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Nothing Routine About It: The Lavatory Operating Room Routine in Naked Lunch - Essay Example

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Everyone knows that we mugwumps of the modern world are stuck deep in the rut of the everyday routine of life. We know too that this rut of routine is a drug as potent as any ever made by nature or man or corporation. William Burroughs' 'routines' in Naked Lunch may remind the reader of the crude antics of rutting beasts or give off the odor of rotting filth; they may appear both knotted and nutty, but there is absolutely nothing routine about them…
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Nothing Routine About It: The Lavatory Operating Room Routine in Naked Lunch
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Download file to see previous pages A close examination of Burroughs' description of this routine will show how modern medicine could so easily descend from the lofty heights of Hippocratic ideals to the abyssal depths of modern hypocrisy.
From the start of the 'operation' to its finish, Benway ad libs with puns and quips, making light of the nurse's fears and doubts. At her dismayed gasp, "I can't find the pulse, doctor", Benway shoots a pun: "Maybe she got it up her snatch in a finger stall" (51). To her tongue-in-cheek query "Adrenalin, doctor" he blithely replies, "The night porter shot it all up for kicks." Picking up "one of those rubber vacuum cups at the end of a stick they use to unstop toilets," he improvises an instrument for massaging his patient's heart, instructing his "appalled assistant" Dr Limpf to make the incision.
Dr Limpf may have been "appalled" but his reaction is nevertheless quite routine-he "shrugs and begins the incision" (51). Benway washes his new-found instrument by "swishing it around in the toilet bowl" The nurse, who is obviously not quite as blas about these 'routine' procedures as Limpf, is sufficiently shocked to inquire, "Shouldn't it be sterilized, doctor". Dr Benway's dry response is "Very likely, but there's no time" (51).

The doctor follows up this sharp rebuke with a harangue on modern "young squirts" with a yen for new-fangled equipment. He pontificates, "Soon we will be operating by remote control on patients we never see. . . . We'll be nothing but button pushers. All the skill is going out of surgery. . . ." (51). He continues, with a description of an appendectomy he had once performed "with a rusty sardine can." He even goes one better than that: "And once I was caught short without instrument one and removed a uterine tumor with my teeth" (51).
All this may be quite exciting and out of the ordinary as far as the reader is concerned, but Dr Limpf only says, "The incision is ready, doctor." Then follows a description of Dr Benway's much vaunted surgical "skill":
Dr. Benway forces the cup into the incision and works it up and down. Blood spurts all over the doctors, the nurse and the wall. . . The cup makes a horrible sucking sound. (51)
It remains to the nurse to say, somewhat like the child in the tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes", "I think she's gone, doctor" (51). Dr Benway, however, is quite philosophical about this contretemps. "Well," he says, "it's all in a day's work." Quite routine, in fact!
Having failed to save a patient, Dr Benway decides to follow the classical dictum, "Physician, heal thyself", and turns to his medicine cabinet for a fix. It is then that all hell seems to break loose from within him: "Some fucking drug addict has cut my cocaine with Saniflush! Nurse! Send the boy out to fill this Rx on the double!" (51-2).
"The Lavatory Operating Room" routine wouldn't be complete without the picture of Dr Benway the professor of surgery, and Burroughs treats us to this dish too on his naked spread. This scene is not, of course, set in a lavatory, but "in an auditorium filled ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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