The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel developed through a series of long letters that William S. Burroughs sent to various friends. The letters were collected as a selection of manuscripts. Fragments were published in The Chicago Review in 1958, but it was not until 1959 that the work was pub-lished as a novel. The book was rejected by many American publishers and was finally published as The Naked Lunch in Paris, France. Grove Press put out an American edition under the title Naked Lunch (1962). Shortly after publication, the book was banned by the American government. A trial ensued in which Burroughs was accused of writing a blasphemous and obscene book. Burroughs finally won his case in 1966. The book in the meantime had become a best-seller.

In the introduction to Naked Lunch, Burroughs suggests that the novel is simply a collection of “the notes” that he wrote while he was addicted to heroin. As a result, Naked Lunch cannot be said to have a plot as such. In the novel, Burroughs even tells readers that “this book spill [sic] off the page in all directions” and that one “can cut into Naked Lunch at any intersection point.” In his letters, Burroughs also suggested that Naked Lunch is in fact a montage of scenes connected only by a series of themes. The narrative wanders through a number of comic sketches, sexual fantasies, and stories that seem to appear from nowhere and often end abruptly....

(The entire section is 467 words.)