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Last Exit to Brooklyn

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  16,529 Ratings  ·  910 Reviews
Last Exit to Brooklyn is a raw depiction of life amongst New York's junkies, hustlers, drag queens and prostitutes. An unforgettable cast of characters inhabits the housing projects, bars and streets of Brooklyn: Georgette, a hopelessly romantic and tormented transvestite; Vinnie, a disaffected and volatile youth who has never been on the right side of the law; Tralala, wh ...more
Paperback, 290 pages
Published 2000 by Marion Boyars (first published 1964)
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Jim Puskas Years ago, when I first read this book, it was like a kick in the gut. What stays with you over time is a feeling of sorrow for lost, fucked-up lives.…moreYears ago, when I first read this book, it was like a kick in the gut. What stays with you over time is a feeling of sorrow for lost, fucked-up lives. But to my surprise, the book left an echo of hope, probably because if people could survive all that, it proves the strength of the human spirit.(less)

Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
Apr 02, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Velvet Underground fans
Shelves: novels
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 o ...more
Apr 23, 2009 A.K. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nausea swim team
Shelves: druuugs
Rare is the book that leaves me so disoriented and raw-nerved. When I finished this I sat slack-jawed for a minute letting my cigarette burn out and trying to fix my mind on something/anything. This is an excruciatingly penetrating vision of the total dregs; a narrative of self-delusion, rough trade, addiction and thanatos thanatos thanatos. Selby, Jr. never seems to slant toward exploitation or pulp and strangely enough, in spite of the godawful hopeless hate-filled suckers that populate his wr ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Izzy rated it it was ok
I read Last Exit to Brooklyn a few years ago, when I actually lived in the titular city and tried to “run” a regular drinking session where my friends and I discussed incest book club. I chose this book for: its reputation, a trusted friend’s personal recommendation, and because Hubert Selby Jr. also wrote Requiem for a Dream (never read, love the movie). Though I generally have a sunny disposition, I also have a penchant for sad songs, movies about addiction, and slutty women. It is a reflectio ...more
Jan 04, 2017 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing portraits of men hating women, mothers hating children, and the truly devastating absence of love. A phenomenal work of art that's raw, revolting, & insidious. Owes a large debt to the dementedness of Sade, though the prose, as stark and jarring, as opaque, as a broken shard of obsidian, is just damn Beautiful.

I can suddenly hear a requiem coming on...
Jul 26, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
Good God, this is a brutal book. The writing style's brilliant, but the stories are so vivid that the pain of the characters is visceral. It's not a novel so much as it's a series of short stories that tie together to portray the hell-hole that was 1950's Brooklyn. There was a whole obscenity case about this book when it was published in the early 1960's: the story that received the most attention for being obscene, however, was not the one I found most painful. The most infamous story was "Tral ...more
MJ Nicholls
Mar 20, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, merkins
A searing sift through the slurried slums of post-war Brooklyn. The only book that uses shock, violence and vulgarity to depict a world of tragic isolation that truly pierces the heart, gets you so deeply you feel you are THERE, in this boneyard of brittle bones and broken bodies, crying and fighting and fucking and SHOUTING AT YER FREAKIN KIDS TA SHUT THERE TRAPS.

Selby's editor on this book was Gilbert Sorrentino, who helped Selby refine his extraordinarily precise style, his pitch-perfect dia
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 22, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Modern Fiction)
My second Selby and I was just as amazed. My first one of him was his 1978-published book, Requiem for a Dream (4 stars also).

Hubert Selby, Jr. (1928-2004) wrote like no other or maybe I have not encountered those "others" yet. I have encountered Saramago's and Garcia Marquez's novels with practically no punctuation marks. Selby's had some but he substituted apostrophes with forward slashes "/". According to Wiki, Selby's reason for this was the symbol's proximity to his typewriter, thus allowi
Grabbed this from my stash Saturday evening and started blazing through it, rapt! Could not put it down. Finished Sunday...

Uncompromising portrait of petty slothfulness and violence in grim Brooklyn in the 1950s. The 1989 Jennifer Jason Leigh film was fine and disturbing, but it can't capture the earnest immediacy of this book and the machine-gun style of expression of the colloquialisms and the stream of consciousness. This is masterly, it seems to have flowed off Selby's
Jan 20, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
Hubert Selby's travelogue brings you deep into an exotic land you've never visited before. I mean, technically Sunset Park in Brooklyn is like ten minutes away on foot, but Brooklyn's come a long way in forty years and I don't know anyone like anyone in this book, which is great for me because there is an awful lot of rape going on.

