Beregond 3019's Reviews > Last Exit to Brooklyn

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
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M 50x66
's review
Aug 04, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: forever-favorites

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 him. But after opening it and reading the first sentence, just as with Aronofsky, I was attached at the hip to this book, and have since read it many times over again, although only at times when my stomach and my faith in humanity are sufficiently reinforced enough to handle it.

Wholly depressing almost in its entirety, and yet somehow keenly fascinating, Last Exit to Brooklyn is a forage deep into a dark and ugly world, one where the light of the American dream has never pierced even one tiny ray of its brilliance upon the people within. The characters range from the greedy to the angry to the confused to the misguided to the utterly without hope. Almost all those with a good heart that appear fall victim to the protagonists' everyday stompings on morality.

However, don't be mistaken and think that the novel is without depth. Selby guides those special characters in the story, the ones you never thought you could care about, into your heart, quietly and covertly. He pulls the rug out from underneath you at the most unlikely possible moment, and instead of contempt, you suddenly feel pity, grief, despair, and on occasion (on a very basic level), empathy and understanding.

After more ravaging of your psyche then most minds can handle, just when you are beginning to wonder, "How could human beings end up like this?", one of the novel's most powerful images comes forth. The final section of the multi-layered work (full of characters that rarely intersect) depicts a housing project in Brooklyn, no doubt quite similar to the ones in which the main characters all grew up. Selby writes of children in the opening paragraph, frolicking among the betrodden edifices, pretending to kill each other with guns.

There is something so powerful and potent about the hard-hitting, brutal, grisly, painfully painfully REAL way that Selby writes. It is something that is certainly not for everyone to experience, but something that no one should dare ignore. The review on the back of my copy calls it "a vision of hell so stern it cannot be chuckled or raged aside." I'd say that pretty much hits it right on the head.

Not a read for children, adolescents, or even squeamish or sensitive adults.
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