Read Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. Free Online
Book Title: Last Exit to Brooklyn|
The author of the book: Hubert Selby Jr.
Edition: Corgi Books
Date of issue: March 1970
ISBN 13: 9780552083720
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 876 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1841 times
Reader ratings: 7.5
Read full description of the books:
This novel was like a car packed with high explosives and driven into the middle of American literature and left there to explode in a fireball of nitroglycerine sentences containing jagged ugly words which could shear your mind in two. I can't believe how powerful it still is, I read it years ago and it seared my thoughts and turned me inside out, and it practically did the same again even though a lot of cruelty and evil violence and scenes of underclass horror have flowed from other writers of other fictions since 1964
1964, year of the cheeky moptops singing I want to hold your hand and the year of Last Exit to Brooklyn in which we meet teenage hooker Tralala.
Two years later it was published in Britain and immediately prosecuted for obscenity and found guilty and withdrawn. Then it was cleared on appeal. When I look at the title page of my hardback copy I find it's the first 1966 British edition, the one that was busted. (Hey – I'm rich! No, it hasn't got a dust jacket, so it's probably still worth the two quid I paid for it instead of the £100 I'd get with the dust jacket. What a crazy world. But I'm not selling anyway.)
This is a great novel but its greatness is difficult. The difficulty does not lie in its famous non-punctuation (I nearly went into shock when I spotted an apostrophe in the word "we're" on page 57 – it was such an obvious misprint) and busted up Brooklynese syntax:
Goldie lit a few candles and told her Sheila was turning a trick so they had come down here and Im sure you don’t mind honey, handing her some bennie, and told Rosie to make coffee. Rosie lit the small kerosene stove in the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. . When it was ready she passed out paper cups of coffee then went back to the kitchen and made another pot, continuing to make pot after pot of coffee, coming in inbetween to sit at goldies feet. The guys slowly snapped out of their tea goof and soon the bennie got to their tongues too and everybody yakked.
This is not difficult. The prose flows hypnotically from almost boring and then and then and then narrative to dialogue to interior monologue and back again without any breaks. The minutely described incidents trundle along and without warning violence erupts and the violence is then described in the same slightly stoned unemotional way. Selby makes no judgements, he's just on a mission to tell you about this stuff he knows and he knows you don't know. So this book's difficulty comes from the constant depiction of degeneration, the unredeemed bleakness and horribleness of Selby's truthtelling, that all the characters are relentlessly graceless, nasty, violent, or nervewrackingly stupid, and that their lives both internal and external are revealed pitilessly to our flinching ears, that the men appear to hate the women, that the couples all have babies and children who they find unbearable, that there's never any money which causes most of the bitterness, that there's never any love.
And here's the other difficulty. The two longest and greatest of the intertwined stories are the Queen is Dead and Strike. Both depict gay men and both I think enshrine the worst possible images of gay men.
That night Harry went to the dragball. Hundreds of fairies were there dressed as women, some having rented expensive gowns, jewelry and fur wraps. They pranced about the huge ballroom calling to each other, hugging each other, admiring each other, sneering disdainfully as a hated queen passed. O just look at the rags she's wearing. She looks like a bowery whore. Well, lets face it, its not the clothes. She would look simply ugly in a Dior original, and they would stare contemptuously and continue prancing.
In Strike Selby gives us a guy who finds out he's gay and goes through a horrible personal meltdown during which he performs a sex attack on a ten year old boy.
So Selby has prancing fairies in drag and he has a gay man attacking a child. Underneath its avant style, Last Exit is about as politically incorrect as its possible to be. You really can't say that, Hubert.
Of course there was a tradition in literature of dragging the people of the abyss into the light of day - Zola and Dostoyevsky in Europe, Jack London and Sinclair Lewis in the USA. But Selby makes those guys look like mealymouthed tergiversators, which they really weren't. Selby's amplifier goes to 11, not ten like everyone else's. His book is a white hot shriek of pain. It's awful.
Last Exit's influence has been massive. Andy Warhol's early films and Lou Reed's Velvet Underground songs start here (Sister Ray is like a scene from Strike), likewise his "New York" album. Madame George by Van Morrison likewise. Last Exit also bequeathed Trainspotting to us (and fortunately Irvine Welsh was able to suffuse great humour and pity into his tales of junkie scumbags.)
It's five stars from me, but I don't know if I'd honestly recommend it to anyone.
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Read information about the authorHubert Selby, Jr. was born in Brooklyn and went to sea as a merchant marine while still in his teens. Laid low by lung disease, he was, after a decade of hospitalizations, written off as a goner and sent home to die. Deciding instead to live, but having no way to make a living, he came to a realization that would change the course of literature: "I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer." Drawing from the soul of his Brooklyn neighborhood, he began writing something called "The Queen Is Dead," which evolved, after six years, into his first novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), a book that Allen Ginsberg predicted would "explode like a rusty hellish bombshell over America and still be eagerly read in a hundred years."
Selby's second novel, The Room (1971), considered by some to be his masterpiece, received, as Selby said, "the greatest reviews I've ever read in my life," then rapidly vanished leaving barely a trace of its existence. Over the years, however, especially in Europe, The Room has come to be recognized as what Selby himself perceives it to be: the most disturbing book ever written, a book that he himself was unable to read again for twenty years after writing it.
"A man obsessed / is a man possessed / by a demon." Thus the defining epigraph of The Demon (1976), a novel that, like The Room, has been better understood and more widely embraced abroad than at home.
If The Room is Selby's own favorite among his books, Requiem for a Dream (1978) contains his favorite opening line: "Harry locked his mother in the closet." It is perhaps the truest and most horrific tale of heroin addiction ever written.
Song of the Silent Snow (1986) brought together fifteen stories whose writing spanned more than twenty years.
Selby continued to write short fiction, screenplays and teleplays at his apartment in West Hollywood. His work appeared in many journals, including Yugen, Black Mountain Review, Evergreen Review, Provincetown Review, Kulchur, New Directions Annual, Swank and Open City. For the last 20 years of his life, Selby taught creative writing as an adjunct professor in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California. Selby often wryly noted that The New York Times would not review his books when they were published, but he predicted that they'd print his obituary.
The movie Last Exit to Brooklyn, Directed by Uli Edel, was made in 1989 and his 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream was made into a film that was released in 2000. Selby himself had a small role as a prison guard.
In the 1980s, Selby made the acquaintance of rock singer Henry Rollins, who had long admired Selby's works and publicly championed them. Rollins not only helped broaden Selby's readership, but also arranged recording sessions and reading tours for Selby. Rollins issued original recordings through his own 2.13.61 publications, and distributed Selby's other works.
During the last years of his life, Selby suffered from depression and fits of rage, but was always a caring father and grandfather. The last month of his life Selby spent in and out of the hospital. He died in Highland Park, Los Angeles, California of chronic obstructive pulmonary lung disease. Selby was survived by his wife of 35 years, Suzanne; four children and 11 grandchildren.
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