Saturday, February 28, 2009

Excerpt from Naked Lunch

For the benefit of J.R. Spumkin, who says he's never read Burroughs, here is an excerpt from Naked Lunch, first published in 1959. The first sentence and a chapter.

First sentence:

"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..."

They say you can tell a lot about a book by its first sentence, but I'm not so sure in the case of Naked Lunch, where everything constantly changes.

Random chapter: Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry:

"Doctor 'Fingers' Schafer, the Lobotomy Kid, rises and turns on Conferents the blue blast of his gaze:
'Gentlemen, the human nervous system can be reduced to a compact and abbreviated spinal column. The brain, front, middle and rear must follow the adenoid, the wisdom tooth, the appendix... I give you my Master Work: The Complete All American Deanxietized Man...'
Blast of trumpets: The Man is carried in naked by two Negro Bearers who drop him on the platform with bestial, sneering brutality...The Man wriggles... His flesh turns to viscid, transparent jelly that drifts away in green mist, unveiling a monster black centipede. Waves of unknown stench fill the room, searing the lungs, grabbing the stomach...
Schafer wrings his hands sobbing: 'Clarence!! How can you do this to me?? Ingrates!! Every one of them ingrates!!'
The Conferents start back muttering in dismay:
'I'm afraid Schafer has gone a bit too far...'
'I sounded a word of warning...'
'Brilliant chap Schafer... but...'
'Man will do anything for publicity...'
'Gentlemen, this unspeakable and in every sense illegitimate child of Doctor Schafer's perverted brain must not see the light... Our duty to the human race is clear...'
'Man he done seen the light,' said one of the Negro Bearers.
'We must stomp out the Un-American crittah," says a fat, frog-faced Southern doctor who has been drinking corn out of a mason jar. He advances drunkenly, then halts, appalled by the formidable size and menacing aspect of the centipede...
'Fetch gasoline!' he bellows. 'We gotta burn this son of a bitch like an uppity Nigra!'
'I'm not sticking my neck out, me," says a cool hip young doctor high on LSD25... 'Why a smart D.A. could...'
'Order in the Court!'
D.A.: 'Gentlemen of the jury, these 'learned gentlemen' claim that the innocent human creature they have so wantonly slain suddenly turned himself into a huge black centipede and it was 'their duty to the human race' to destroy this monster before it could, by any means at its disposal, perpetrate its kind...
'Are we to gulp down this tissue of horse shit? Are we to take these glib lies like a greased and nameless asshole? Where is this wondrous centipede?
''We have destroyed it,' they say smugly... And I would like to remind you, Gentlemen and Hermaphrodites of the Jury, that this Great Beast'--he points to Doctor Schafer--'has, on several previous occasions, appeared in this court charged with the un-speakable crime of brain rape... In plain English'--he pounds the rail of the jury box, his voice rises to a scream--'in plain English, Gentlemen, forcible lobotomy...'
The Jury gasps... One dies of a heart attack... Three fall to the floor writhing in orgasms of prurience...
The D.A. points dramatically: 'He it is--he and no other--who has reduced whole provinces of our fair land to a state bordering on the far side of idiocy... He it is who has filled the great warehouses with row on row, tier on tier of helpless creatures who must have their every want attended... 'The Drones' he calls them with a cynical leer of pure educated evil... Gentlemen, I say to you that the wanton murder of Clarence Cowie must not go unavenged! This foul crime shrieks like a wounded faggot for justice at least!'
The centipede is rushing about in agitation.
'Man, that mother fucker's hungry,' screams one of the Bearers
'I'm getting out of here, me.'
A wave of electric horror sweeps the Conferents... They storm the exits screaming and clawing..."

This may be a little offensive, but that was his writing style. He was a drug addict who accidentally shot and killed his wife in a drunken "William Tell act". I put here before that I'd recommend Naked Lunch to a stranger, but with a warning: some chapters contain ridiculously violent and sexual scenes in great detail, so it's not for the weak of heart, because after you've read it, hardly anything will shock you anymore.

Last note: The book is nothing like Cronenberg's great movie


J.R. Spumkin said...

Ooh! This is simply delightful! MUST READ!

Phantom Spitter said...

I thought you would like it!