The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs (Olympia Press) The written revolution in prose and verse may have evolved more slowly than in visual arts or music, but the 20th-century put it in its own fast lane. And much of this happened way before mobile phone texting or computer chat software stunted turns of phrase and even the use of words in their entirety. If Virginia Woolf and her fellow Bloomsbury writing set in Britain took the literary world by storm in the 1920s with their stream-of-consciousness style, US writer William Burroughs blew the reading public away with less subtlety. Like his lifestyle, Burroughs' writing was loud and colourful. The author's anarchic firearm-toting and drug consumption are well documented, as is his celebrity social circle - fellow Beat Generation writers such as Allen Ginsberg, rock star Lou Reed and pop artist Andy Warhol. Burroughs was a pioneer of the 'cut and paste' style. He would write separate fictional vignettes, snip them up and collage them together to form one work. The Naked Lunch was the most celebrated - or, at least, most discussed - work of this genre. It was written during America's Beat period, a movement in which all writing and other art forms reflected a new culture of promiscuity and creative experimentation that pushed boundaries. The subject matter in The Naked Lunch took on many of these traits, as well as a liberal dose of surreal and sometimes amusing scenarios. Critics labelled the content as highly pretentious. It certainly is a tough read and not one that can be easily followed by someone looking for formulaic plots or even those with an unexpected twist or two. The crossing from one outlandish episode to another is relentless. Half a century after it was written, The Naked Lunch still packs a powerful, and entertaining, punch. Take the episode of a male carnival performer's backside that starts to speak and acquire a mind of its own: 'Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy in-curving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the a**hole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist ...' The novel was considered unfilmable, but a 1991 film of the same name directed by David Cronenberg sets out to depict Burroughs' life at around the time the novel was written. It sheds some light on the author, but the original text is so disjointed that it's hard to imagine it ever being taken on as a straight movie adaptation.