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YMMV / Naked Lunch

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The book:

  • Banned in China: In 1965, this was the last major work of literature to get unbanned in the American city of Boston (which banned quite a lot of things.)
  • Broken Aesop: In the Introduction we get this quote:
    Certain passages in the book that have been called pornographic were written as a tract against Capital Punishment in the manner of Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal. These sections are intended to reveal capital punishment as the obscene, barbaric and disgusting anachronism that it is.
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The thing is, if this is referring to the various hangings, they're so eroticized that they come off as Author Appeal instead.
  • Designated Villain: Salvador Hassan O'Leary is the intended villain, despite not being anywhere near as bad as Dr. Benway and only being slightly worse than A.J.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Dr. Benway, by far the most memorable character in the book, goes on to get small roles in several other Burroughs novels, like The Soft Machine, Cities of the Red Night, and The Western Lands, with brief mentions in several others. In The Film of the Book, he's a One-Scene Wonder (well, two scenes) and is played by Roy Scheider. Scheider is appropriately scene-stealing, even when (during one of the two scenes) as Benway he's pretending to be an ordinary doctor running a clinic.
  • Fake Brit: A.J., whose British accent 'waned with the British empire'.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: The Divisionists are essentially the prototype of today's aggressive trolls.
  • Magnificent Bastard: A.J., Hassan O'Leary, and Dr. Benway.
  • Squick: Some in the minds of individual readers, and some In-Universe:
    • The descriptions of the blue movie sets make repeated note of piles of moldy jockstraps and used condoms - and that's far from the last of it!
    • A young junkie has an encounter with a man who gets a contact high by oozing all over him like an amoeba: "Most distasteful thing I ever stand still for."
    • Old junkies lose all sense of shame when someone starts cooking up a shot: "They gibber and squeal at the sight of it. The spit hangs off their skin, and their stomach rumbles and all their guts grind in peristalsis while they cook up, dissolving the body’s decent skin, you expect any moment a great blob of protoplasm will flop right out and surround the junk. Really disgust you to see it."
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  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Believe it or not, some people are confused by this book.
  • Values Dissonance
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Burroughs wrote in the preface that the hanging scenes were a tract against capital punishment 'in the style of Jonathan Swift'. One would find that easy to believe if he hadn't gone on to write about three more books about hanging, which makes the whole thing dubiously reek of Author Appeal.

The Film:


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