Tag Archives: novels

98. The Naked Lunch, William Burroughs (1959)

Burroughs is one of those writers, like Genet, that I was obsessed with as a young man but now I don’t think they’re really that great. I read him because Bowie kept going on about him, and I knew that he was gay, so I laboured through all his novels looking for the ‘good bits’, which are usually pretty ridiculous. But porn was hard to come by in Surrey in the mid 70s, and at least you could keep Burroughs on your bookshelf without arousing too much suspicion. The Naked Lunch is, I suppose, the most characteristic of Burroughs’s works – all the others were regurgitations of the same basic material. You know the score: drugs, boys, cut-up technique, Cold War paranoia, a bit of sci-fi, more drugs, more boys, a lot of gibberish. The weirdness and artiness appealed to me greatly in my youth (I used to write his character names like ‘The Lemon Kid’ on my school desk), there are some really great passages in The Naked Lunch which I still find exciting and powerful, and it reminds me of a time in my life when I was finding out who I was through the medium of books. But I think if the allure of Burroughs hasn’t worn off by the time you’re 35 you’re stuck in a permanent adolescence.

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100. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym (1952)

This book ticks a lot of boxes for me. Post-War England, check. Small-town setting, check. Acerbic spinster heroine, check. Rather camp ecclesiastical milieu replete with jumble sales, check. In lesser hands Excellent Women would just have been an entertaining bit of proto Chick-lit/Aga-saga. But with Pym, it’s not about the story or even particularly the characters – it’s about the acuteness of her observations and the exquisitely comic language in which she delivers them. It’s hard to pin down exactly what she does, and if I tried to do so I’d probably spoil it for myself. Incidentally, I was introduced to her work by a character who could have been straight out of one of Pym’s novels, the glamorous, eccentric Robert Tewdwr Moss, with whom I went to university.

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Welcome to the new website

Dear Readers,

Thank you for finding your way to the retooled, rebooted Rupert Smith website, where you can find out about all my books to date, keep up with new publications and also follow my attempts to negotiate the rapidly-changing world of publishing. At the time of writing I’m doing final edits on the new novel, The Interlude, which comes out in August, and I’m figuring out the best way of getting my backlist into e-editions, which hopefully will breathe new life into those titles. I’d welcome any thoughts on the subject.

Those of you who are already familiar with my rather peculiar career will know that I write under various different names. You can find information about my other personae by clicking on the links at the top of the page.

Yours

Rupert

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