Tuesday, 9 August 2011


As my Hackney, and others areas in London and beyond, yesterday further descended into anarchy and lawlessness with rioting gangs looting, burning and mugging, scenes from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, first published in 1959, came to mind as I navigated myself away from chaotic and ugly streets to eerily deserted ones. What made these "disturbances" different from the usual ones was their undiscriminating nature. Storming the Bank of England or putting through the windows of McDonalds might pass for political protest but attacking family businesses and destroying homes? There are a number of appropriate passages but I’ll share this, as in typical Burroughs style it mixes horror with dry humour.

“From the roof of the R.C. we survey a scene of unparalleled horror. INDs stand around in front of the cafĂ© tables, long streamers of saliva hanging off their chins, stomachs noisily churning, others ejaculate at the sight of women. Latahs imitate the passers-by with monkey-like obscenity. Junkies have looted the drugstores and fix on every street corner… Catatonics decorate the parks… Agitated schizophrenics rush through the streets with mangled inhuman cries.
“Gentle reader, the ugliness of that spectacle buggers description. Who can be a cringing pissing coward, yet vicious as a purple-assed mandrill, alternating these deplorable conditions like vaudeville skits? Who can shit on a fallen adversary who, dying, eats the shit and screams with joy? Who can hang a weak passive and catch his sperm in his mouth like a vicious dog? Gentle reader, I fain would spare you this, but my pen hath its will like the Ancient Mariner. Oh Christ what a scene is this! Can tongue or pen accommodate these scandals?”

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text by William Burroughs is published by Fourth Estate, priced £9.99.


  1. I get it, but don't think any of these little toerags are worthy of poetic allusions.

    I sat at my window on Sunday, listening to the sirens and helicopters getting closer. I have been in earshot of at least 5 IRA bombs, caught up in the aftermath of 7/7, but this has made me feel more vulnerable than any of those.