Monday, September 5, 2011

Buried in W.Burroughs' "The Naked Lunch"

The first time I heard of William Burroughs was in college.  A girlfriend mentioned his name and book ("Junkie") in passing along with Jame Frye's "A Million Pieces."  I read "A Million Pieces."

Sidenote: I still loved that book despite what Oprah's says.

Back on Track: Burroughs still stayed in my mind as a must read author.  Of course, this does not mean I went out and bought any of his books right away.  College was a long time ago for me.  Sigh, nostalgic glance/stare at nothing specific, float back to reality.  At home one day, I was looking for a good reason to buy more books and I turned on a documentary on William Burroughs, a Netflix instant watch selection.  I only watched about a third of it because I really should have been doing other things for work - the work that pays me.  But in that thirty minutes I actually saw the man, heard him speak, and began to get the idea of his attitude.  I knew he did lots of drugs and liked to drink - a lot.  But I didn't know much more than that.  Those thirty minutes talked about his attitude toward sexuality and what he thought about himself being called "revolutionary."  He didn't seem to make a big deal out of it.  He was just being himself or that's how I took his attitude.  He wasn't one to speak out unnecessarily about himself or opinions.  Yet, he didn't seem to pass over the questions asked of him.

I also learned in the brief time I watched the film that "The Naked Lunch" was among his early novels.  I think the film said it may have been one of the first novels he started to write but not necessarily published first.  Having a thing for first books lately (read previous post) I bought it.  It just so happened one of my writer date friends had the book too.  So we decided to read it together and gave ourselves two weeks.  As I normally do I began the book on my train commute to work.  It took me just the first page to realize I'd gotten myself into something sick, deep, and truly beyond my norm. Two weeks was not going to be enough, I knew that right away.  And luckily, my girlfriend agreed.  We agreed to postpone our reading schedule to focus on other projects.  Because I have uncontrollable type A tendencies I kept reading the book.  I figured it was going to be one of those books you have to read over many times before you even break into understanding it.  If my own intuition wasn't enough the guy at the DMV warned I'd gotten myself into something deep, sick, and best to read many times over.

I'm not sure how to read this book.  Earlier in the summer I read a book that made me uncomfortable, but not like this book.  It's not a straight narrative, I think its a pschological narrative, if that makes sense.  Its been just over four weeks and I still am not at 100 pages of this 200 page book.  Now there are lots of plain ole busy life reasons I have not gotten far in the book.  However, to be honest I don't think they are the culprit this time around.  It bothers me I have to work so hard to try and keep my head above water when reading this book.  I find myself just pushing through the pages as fast as I can because I already know I have to reread it.

I'd like to hear other peoples opinions and advice about reading Burroughs or other novels/authors they found difficult to keep up with.  I know some people don't even keep going if they aren't into the book or author.  I can understand that, but I would at least like to get through one whole book of Burrough before writing him off as "not my kind of author."

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.  This is certainly a book I will be reading the notes and extras at the back and wish I could have read in a class with a teacher or expert helping me along the way.

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