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Here's the thing that puzzles me about this book:why was it not published until 1985 while the far, far more offensive Naked Lunch was published (not without obstacles) in 1959?One idea is that Burroughs put the manuscript for Queer away for many years and chose not to revisit it because it reminded him of a extremely terrible time in his life, the time surrounding the well-known (and unfortunately adapted to the screen) accidental killing of his wife during a drunken game of William Tell (a "parlor trick" which primarily involves shooting objects off of a person's head with a gun).He goes into some detail about this emotional difficulty in the fairly remarkable introduction written in the aforementioned year of the book’s long overdue publication.

There isn’t a single description in this book that could be considered sexually explicit, homosexual or otherwise.Apparently even the slightest allusion to homosexuality while failing to regard it as a immoral, objectionable or otherwise contemptible aspect of existence was enough to prevent the book from being published, yet, Naked Lunch is immeasurably more graphic and unsettling in every dimension than Queer.So it seems that this book must have gone unpublished for 30 plus years solely due to Burroughs need to keep it hidden from himself.

So the book is a sequel to Burroughs’ novelistic debut Junky and both are quite autobiographical.To put it simply Lee is William S. Burroughs.According to some brief research Eugene Allerton is also based on a real person:

"Adelbert Lewis Marker (1930-1998), a recently discharged American Navy serviceman from Jacksonville, Florida who befriended Burroughs in Mexico City" (source).This can be affirmed through a read of Letters to Allen Ginsberg, 1953-1957.

The plot is rather simple.Lee is trying to kick a heroin habit while on the lam in Mexico City.He’s avoiding Stateside drug charges until the 5 year statute of limitations is reached.He’s wandering around, drinking alcohol constantly and looking for some properly satisfying sex with men, specifically his eyes latch onto Eugene Allerton.As a brief aside here, let me say that some of the very concise descriptions of extreme lust are really well done.Though I don't identify with the specific objectives of Burroughs' lust (i.e. wishing to be "had" by and to "have" a flock of adolescent Ecuadorian boys in a muddy riverbed, etc) nonetheless lust is lust is lust is lust.Ok, so this Allerton fella is sort of queer—"obliging" is how Burroughs puts it.He's willing to have sex with men but not all that into it.That sorta thing.Their relationship doesn’t stray much from this basic dynamic.

Eventually Lee sets up a sex-for-money deal which includes (in addition to sexual demands being met at least twice a week) that Allerton is to accompany him on trip to Ecuador in search of "Yage" (a.k.a. ayahuasca), a plant Lee believes to possess telepathy-inducing properties.He believes that the Russians and Americans are trying to extract these telepathic powers from the plant for obvious, ethically dubious, authoritarian intentions (i.e. mind-control en masse).However all Lee wants it for is so that he can make pretty boys in the street and Allerton himself his sexual slaves.So he no longer has to deal with all of the socio-psychological annoyances that come with being a sex seeking gay male in the 1950’s.Lee talking to Allerton:

"While we are in Ecuador we must score for Yage," Lee said."Think of it:thought control.Take anyone apart and rebuild to your taste.Anything about somebody bugs you, you say, 'Yage!I want that routine took clear out of his mind.'I could think of a few changes I might make in you, doll."He looked at Allerton and licked his lips."You'd be so much nicer after a few alterations.You're nice now but you do have those irritating peculiarities.I mean, you won't do exactly what I want you to do all the time."

I enjoyed the book for three basic reasons (in no particular order):

1)The descriptions of Mexico City and various towns within Ecuador during the late 40’s/early 50’s for their cultural and historical value.

2)The expression of what kind of psychological pains faced a homosexual in the not so distant past due to the obvious massive intolerance and condemnation of such people.The word "queer" began as a pejorative term for homosexuals.Burroughs is writing during a time when this was still the case, before people had reappropriated the term and also before the word "gay" was also reappropriated to put a more positive spin on what it means to be a homosexual.I found this basic reason for enjoying the book to also bring about the only real feelings of empathy for cranky and often cruel and morbid ol’ Lee.

He felt a killing hate for the stupid, ordinary, disapproving people who kept him from doing what he wanted to do."Someday I am going to have things just like I want," he said to himself."And if any moralizing son of a bitch gives me any static, they will fish him out of the river."

It got me thinking about how truly unfortunate it is that homosexuals were—and still are in many socio-cultural contexts—forced to hide their sexuality, to develop the most ugly of self-conceptions, to fear for their lives all due to a hatred and prejudice that has no defensible, rational basis whatsoever.On a lighter note, it also made me feel an appreciation for the progress that has been made throughout the world to combat this irrationally-based prejudice.Though gays are still executed simply for being gay in Iran and other nations, in most western countries things have improved greatly for homosexuals.

3)Identifying the seedlings of what would eventually become the style of "classic Burroughs."Most of the novel is fairly straight ahead third-person narrative but a few bizarre Naked Lunch -like descriptions flash upon the page once and a while, mostly during what are known as Lee’s "routines."These "routines" are Lee’s oft-intoxicated rambling bar-side orations.For example we come to this monologue (voiced to no one in particular) in the midst of fairly normal third-person description of Lee shadowing his current sexual interest Eugene Allerton who is leaving the bar with a woman named Mary:

"Sometimes he [an Italian chess master] used smoke screens to hide his maneuvers from the opposition—I mean literal smoke screens, of course.He had corps of trained idiots who would rush in at a given signal and eat all the pieces.With defeat staring him in the face—as it often did, because actually he knew nothing of chess but the rules and wasn’t too sure of those—he would leap up yelling, 'You cheap bastard!I saw you palm that queen!' and ram a broken teacup into his opponent’s face.In 1922 he was rid out of Prague on a rail.The next time I saw Tetrazzini [the "Italian chess master":] was in Upper Ubangi.A complete wreck.Peddling unlicensed condoms.That was the year of rinderpest, when everything died, even the hyenas."

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Book info

PublisherPenguin Books
Release date 01.12.1998
Pages count160
File size1.1 Mb
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
Book rating3.68 (6398 votes)
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