And the thing is that Selby is such a terrific observer of people, and he has this wonderful sympathy for them, so he gets you inside even the most loathsome of chara
Dec 27, 2013 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it
It is wrong that Last Exit to Brooklyn didn't shock me as much with its events as its insight? I don't mean to sound all rough and tough, I grew up in a working class Chicago neighborhood, but I knew people a couple steps removed from Selby's characters. Maybe people feel better when they frame the Last Exit to Brooklyn universe as far away from home, but the novel's power's in the transposition of the darkness to the every day. I mean, there are people feel the same as these characters all arou ...more
Nate D
Sep 18, 2009 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Irvine Welsh readers
Recommended to Nate D by: Maya, indirrectly by leaving it in the living room
I'd previously thought that recent authors chronicling amoral and desperate lives in blunt direct terms (say, Bret Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh) owed a lot to Bukowski in particular. But Last Exit to Brooklyn both predates Bukowski's first novel and points most directly ahead to the likes of Trainspotting. Except this is more obliteratingly bitter, more deathly demoralizing. Selby's vision is positively apocalyptic, but only in the most frighteningly believable terms.
Beregond 3019
Aug 05, 2008 Beregond 3019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read, hands down. I discovered it at a time where I was aching to find the style that best suited me as a reader, the genre above all others that roped me in and never let go. Selby helped me find it.

After reading the inside of the box for the film, "Requiem for a Dream", I was compelled to find this book that Darren Aronofsky, the director, adored so much. He was from Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn that is described here, so it certainly has much more meaning for
Aug 25, 2013 Jason rated it did not like it
The high ratings and high praise for this book put me in mind of the following scenario: a group of people stand around a display at a gallery - simply, a pile of shit upon a table. The idiots surrounding the table do not dare to let the others know their hidden truth: they don't (don/t) get it, it looks like shit to them! No one wants to be the first and possibly look the fool, so they begin to ascribe to it those catch-phrase buzzwords they've heard others use in similar situations. Brutal! Tr ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 27, 2009 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An truly unsettling read, as all of the Selby I've read to date has been. Nauseating at some points.

One thing I remember about this book was that the explicit spelling out of gruff, blue collar, New Yawk accents (kind of like the NYC equivalent to the way that Mark Twain captured thick southern accents in Huck Finn, etc) was so grating and constant that I literally was hallucinating (mildly) that everyone around me (in northeast Illinois) was speaking with these accents after setting down the bo
Apr 18, 2012 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
I can picture this book being read in college literature classes. I am sure that it deserves its place in modern American Literature and I am also sure that this book and Selby have their fans. I won't dispute his genius. My rating is not based on the "merit" of the book, but on whether I liked it and the truth is that I found this book to be repulsive and nauseating. I think that I was expecting it to be sort of like Kennedy's Iron Weed (which I liked) but much darker but Last Exit isn't dark-- ...more
Steven  Godin
Jun 28, 2016 Steven Godin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, americas
Had I read this at the time of release in 1964 it would have seemed like being struck by a lightning bolt from hell where one was made to feel sick, disgusted and appalled by it's graphic depiction of pretty much the worst that human behaviour has to offer. Fast forward to 2015 and nothing has changed, this is a shocking, gut-wrenching read which creates a vision of hell on earth for a bunch of New Yorkers who are just about as far away from the american dream as possible. Selby Jr was a genius ...more
Oct 29, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is brutal, but fantastic!! There are no likeable characters here, but you can't help but feel sorry for the desperate situations they are in at times. A portrayal of the nastiest, lowest forms of character amongst us. A much cruder version of the human conditions that Emile Zola wrote about almost a century previous to this.

