my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

May 3rd, 2012

#38 – Naked Lunch

I’ve been reading my bookshelves alphabetically for a while now, not consistently, if someone recommends a book to me or if I’ve got a book club meeting coming up, or if I’m particularly inspired, I stray, but I have managed to read many titles that have been sitting for ages this way, and I’m glad I’m doing it. I bought a copy of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch in 1992. That’s right — that book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for twenty years. I went through a phase in high school where I read all kinds of beat literature, Kerouac, who still remains a favourite, changed my world when I first read him. I didn’t know books could be like that — On the Road was the perfect book for me as a kid, it filled me with a wonderful sense of curiosity, spit me out into the world, on road trips, to different provinces, adventures away from home and I have such fond memories of the physical act of reading those books.

So, I bought Naked Lunch way in the way back from Pages on Queen Street and started it once, twice, three, times, read Junkie in between and loved it, and carted the battered paperback copy around to a half-dozen apartments. Then, when I finally gave in to the fact that I honestly just had to suck it up and read the damn book, it took me a good three weeks because, and I am saying this with all honesty, I could not understand what the heck was going on half the time. So, yes, I know it’s a moderately incoherent, rambling, deeply intense and evocative piece of writing by one of America’s most controversial figures in literature. I can see why it’s important. But maybe I’m so far passed the point now of looking at my life as a long list of the “cool” things that I have read that all I really wanted was the good junkie story and far less of the Interzone oddities.

I really, really liked the Appendix, where Burroughs outlines his drug use, all of the effects, and what worked in terms of him getting clean. His dialogue is terrific, and there are some amazing characters sprinkled throughout the book, but the whole “cut up technique” (as described in my 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die text): “which serves to render the reader equally unable to make full sense of the surroundings.” Indeed. “Narratives begin, interweave, become lost, and are found again; scenarios are glimpsed then vanish from sight.” Exactly. And then all I’m screaming in my head is “What on earth is going on and that’s a lot of naked peeps and body parts and excrement and swearing and shooting up and holy hell I am one tired mother right now.”

However, I did listen to a lot of Junkie via this great link that Brain Pickings posted via Twitter, and was reminded that it is, indeed a terrific book, especially when read by Burroughs himself. Really all I have to say about this in conclusion is that I am really glad to have finished it. That’s all.

Other books read: The Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald (#39).

December 1st, 2008

1001 Books Challenge – 2009 – Whenever

After hours of cleaning off the shelves and organizing the books from various different places in the house, here are the 1001 Books titles that we have ready to be read. I highly doubt that I’ll get through 60+ of them in one calendar year, but we can always hope. They’re in book order:

1. Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
2. Candide by Voltaire
3. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne
4. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (Sony Reader)
5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Sony Reader)
6. Emma by Jane Austen
7. Ormond by Maria Edgeworth (Sony Reader)
8. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (Sony Reader)
9. The Nose by Nikolay Gogol
10. The Fall of the House of Usher (Sony Reader)
11. Dead Souls by Nikolay Gogol (Sony Reader)
12. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
13. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
14. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
15. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
16. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
17. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
18. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
19. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
20. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Sony Reader)
21. Dracula by Bram Stoker
22. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
23. Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
24. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
25. Ulysses by James Joyce
26. The Trial by Franz Kafka
27. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
28. Independent People by Halldor Laxness
29. The Hamlet by William Faulkner
30. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
31. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
32. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
33. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
34. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
35. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
36. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
37. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
38. Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
39. In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul
40. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
41. A Question of Power by Bessie Head
42. Grimus by Salman Rushdie
43. Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
44. In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee
45. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
46. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
47. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
48. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
49. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
50. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
51. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
52. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
53. Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
54. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
55. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
56. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks
57. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
58. The Human Stain by Philip Roth
59. Ignorance by Milan Kundera
60. Schooling by Heather McGowan
61. Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
62. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
63. Islands by Dan Sleigh
64. Drop City by T.C. Boyle
65. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
66. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
67. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
68. Under the Skin by Michel Faber

69. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
70. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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