Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 23 : Hauser and O'Brien | Summary

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Summary

At the Hotel Lamprey, Hauser and O'Brien, two narcotics officers, catch up with Lee, the narrator, and attempt to arrest him. The narrator wants to shoot a dose of heroin before they take him in, which they "can't allow," meaning they want a favor. The narrator offers to rat on a big-time dealer, Marty Steel, but the officers are skeptical. After shooting up, the narrator squirts alcohol at Hauser, blinding him, then gets a gun from his suitcase and shoots both officers.

The narrator finds his dealer, Nick, and buys some junk from him before going into hiding. He spends the night in the Ever Hard Baths, a hangout for homosexuals. The next morning he buys a newspaper and sees nothing about Hauser and O'Brien in it. He calls the Narcotics Bureau from a phone booth. Lieutenant Gonzales answers and says no one named Hauser or O'Brien works in his bureau. The narrator gets in a taxi and realizes he will never have access to the other side of space-time again.

Analysis

The name of the Hotel Lamprey reflects how the narrator sees himself—or perhaps the police, or both—as a parasite. Lampreys are aquatic creatures that attach themselves to sharks in order to feed from the scraps the sharks leave behind when they devour their prey. The narrator's offer to inform on a well-known dealer shows a desire to attach himself to Hauser and O'Brien in a similar manner. It is a desperate act, and the police know the narrator probably can't deliver on his promise.

The narrator is still hopelessly attached to his addiction. This leads to his shooting the officers rather than letting them take him in. The attachment to his addiction takes the narrator to his dealer before going into hiding, even though this is a dangerous proposition under the circumstances. He hides in a gay bath house. Bath houses were a staple of gay culture, a place to meet and have sex, through much of the 20th century.

The shocking point of the story emerges when the narrator learns no one in the Narcotics Bureau has heard of Hauser and O'Brien. The revelation seems to tell the narrator he has now been expelled from whatever alternate reality he was occupying before. Whether this is a true other dimension or a dimension within his mind is unclear. He is now stuck in New York, in America, with the drag he describes in Chapter 3. He seems distressed at this revelation, and the news may precipitate a successful round of detox.

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