It all began with This American Life’s William S. Burroughs podcast. I never cared for Burroughs or his writing, but the podcast had me enticed—because what’s not fascinating about some drug addicted pervert’s musings? My friend Nuala and I talked about the podcast together and both said we wanted to read a few of his pieces afterwards. From there I moved on to talking to other people about how we missed reading/discussing literature in general and are always craving new books recommendations. (Seriously, always. Send me all of your recommendations immediately!) So I decided that maybe we could read Burroughs’ most acclaimed work together, Naked Lunch. And thus my baby book club was born.
It’s worth mentioning that I tried to read Naked Lunch once before and that I fucking hated it. I read the entire thing because I can never begin a book without finishing it. It was torture for me, though. I had no idea what was going on, hated the content, and forced myself through it without retaining a single thing aside from my intense dislike of it. So obviously a great first choice for our club.
I figured maybe I was just too young or immature to understand the novel, and now that I’m older, it should be a lot more enjoyable/interesting. WRONG. WRONG. YOU WERE WRONG, NICOLE. AND IF YOU’RE READING THIS POST IN THE FUTURE AND CONSIDERING READING NAKED LUNCH AGAIN, YOU WILL MOST DEFINITELY HATE IT AND YOU SHOULD STOP. JUST STOP IT.
I got about 95 pages and for about the third time ever, I stopped reading a book. I can rest easy knowing that at one point in time I finished this book, but not this time. And never again. I had no idea what was going on and suddenly found myself in the thick of a 30 page description of suicidal orgies. I gave up. I have no idea who any of the characters are, where they ever were, what they were ever doing (aside from the painfully obvious), or what they wanted to be doing.
No one in the book club was able to finish it—in fact, I made it the farthest out of anyone. I’ve heard his other, shorter works are more enjoyable, such as Junkie or Queer. I’ll never find out because I’m done trying. Beatnik era writing is simply not for me (I also hated On the Road in the past and will not make the mistake of trying that one again).
The only other time I can really remember beginning a book—multiple times, actually—and not being able to finish it was with Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. And just guess what our second book club novel is…