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Last Exit to Brooklyn

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  13,226 ratings  ·  747 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
Apr 02, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
A.K.
Apr 23, 2009 A.K. rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Megan
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
Izzy
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
MJ Nicholls
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
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 22, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Evan
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
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
...more
RandomAnthony
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
Beregond 3019
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
...more
Nate D
Sep 18, 2009 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Alex
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
...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
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
...more
Vincent Kaprat
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.
Fewlas
Aug 21, 2013 Fewlas rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fewlas by: Dan Fante
Shelves: americana
”L’unico influsso che ho subito, per quanto posso vedere io, è quello di Beethoven. Perdio, cosa non sapeva fare quell’uomo con due, tre, quattro note! Le metteva in fila. Le ripeteva. Una, due, tre volte. Poi le alternava, le ricombinava, in tutti i modi. E alla fine saltava fuori la Quinta Sinfonia. È questo tipo di scrittore che io voglio essere.”
Ho voluto iniziare il mio commento a questo libro con le parole con le quali Selby descrisse la più grande influenza sul suo modo di scrivere. Ho vo
...more
Chris
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
Lou Robinson
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
Trevor John
This book gave me the worst fucking hangover of my life.
Jake
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
Jason
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
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
...more
Jeremy
Hubert Selby Jr.'s masterwork is just that: a masterwork. There are a range of joys to explore in this novel, including Selby Jr's use of style, his fragmented structure, his beautifully rendered characters who are often so fundemntally appalling and compelling at the same time. and the broken up mish-mash of bizarre moral edges, just to name a few. The pure, confronting nature of such ordinary evil and how it is presented is exhillarating and deeply depressing at the same time. What an explosio ...more
Stuart
Irvine Welsh has stated that this is his favourite book and the inspiration for 'Trainspotting'. With that in mind I was expecting something dark, graphic and visceral and Selby does not disappoint. Much like 'Trainspotting', this tale is an intertwining collection of characters living brutal existences in the lowest of conditions in Brooklyn. Heroin is replaced here with liquor but the violence and degradation are the same, especially for the female characters...this is 1950's Brooklyn don't fo ...more
Mike Lester
This is one of those books I'd heard about for years, but never got around to reading until recently. My first exposure to this story was through the film version which I was lucky enough to catch during a Selby tribute at The Egyptian. The story was unashamedly dark and relentless, on a level that rarely finds its way to the screen. I was impressed. So, when I finally dug out my good old paperback I went into the book expecting darkness, unflinching and honest. I got this in spades. The book is ...more
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
I finally found a paperback copy of this, in the hopes that seeing the written words on the page would give me a better sense of the book's structure...

Eh. Not so much!

Still, this is a fantastic read. I can only imagine how confronting this must have seemed when it was first released. Even now, I think it would be hard to read without being shocked by some piece of human ugliness. Rarely have I seen so many characters portrayed in such an unflattering light. But there's a positive aspect to many
...more
Lou
Nitty gritty of inner city, a set of stories of individuals in a concrete jungle. In this novel you will not find grand story telling, the writing is lacking punctuation marks and grammar which some readers will find annoying. You will find darkness in mankind, some dysfunctional characters and behaviour, take a look around nowadays and you see theses characters are strife. The novel did not really hook me as it was not one story really leading any where and more just day to day accounts of hust ...more
Xavier
Last Exit to Brooklyn is comprised by a series of vignettes of a Brooklyn neighborhood in the 40s or 50s. This is not the teary sentimentality of Frank Capra, nor is it the technicolored musicals of Hollywood. This stuff is downright bleak. I couldn't doubt for a second that Selby lived amongst the rabble infesting the book. I think that it offers a realist view of what it was like to live in the working class neighborhoods of Mid-century New York.
bobbygw
Jan 20, 2015 bobbygw rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
...more
Chris
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
kaelan
I recently read something about how 'art is not about making you feel good.' While the source currently escapes me, I find that this sentiment applies perfectly to Last Exit to Brooklyn. Comprised of a series of vignettes and short stories—and maybe even a novella—connected by a common geography and general sense of tragedy, the moral of the novel appears to be: (view spoiler) ...more
Nicholas Pell
This may be the best book that I've ever read in my life. I'm not sure at what point in my life that I became capable of truly appreciating a masterpiece such as this, but I'm glad that I can.

The book tells the stories of several denizens of a diner called "The Greek's" in Brooklyn. Among the characters we meet are a gang of young black men with little to do, a transgendered woman named Georgette who is in love with ex-con Vinnie, a prostitute with the unlikely handle Tralala, a closeted shop s
...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
More about Hubert Selby Jr....
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“Sometimes we have the absolute certainty there's something inside us that's so hideous and monstrous that if we ever search it out we won't be able to stand looking at it. But it's when we're willing to come face to face with that demon that we face the angel.” 106 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.” 2 likes
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