Call something “brilliant” and, if you visualize the word at all when you read or hear it anymore, the image is of skin-caressing sunlight baths – that’s the etymology – or more likely by this point you connote and call upon your intelligent-person concept-feeling. Naked Lunch probably spends most of its time in some of the bleakest and most horrible scenarios and environments known to man – when they are not described completely incoherently – and the mindflow fashioned from the text is far too disjointed and outwardly incomprehensible for any evocations of the erstwhile schoolyard genius. This is the limitation and the ultimate ecstatic unraveling of language, that words can actually mean anything by means of transcendental metaphors collapsing objects to whatever particular isolated idea is in current focus. Burroughs, maybe not intentionally or maybe only not so in those words, helps to foment this understanding by his liberated trains i.e. derailed trains of thought, but his way is more that of the hobo hopping on and off the train (e.g. the opening scene of the book) for brief comforting smooth passages before being booted off into drunken/junken rambles and tumbles into the overgrowth before reboarding again.
Literature and words have the right to be art, not the mere logical raw data that we always seem to want them to be, and whatever befuddling sequences of events and scenes loom up along the stroll or sprint or crawl through the book should occasion no more alarm or contempt than the amble or powerwalk or creep through the gallery of modern art, which may be a poor choice of comparison in that many people despise “modern art,” though probably most can appreciate a Dali or a Picasso and maybe even a Pollock, all of which definitively leave a bulk of interpretation up to the beholder. One cannot simply coast downhill upon a smooth pavement of sentences leading straight into the next with this book, one has to embrace its wilderness and jarring shifts, and stay ok with weird image-making and memory-calling and meaning-creating. (For instance, one idea is that every passage in this book involving alien beings and environments is actually an attempt at life-size characterization [“fleshing out”] of the interior anatomy, and all its invading viruses and microbes, of the dopesick junky, but this could be totally wrong, but the text’s juxtapositions call internal and external for some sort of clear waveform out of an exhilarating white noise hum of possibilities of significance.)
The words will force out guffaws in many places and in many places they will tense the muscles in revulsion, as well-spoken absurdist caricatures coexist with hideous sadomasochists and a multitude of narrators and central characters suffering and bureaucratizing and shooting up and killing and fucking and Sending – so many different profound distillations of types of people and situations and ills of societies and spirits, combined with what seem to be true useful factual academic data. Enormous pain and enormous fun bleed into each other, fun and pain had by the author and fun and pain for the reader to have in making out of Burroughs’ sandpit various associative playshapes and epiphanies of horror or glory. At the end he explains his method and his addiction calmly and intelligibly, and then he continues with the madness, and it feels as endless as the reality he is outlining and inline-skating away from. Phrases will repeat to regenerate the sneaking notion that each “chapter” is somehow decoding or commenting upon the others. There is no story, there is only amassment of details and visions, strands of Burroughs intertwining with strands of you.