April Comes Quickly

I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:

  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • Family Man by Jayne Krentz
  • Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
  • The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
  • Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
  • Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)

On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):

  • A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
  • Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
  • Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
  • Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
  • The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April

Naked Lunch

Burroughs, William. Naked Lunch. New York: Grove Press, 1959.

Reason read: let’s see if this train of thought makes sense: Jack Kerouac was born in March. Burroughs hung with Kerouac. Burroughs + Kerouac = Naked Lunch in March.

I was not around during the height of the Beat Generation’s rein. Oddly enough, beat writers were avoided during my educational career. Not on purpose, though. I wasn’t assigned Kerouac or Ginsburg or Burroughs in high school or college so I didn’t read them. As a result, reading Naked Lunch made me feel sort of crazy. Like riding on a roller coaster backwards. This is brilliant, for there is no real plot to speak of; you bounce from vignette to vignette of chaotic satire and drug & sex fueled imagination. The text is punctuated by copious notes explaining different things, but do the explanations really matter? No. Not really. It’s a fun ride if you are okay with not knowing where you are going. You need to be comfortable naming body partsĀ  like cunt, dick and asshole (those things are in use a lot). You must be okay with all things putrid, bloody, stinking, infected and/or rotting. You definitely need to be tolerant of rampant drug use, vivid homosexual/heterosexual lovemaking and rape and copious suicidal tendencies and other deliveries of violence. In other words, have an open mind and just go with it. You won’t regret the ride. Or maybe you will. I don’t know.

For the serious, need-to-know types, the semblance of a plot goes like this: Willie Lee is a drug addict who has tried every narcotic under the sun in an attempt to find his true identity. [And speaking of identity, off topic, here is a sampling of the characters in Naked Lunch: Shake Man, Paregoric Kid, Eager Beaver, and Old Bart.] But back to the plot, Willie Lee travels from New York to Tangier and ultimately to the nightmarescape of Interzone to find himself.

Another fun exercise I had was to list all the real and imaginary places Burroughs mentioned in Naked Lunch:

  • Addis Ababa
  • Amazon
  • Amsterdam
  • Andes
  • Annexia
  • Arkansas
  • Beirut
  • Brooklyn
  • Bronx
  • Butte
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Columbia
  • Cuba
  • East River
  • Ecuador
  • Edinburgh
  • England
  • Ethiopia
  • Holland
  • Hollywood
  • Hong Kong
  • Honolulu
  • Houston
  • Illinois
  • Interzone
  • Istanbul
  • Jersey
  • Kansas City
  • Lake Charles
  • Liberia
  • Lincoln Park
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisiana
  • Madrid
  • Mecca
  • Mexico City
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Mozambique
  • New Orleans
  • New York
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paris
  • Philadelphia
  • Peru
  • Pigeon Hole
  • Shanghai
  • Sioux Falls
  • South Pacific
  • St Louis
  • Tangier
  • Tierra de Fuego
  • Texas
  • Timbuktu
  • Tripoli
  • Washington Square
  • Westminster
  • Yemen
  • Yokohama
  • Zanzibar

[Benign] quotes to make you think (or not): “Catnip smells like marijuana when it burns” (p 5), “Scalpel fight with a colleague in the operating room” (p 26), and “Traffickers in the Black Meat, flesh of the giant aquatic black centipede – sometimes attaining a length of six feet- found in a lane of ricks and iridescent, brown lagoons, exhibit paralyzed crustaceans in camouflaged pockets of the Plaza visible only to the Meat Eaters” (p 45).
Here’s something a little less safe, “The screaming skull rolls up to the back stairs to bite the cock of erring husband taking dour advantage of his wife’s earache to do that which is inconvenient” (p 110).

Author fact: If you know anything about Burroughs and his life you know I could be here all day listing interesting and horrible tidbits about him. Here are a few of the more G-rated and mundane details: Burroughs suffered from depression, he was bisexual, had a drug problem (duh), and died the day after suffering a heart attack.

Book trivia: touted as one of the most important books of the century, it is also listed as one of the 1001 books you must read before you die. It was made into a movie in 1991.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Beats and Their Generation” (p 18).


March Musings

What can I say about March? Personally, it’s the St. Patrick’s Day 10k road race. I’ve been injured so it’s hard to anticipate how well I will or won’t do. I went for my first outdoor run this weekend and ran 7.5 with a steady sub-10 pace. That felt strong! Happy girl! And speaking of strong, here’s what’s on deck for the books:

  1. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs – in honor of Jack Kerouac’s birth month. Jack and William were friends…
  2. Family Man by Jayne Ann Krentz – in honor of Krentz’s birth month
  3. The Brontes by Juliet Barker – in honor of March being literature month (over 1,000 pages!)
  4. Means of Ascent by Robert Caro – to continue the series started in honor of Presidents Day being in February (EB)
  5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – in honor of Maine becoming a state in March
  6. The Assistant by Bernard Malamud – Malamud died in March.
  7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie – in honor of the Academy Awards being in February and March (HOAYS was made into a movie)

For Fun:

  1. Confessional: still reading Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan

For LibraryThing:

  1. I am supposed to receive Why the Grateful Dead Matter by Michael Benson as a January Early Review book sometime in the month of March…As an aside, there are a few other books I haven’t received and feel bad that I never read or reviewed them. I am sure they have all been published by now and so (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m going to see if a library has them. If they do, I will read and review as if I got them as Early Reviews from LibraryThing. The first non-early review I am going to tackle is a book I was supposed to received in 2009 – Sanctuary of Outcasts, a memoir by Neil White.