I'm wondering why I've not read this before now. Looking forward to reading more of his work.
Tegan Boundy
Jun 08, 2015 Tegan Boundy rated it it was amazing
seriously? there were actually a couple of times I had to put this down because it was so brutal it was scaring me, it literally made my heart race, but not in a 'spooky' scary, it was in a 'wow this actually is happening somewhere in the world', it has such an air of truth about it that it gave me shivers on multiple occasions. absolutely amazing book.
Vincent Kaprat
Jan 26, 2009 Vincent Kaprat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are two books that every wholesome American boy and girl should read: The Grapes of Wrath and The Last Exit to Brooklyn. This is quintessential Americana mixed with broken hearts and broken teeth.
Oct 25, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I grew up in Brooklyn, and I live here now- so people are sometimes impressed by the length of my tenure and my selection of "back in the early 1980s" stories. At least until they realize that I'm from Park Slope, which is like being from the Upper West Side of Manhattan- sure, it probably had its rough spots, but no one is ever going to give you credit for surviving the rough streets of Riverside Drive. This is particularly true when you run into someone else who grew up in Brooklyn, and play t ...more
Lou Robinson
Apr 17, 2015 Lou Robinson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very confused about this book. It's supposed to be a literary classic, which is how I think it ended up on our work book club list, but I don't understand why. The only conclusion I come to is that it's purely because of the time it was written and how obscene it is. In the 21st century, I probably watch more edgy stuff regularly on TV (Hannibal and True Detective spring to mind), so perhaps the shock factor is gone for me. But I really can't think of anything I liked about it. Found the str ...more
Jul 11, 2016 Nigeyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just reread this for my book group, having first read it umpteen years ago. Still a powerful and disturbing experience, though time has reduced the impact of its graphic tales of drugs, street violence, gang rape, homosexuality, transvestism and domestic violence. As I was rereading I was struck by the parallels with Trainspotting, both in the depiction of street life and the extensive use of an unpunctuated vernacular. What Last Exit to Brooklyn lacks in comparison with Trainspotting is any hum ...more
Trevor John
Jul 13, 2012 Trevor John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gave me the worst fucking hangover of my life.
Dec 12, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
Last Exit to Brooklyn is a book you will argue about with friends and family. You’ll either spend hours (days, weeks) explaining why it’s a brilliant masterwork or spend an equal amount of time lecturing people on why it is terrible. Having spent the last few weeks arguing with people about this book I have come to the conclusion that everyone experiences art individually. The creation of art is a totally individual experience and everyone will experience that book, movie, song or painting in a ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rinabeana rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
This book was chosen for my book club. It didn't sound like my cup of tea, but I thought I'd give it a try (you can't like ALL the books you read for a book club, can you?). To say I did not enjoy this book would be a vast understatement. I detested the writing style. The dialogue was not separated and quite difficult to follow. This presupposes that I actually wanted to know who was speaking anyway. The subject matter was utterly bereft of anything good. The characters were mean-spirited, lazy, ...more
Nov 27, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
Gritty, raw prose about New York street life that's in a class by itself. Everyone gets punished in the end, whether it's the drag queen in "The Queen Is Dead" or the slut in "Tralala" or the striking lathe worker who comes out in "Strike". I loved this book but the "punch" line is in New York City you're gonna take a beating for being different.
bobbygw bobbygw
Jan 20, 2015 bobbygw bobbygw rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: literary classics, 20th century fiction, American existentialism
Controversy has always surrounded Selby, Jr.'s writing. From the start, with Last Exit (being his first novel), his original UK publisher Calder and Boyers faced government prosecution in 1967, under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act. It was a major trial, especially as it was originally found guilty of being `obscene', and because, more importantly, the Appeal in 1968 overturned that decision and paved the way for a much more open-minded interpretation of literature as to merit.

In some intervie
Ryland Dinneen
Last Exit to Brooklyn is a book finished in the 60's - a series of short stories all loosely connected to each other through characters and settings. Each story is dark and sometimes it grows to become unbearable, but if you take the time to stick with the book and allow yourself to appreciate it more you will be thankful in the end.

For those of you who don't know, this is Selby Jr's first book, and arguably his most famous (among Requiem for a Dream). It garnered it a massive amount of controve
Mary Fitzsimons
Oct 29, 2013 Mary Fitzsimons rated it really liked it
[some spoilers here]

Last Exit to Brooklyn infuriated, upset, and horrified me even as it engrossed me utterly. A series of loosely related stories, all set in the downtrodden neighborhoods of 1950s Brooklyn, the book observes society’s outcasts—prostitutes, criminals, alcoholics, drug addicts, transsexuals, closeted homosexuals, the poor, the abused. With few exceptions, these are horrible, horrible people—selfish and cruel and violent. Take Harry, for example, the main character in Part V, titl
Steven Eggleton
Jun 09, 2014 Steven Eggleton rated it it was amazing
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not easily shocked. But even I must admit, Hurbert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn is like Bukowski on acid. More often than not, when writers try to tackle the unsavory aspects of the human condition, it comes off as cheap and affected. It takes a true wordsmith to nimbly navigate the putrid waters that can inhabit the human soul –Selby is one such writer. With the blunt frankness of a six o’clock news cast, he shines light on topics that make the average ...more
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Hubert 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." Dr ...more
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“...and yet there was not a definable thought in his mind. Only a terrifying effort to get from one side of a match box to another.” 5 likes
“The bodies went back in the doors and bars and the heads in the windows. The cops drove away and Freddy and the guys went back into the Greeks and the street was quiet, just the sound of a tug and an occasional car; and even the blood couldn't be seen from a few feet away.” 4 likes
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