In letters to his friends during the Fifties, Allan Ginsberg hinted that his buddy William Burroughs was working on a book called Word Hoard, “an endless novel which will drive everyone mad.” I imagine Lovecraft was not exactly a household name back then, so assuring insanity as a result of reading one’s opus probably didn’t have the same cachet of immediate hipness that it does now.
Today, I can’t count the number of albums, books, movies, and whole cultural experiences that use their endurance-test factor as a way to draw in a captive audience. Sometimes they even rather grotesquely cross-pollinate: Noise music pioneer Merzbow (Masami Akita) directed a series of simulated seppuku videos for the “specialty” studio Kinbiken. If the screeching soundtrack didn’t drive you from the room, the sight of two female samurai dumping their intestines on the ground probably would.
This may sound like a somewhat roundabout way to talk about Naked Lunch, which is comparatively tamer as a reading experience then watching fake snuff porn (it’s just a book, after all), but I’m having a hard time finding any other cultural artifact that gave as many people an excuse to be artistically perverse. This is not criticism, but simply description. Lunch was a wholly indiscriminate liberator of artistic pretensions, to the point that whether or not it was any good was almost irrelevant.Read more