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But while we can argue over how it might be finessed in some parts—personally, I think the abrupt interruption of the “Hauser and O’Brien” sequence so late in the game by the belated “preface” kind of drops the ball—Naked Lunch is not random.

Burroughs was a frequently masterful storyteller, if a rigorously fragmentary one.

Perhaps it endures because of its still-arresting insights into the nature of addiction—a public health issue that does not seem to go away—that Burroughs renders in such a multitude of forms it becomes a multi-purpose metaphor of almost singular resonance.

Perhaps it’s the flamboyant grotesquerie and gallows humour, since besides Swift I’m not sure of any writer who’s mixed this particular cocktail so deftly.In Cuernavaca or Taxco—he can’t remember which—Lee and “Jane” smoke weed with some pimp and Lee flees in a fit of paranoia, finally catching a bus on his own back to Mexico City.“A year later in Tangier,” he then writes, “I heard she was dead.” David Cronenberg was right to make his film of Naked Lunch an overt hybrid of the novel and Burroughs’ life, with Vollmer’s death at the forefront.Following an act of torrid sexual climax, Burroughs writes, “A train roars through him whistle blowing …boat whistle, foghorn, sky rockets burst over oily lagoons …

His first editors were Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, friends as well as fellow writers who knew Burroughs probably better than anyone and would have had a keen sense of how best to—literally—collect these pages from the floor and arrange them.

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