Friday, April 08, 2016

Last Exit to Brooklyn (book) - Hubert Selby Jr.

This 1957 book is kind of a combination of novel and short stories, as the seemingly stand-alone chapters eventually intertwine and characters from different parts of the book interact. Written in the Beat style - if there is such a thing - Selby eschews most punctuation and depicts the characters dialogue phonetically as he tells his tale of petty thiefs, violent hoodlums, drag queens, druggies, harpy housewives and plenty more. The subject matter is pretty forward for the time - ala many of the other Beat writers - and he progressively refers to drag queens with the female pronoun, although he does depict a man who discovers that he is homosexual assaulting a child - but that probably had more to do with the low-life character of the man rather than a condemnation of homosexuality.

You do get the feeling that Selby has lived in these neighborhoods where your hear and see most everything in the adjoining apartments and you know far more than you care to about neighbor's lives. Unwanted kids, cheating husbands, screaming wives, alcoholics, drug addled men and women, prostitutes, jazz-lovin', hop-head queers and straights all mix in the hood. Few, if any, of the characters are empathetic but the story is told in a compelling and unique way that keeps your interest and always makes you want to find out what happens next - which doesn't always happen.

Selby is new to me, but really dug this one and will certainly be looking for more. While not exactly rock'n'roll, certainly the same kind of soundtrack that you would hear in your head while reading Kerouac, Ginsberg and the rest.