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Naked Lunch @ 50

Naked Lunch @ 50

Anniversary Essays

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Edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
312 pages, 6 x 9, 38 illustrations


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About the Book

Naked Lunch was banned, castigated, and recognized as a work of genius on its first publication in 1959, and fifty years later it has lost nothing of its power to astonish, shock, and inspire. A lacerating satire, an exorcism of demons, a grotesque cabinet of horrors, it is the Black Book of the Beat Generation, the forerunner of the psychedelic counterculture, and a progenitor of postmodernism and the digital age. A work of excoriating laughter, linguistic derangement, and transcendent beauty, it remains both influential and inimitable. 

This is the first book devoted in its entirety to William Burroughs’ masterpiece, bringing together an international array of scholars, artists, musicians, and academics from many fields to explore the origins, writing, reception, and complex meanings of Naked Lunch. Tracking the legendary book from Texas and Mexico to New York, Tangier, and Paris, Naked Lunch@50 significantly advances our understanding and appreciation of this most elusive and uncanny of texts.




Keith Albarn

Eric Andersen

Gail-Nina Anderson

Théophile Aries

Jed Birmingham

Shaun de Waal

Richard Doyle

Loren Glass

Oliver Harris

Kurt Hemmer

Allen Hibbard

Rob Holton

Andrew Hussey

Rob Johnson

Jean-Jacques Lebel

Ian MacFadyen

Polina Mackay

Jonas Mekas

Barry Miles

R. B. Morris

Timothy S. Murphy

Jurgen Ploog

Davis Schneiderman

Jennie Skerl

DJ Spooky

Philip Taaffe


Oliver Harris, the author of William Burroughs and the Secret of Fascination, is a professor of American literature at Keele University. He is the editor of The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1945–1959, “Everything Lost”: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs, and Burroughs’ novels, Junky: The Definitive Text of “Junk” and The Yage Letters Redux. Harris is also the author of numerous scholarly articles on Burroughs, the Beat Generation, film noir, and the epistolary form.

Ian MacFadyen has written about William S. Burroughs in a number of essays, including “Machine Dreams: Optical Toys and Mechanical Boys” in the collection  Flickers of the Dreamachine. His other work includes Ira Cohen’s Photographs: A Living Theatre  and The Blood of the Poet: Lorca and the Duende.


“Without William there is nothing. . . . Burroughs alone made us pay attention to the realities of contemporary life and gave us the energy to explore the psyche without a filter. . . . He is the brave fool (and he was no fool) who told us what is—was—could be.”—Lou Reed

“I can think of no other work of literary criticism that brings together such a multiplicity of artists, practitioners and critics in such a dynamic assembly of writing forms. The resulting symbiosis strikes me as a whole new critical form, utterly pertinent to Burroughs’ milieu.”—Michael Hrebeniak, author of Action Writing: Jack Kerouac’s Wild Form