Monday, June 15, 2009

50 Years of Lunch

July 2009 brings the 50th Anniversary of William Burroughs' masterpiece Naked Lunch, published in July 1959 by the Paris-based Olympia Press. Naked Lunch is an absolute landmark in the history of American literature - an often obscene and deliberately provocative work originally banned throughout the U.S. for its references to drug use, homosexuality, child murder, pedophilia, pornography, capital punishment and auto-erotic asphyxiation, among God-knows-what-else. After a major legal battle in 1966, which included testimony from the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the work had "some social value" and the censorship was lifted. The book has since paved the way for hundreds if not thousands of writers, been the basis for at least 3 films, inspired countless petty thefts from bookstores, and has generally been one of the most influential novels since WWII.

From July 1 to 3, the city of Paris is hosting a series of concerts, readings, performances and exhibitions featuring an international body of scholars, writers and performers paying homage to Burroughs and his seminal novel.

The celebration includes Burroughs-centered tours of the city and visits to key sites including rue Git-le-Coeur, home of the old Beat Hotel, and the Musée Eugène Delacroix, the artist’s last studio and a testament to the enduring influence of Moroccan culture on generations of artists and writers. All these events will be taking place on the left bank of Paris, only a few hundred yards from where Burroughs completed his manuscript. If you're a Burroughs fan, the streets of Paris are the place to be. If you can't make it, at least visit the website Naked Lunch@50, which includes full details about the celebration and a wide range of essays on Burroughs & the Beat Generation, including a discography of Naked Lunch by Ian MacFadyen, and a complete section-by-section breakdown of the text by Oliver Harris.

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