A Naked Lunch in the Graveyard of Untold Desires


Listen to Mark Read and Naked Lunch.

I am walking through London’s Abney Park graveyard looking for some peace, quiet, solace and a space to sit and read. I finally crawl through some low hanging branches well off the path and find a refuge in the lonely shack. Not a warm or secure residence, but it suits my immediate needs. I take out a copy of a book, passed to me earlier that day by a friend. The book is a 50th anniversary copy of Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. I open it anywhere and start to read. I was going to say I opened it randomly but with books I just don’t think there is any such thing as random, especially around Burroughs. His weird chopped up world can make the most sceptical rationalist question his empirical perceptions. Was that something moving in the corner of the shack, shit, even before I start to read the damn thing starts to creep under my skin and wriggle around in some spastic dance with my consciousness? I roll a cigarette to calm myself down and give me some connection to something earthy and reliable.

I read ‘Iris is one of Benway’s projects. The human body can run on sugar alone, God damn it… I am aware that certain of my learned colleagues…………..’ and off we go with one of Benway’s manic rants against orthodoxy, against reason, logic and most of all against any emotional connection with any other living thing. This is a doctor who said ‘cute is not a word that exists for me’. Bring it on.

chair-of-untold-desiresSettling into a corner, not cosy but not as damp as the other corners, I start thinking back about when I first came across Burroughs. I used to go down to the local library in Salford where I grew up. I think the library was called Hope library and that was one of the few bits of hope in my life at the time. The only thrills that I had come across was the strange excitement in pictures of tortured Christian saints and martyrs and the thrill of flamboyant clothing, silks, satins anything bright coloured and shiny. Not a lot of that to be found around the dull Lowry streets of late sixties Salford. Something jumped out off the shelf in front of me, the title just appealed to me, Junkie, published three years before I was born and just hanging around waiting for me to find it until then. I loved the way it described a world I had no idea of. A world of need and greed and desire, and temporary satisfaction. Of blood and sperm and the juice of poppies.

I dive back into Naked Lunch.

‘So what do you want off me?’


‘I don’t dig.’

‘I have something you want.’ His hand touched the package. He drifted away from the front room, his voice remote and blurred.

‘You have something I want……….. five minutes here…………. an hour someplace else……. two…..four….eight…. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…. Every day die a little… it takes up The Time….’

I blur back to the feeling that somehow finding Burroughs was like finding some new doors opening up worlds that I would eventually find for myself, many of which led to some of the best days of my life and without doubt the worst days of my life, but he didn’t just open those doors it felt like he damn well dragged me through, no kicking and screaming from me though, that came later. Not that I went into the total darkness that came through from Old Bill, I just hung round long enough to get the shivers and see the straight world from outside. He just let me know that beyond the tight lipped arse clenched world I saw around me there were opportunities to throw out convention and mess around with the mock realities we were sold in the name of modernisation and progress. Somewhere in my guts I knew there was something out there, just never expected it to be like this.

graveyard-of-untold-desiresA couple of examples of how Burroughs creeps up and gets you. Years ago, back in the eighties several people I knew recommended a trashy novel called Diva, I went around Newcastle where I lived, and couldn’t find a copy. Eventually I end up in Days of Hope bookshop on the Westgate Road and see a copy of a book of interviews with William Burroughs. It is written by a guy called Daniel Odier. I pick it up and read the author blurb, he writes under another name, Delacorta, and one of his novels under this name is Diva. How does that happen? Pushed me on to get the book and read and enjoy it. As I am typing this I put some music on via the internet, one of these list things, never seen it before but the first track looks ok so click click. I start with some abstract old jazz and within the next few tracks that come up randomly are Kerouac, Ginsberg and by the time it clicks into a reading by Bukowski I just feel that Old Bill is out there in the ether manipulating my cultural synchronicity. Thanks for the ride Bill and watch out for the cars.

So I sit and I read and soon the mugwump comes and joins me and the cigarette smoke blends with the general miasma in the shack and I just float out there to where all those cast aside no good left out kicked out beat up broken lovelorn burned up smacked out long forgotten dirty low down unwashed and unwanted characters argue and fight over the last dregs of pleasure and relief. And this is my Burroughs world, along with all those too tender and sensitive to “make it” in the cold hearted world. I wrap Burroughs stories around me like a charity shop blanket and wander back to Joy.

The recording of this show is available on request.

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