12:1 Spring 1958
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
Excerpt: Naked Lunch
While they put together the issue of writing from San Francisco, editors Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll used their contacts to find new sources of material. Allen Ginsberg alerted them to William S. Burroughs, who had been laboring for years on the manuscript of a novel, Naked Lunch, in Tangier. In his recent journalistic account of the events surrounding Chicago Review’s serialization of Naked Lunch, Gerald E. Brennan describes the arrival of Burroughs’s manuscript:
One day Carroll got a call from Rosenthal. Could Carroll come over to his apartment in Hyde Park right away? When he got there, Rosenthal showed him a cardboard box that had just arrived from California: Ginsberg had sent the entire Naked Lunch manuscript. As they read through the work they realized what a job they had on their hands. Despite frequent reworkings, Naked Lunch was, in Rosenthal’s words, “as close to formless as a book could possibly be.”*
The ﬁrst chapter of Naked Lunch appeared in the Spring 1958 issue. The box of writing continued to hold Rosenthal’s interest: he managed to excerpt a section for the Autumn 1958 issue of Chicago Review, but that excerpt and the other pieces in that issue were judged obscene by a columnist in the Chicago Daily News. His column and the public outcry that ensued provoked the University administration to suppress the Winter 1959 issue, in which a further section of Naked Lunch was to appear with work by Jack Kerouac and Edward Dahlberg. Carroll and Rosenthal would found a new magazine, Big Table, to publish those materials. Carroll recently remembered:
Irving’s lasting triumph was, of course, publishing chapters from William S. Burroughs’s novel Naked Lunch. It cost him his magazine when the University censored what would have been the winter 1959 issue, with lots of Burroughs. It cost the other editors their jobs, when, following Irving, we all resigned; and founded Big Table, where the suppressed texts appeared in March 1959. I also lost an instructorship in English at Loyola University. I feel I can speak for Irving and the other editors when I say: we’d do it all over again. A strong argument could be made that Irving Rosenthal was probably the best editor the Review has seen.
* Gerald E. Brennan, “Naked Censorship: The True Story of the University of Chicago and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, Part I,” Chicago Reader 24:52 (September 29, 1995): 17-18. This is the most thorough extant analysis of the events surrounding the “suppression” of the Winter 1959 issue. It continues in Gerald E. Brennan, “Naked Censorship: The True Story of the University of Chicago and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, Part II,” Chicago Reader 25:1 (October 6, 1995): 8-10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 22, 24-28.
Other accounts of the incident include Albert N. Podell, “Censorship on the Campus: The Case of the Chicago Review,” San Francisco Review 2 (Spring 1959): 71-87; and Peter Michelson, “On The Purple Sage, Chicago Review, and Big Table,” TriQuarterly 43 (1978): 341-375. See also Brennan’s “Big Table,” in Chicago History: The Magazine of the Chicago Historical Society 17:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 1988): 4-23.
Reprinted by permission of the Wylie Agency, Inc.
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