First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
“The reader follows the narration of junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. The vignettes (which Burroughs called “routines”) are drawn from Burroughs’ own experience in these places, and his addiction to drugs (heroin, morphine, and while in Tangier, “Majoun”—a strong marijuana confection—as well as a German opioid, brand name Eukodol, of which he wrote frequently).” Excerpt from Goodreads.com
Happy Friday everyone! Another work week is finally done. October is slowly drawing to a close. The proverbial curtains are closing down on 2021. A new year is about to unravel, with 365 blank canvasses to be drawn on. But before the year the year ends, I hope that everything you prayed for gets answered, that you reap the benefits of everything you have sowed. I hope that you get repaid for all the kindness you have showered the world. I also pray that you are all keeping safe in this time filled with uncertainties. I hope that the new year will usher in happiness and good news. More importantly, I hope you stay healthy and well, in spirit, in body, and in mind. I am fervently praying that the pandemic will end soon.
One of my goals before the year end is to complete my reading lists. Except for my Goodreads reading challenge, all my reading challenges are not looking great; I am lagging behind. With this in mind, I shifted towards American literature as some of the books I listed in my reading challenges are right up this alley. One of these books is William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, one of many books I bought during the first Manila Big Bad Wolf Book Sale back in early 2018. How I miss those times. Anyway, I bought the book even though I barely had any iota on what the book was about. I have not read any of Burroughs’ works before as well.
If my memory serves me right, I first came across Burroughs in must-read lists. Some of his works, such as Naked Lunch, were listed among the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Indeed, in reading Naked Lunch, I am hitting two of my reading challenges with one stone: reading at least 20 books in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list and reading one of twelve book in my 2021 Beat The Backlist Challenge. I have also come across Burroughs in 2017, when I read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I learned that they were friends and that Burroughs was the basis for one of the characters in the book (Old Bull Lee). Burroughs, and Kerouac, along with their friend Allen Ginsberg, were key figures in the rise of what is now known as the Beatnik generation.
Originally published in 1959, Naked Lunch. follows the narrative strand of William Lee. Also known as “Lee the Agent”, he appears to be the writer’s alter ego, in the same manner that Sal Paradise was Kerouac’s representation in On The Road. Thankfully, Naked Lunch was not as tedious as Kerouac’s work which I found challenging; I managed to appreciate it only because of the lengthy introduction and foreword my copy had. However, it was palpable from the onset that Naked Lunch has no linear plot. It is one of the facets that defined the novel, from what I understand.
Rather than a single solid plot that follows William Lee, what unfolded were bits and pieces of various interactions the protagonist had with people he met along the way. At the start of the novel, it does seem like William was running away from something or perhaps someone: “I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train…”
Even though I am halfway through the novel, I admit that I am having a challenging time making sense of the tapestry that Burroughs is weaving. If there were two things that stood out in the story, it would be drugs (and addiction) and queerness, particularly homosexuality. In the introduction ,which I read just now, written by fellow novelist J.G. Ballard, these two subjects were also highlighted. Burroughs, I have learned, is “unsparingly frank” about these two subjects. Because of its nonlinear plot and its indulgence into drugs, I was actually reminded of another classic of American literature, albeit more contemporary, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
There are still a lot to process about Naked Lunch and the story that will unfold. I am curious to know what will happen to Lee or where his retreat from the United States will ultimately take him. I hope to finish it over the weekend, despite month end closing activities. I hope I do! How about you fellow reader? What book are you indulging on right now? I hope you are enjoying what you are reading. For now, happy weekend and as always, happy reading!