Kevin Hinman's Reviews > Waiting Period

Waiting Period by Hubert Selby Jr.
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May 27, 11

Read from May 23 to 27, 2011

First, let me start out by saying that there are aspects of Waiting Period that are definitely admirable, even if, all in all, the novel doesn't quite work. Selby Jr. is a master at creating characters whose heads you can get right into, and who can likewise get back into yours. When the narrator of Waiting Period is paranoid, you feel paranoid, when he's depressed, you struggle to even turn the page, because what's the point? You're with him, truly, and from page one, it's go for broke.

Unfortunately, the narrator is never really in a normal, healthy sort of good mood. His only joy comes from committing anti-social acts and each happy moment is affixed with a twinge of impending doom. So, Waiting Period can be a bit of a bring down. This, on its own, is not a problem. Some of the best books are crushing (Selby Jr.'s own Requiem for a Dream being an excellent example). The problem with Waiting Period is that the narrative is too stagnant for its own good. At a slim 200 pages, no part of the novel should feel like a trek to get through, and yet the stream of consciousness prose (again, on its own, not an issue) stretches out simple events to fifteen or twenty pages as the narrator's mind wanders in and out of whatever simple task he's doing. Then, when the novel threatens to switch into high gear, as in the scene at the county fair, or the bombings, the action comes off as slight.

It's as if Selby Jr. was attempting to make each aspect of the novel as unlikable as possible (which, I'm not quite convinced that he wasn't). The narrator gets no sympathy from me, whatsoever, although the second, omniscient presence seems to indicate that by getting inside of the deranged mind of a vigilante, the reader would automatically understand his perspective. Worse, neither he, nor the book itself have anything provocative to say about the justice system, vigilantism, or alienation. The ending especially is weak, and sputters out anticlimactically (on purpose again, I believe, but without the deftness and grace of a more masterful work).

This is lesser Hubert Selby Jr. for sure, and as his final work, it does little to solidify the reputation he'd (rightfully) earned early in his career as a daring, darkly outspoken, and unique literary voice. Here, there is no ground broken. Readers expecting to get dirty should look elsewhere.
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