of a larger overall work that he referred to as "The Word Hoard", portions of which became Naked Lunch. While portions of the novel feel non-sequitor, it is distinctly different from the sections of cut up prose in the Nova Trilogy. I'm currently writing a guide to reading the Novel, and all of this stuff is really fresh.