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Last Exit to Brooklyn by Jr Hubert Selby
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Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)

by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,931183,538 (3.86)46
  1. 00
    Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (Moomin_Mama)
    Moomin_Mama: Both are written as if spoken and deal with the petty viciousness that is required to survive at the bottom of the heap in so-called civilised societies.
  2. 00
    The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things by JT LeRoy (Nassime)
    Nassime: Do not let the author identity scandal surrounding this novel dilute your appreciation of it. For me the true Child of Selby's masterpiece is this
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» See also 46 mentions

English (17)  Italian (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Beautiful and horrifying. ( )
  LisaFoxRomance | Apr 6, 2014 |
Somehow I had never read Last Exit and it seemed time to do so. And Im glad I did but its hard to judge it so far removed from its original context. You can see why it shocked at the time it was written - but that power to shock has of course diminished with time and I'm left with mixed feelings as to whether or not the book is actually any good. One thing is certain - that the voices Selby speaks with are genuine - at least mostly so - but some of the characters are more successful than others.

The transvestite Georgette - and indeed all of the various transvestites that appear in the book - are very truthfully realised and the authenticity of some of these rarely heard, at the time, voices is one of the most powerful aspects of the book. The other is the disaffected union leader Harry, drawn like a moth to the flame of the transvestite Regina, to his eventual ruin - although the manner of his ultimate demise seemingly comes out of nowhere and seems out of character for him

The section featuring the teenage hooker Tralala is perhaps the most famous in the book, but for me its probably the least convincing. In his introduction Irvine Welsh describes Tralala as rejecting the love of a good man because she doesn't feel worthy of it. This is a good narrative - and I seem to remember the film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh took a similar angle - but I couldn't find anything in the book to support it. Tralala is disappointed that 4 days with her sailor ends with him offering a love letter rather than cash, and goes downhill from that point with the speed of a runaway locomotive. But why she does so is unclear. Why she lets her guard and her standards slip to such a point that the famous gang rape scene is simply a logical conclusion of her downward spiral, was to me anyway, unclear. I accept that she misses her chance of salvation - but rather than rejecting that salvation it seemed to me that she simply didn't notice it go by.

Another unsuccessful part of the book was, for me, the "coda" describing a day in the life of various characters in the projects. Here Selby shows that he is much more at home with white working class Irish American or Italian American voices. His African American character, Abe, is a cartoon stereotype that suggests not much interaction with real African Americans. In fact for a whole range of reasons the "coda" is an unsatisfactory way for the book to finish - much better to leave Harry broken on the sidewalk with his shattered dreams

In all a book well worth reading but more for historical context than enlightenment about today ( )
2 vote Opinionated | Nov 17, 2013 |
The book is fascinating. The main reason I only give three stars, though, is because it isn't properly a novel. It is, instead, a collection if short stories. The problem there is that I am not a fan of the short story form, especially if I came in wanting a novel.
That said, Georgette's story is really moving and powerful to me. Certainly foundational lit for the LGBTQ movement as we now know it in literature, but not very shocking anymore. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
I can't rate this. I can't read this. I acknowledge that the world holds brutality- the likes of which many of us have never known- and to pretend that it it doesn't does no favors to art or literature. However, to present ONLY the most brutal- or at the least heartless- of the actions of a given population seems an omission of it's own. I like to believe that some men aren't douchebags, and some women have a modicum of self-respect...even among the downtrodden and desperate...I'm sure I'm missing the point, but this book made me physically ill.
Is it well written? The chapter with Georgette is well-done, clever - her sad persistent obsession with Vinnie believable & heart-breaking- the introduction of "The Raven" very effective. The 1st section, and the one about the baby seem pointless, contrived, and disposable. Got part way through Tralala & can't continue.
If you have ever actually suffered physical or emotional abuse, rape, sexual coercion or degradation to an extent that damaged you (wow, that sounds like a lot of us)...good luck reading this and not undoing years of therapy.
I'm giving this a right-down-the-middle 2.5, in an attempt to be fair & not judge soly on content.
Just because you CAN write something like this, does it mean you SHOULD? That's the ringing question I take away. ( )
  stacey2112 | Apr 22, 2013 |
Ok so...this book makes Raymond Carver look like a stand up comedian next to Hubert Selby Jr. It is grueling. The characters are all a little depraved and desperately flawed. Most of the time, they seem to possess no idea of just how frighteningly misguided they are. The men are all misogynistic sadists whose wives should run before they are raped and murdered with their unattended babies falling off of ledges. The men that do work are despicably lazy. These are the criminals and underworld druggies, wifebeaters, and transvestites that existed long before Brooklyn became the trendy indie rock scene it is today. This is the life in the projects and it seems quite real and graphic. The rage these characters feel is like glimpsing into the mind of a sociopath.

This book was banned for a time and tried for obscenity in British courts when it was initially sought to be published there (Selby is a NYer). It was the inspiration for Trainspotting (a novel I found far more complex politically and therefore more worthwhile) and the baseness of the characters definitely makes the two novels touch upon similar issues and levels. Much as Irvine Welsh does (and there is a forward from him in my copy of this book), Hubert Selby Jr. writes in the vernacular of the working-poor class characters so you can vividly sense their stream of consciousness and dialogue. You can actually hear them pretty easily as one does with Welsh's Trainspotting characters.

However, where Welsh succeeds, Selby seems to fail. Welsh presents a dose of realism but he also ties this in with politics in a way that looks at religion and history of Scotland vs. Ireland vs. England. This makes Trainspotting far more complex and successful on other levels. Selby shows a glimpse into a cruel world, which also becomes a document for a time when Brooklyn wasn't regentrified as well as when racism and homophobia was much more rampant. It wasn't a time in American history one can feel particularly proud of and I can't help but feel relieved I wasn't born during this time into a Brooklyn project because I doubt I'd really survive that (especially with any of these male characters as fathers).

But the problem I have with this novel is that I don't really get a deeper message from it. There aren't any solutions offered here and I just ended up feeling really depressed and angry. I'm not really one of those people that just wants to read happy books all the time. I like an intellectual challenge but I already know there are psychopaths in the world. I know there are men who beat their wives and children and even molest children. I am well aware that evil exists and that it's not exactly a new phenomenon, which leads me to wonder why I should rate this book any higher. I will say I thought the author's story was interesting-that he decided to become a writer after being diagnosed with a lung disease and given a poor prognosis (he outlived anyone's expectations). I also found it interesting that he studied or was mentored by Gil Sorrentino but I have to say that I found his afterward a little irritating...his assumption that he'd contributed and left the world something makes an assumption I'm not sure I'd agree with myself. But I'm sure if aliens were to find this novel as the only item left to explain the human race, they wouldn't regret destroying our planet for a second. ( )
  kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Scorching, unrelenting, pulsing.
added by GYKM | editNewsweek
 
As dramatic and immediate as the click of a switchblade knife.
added by GYKM | editLos Angeles Times
 
Selby has an unerring instinct for honing our collapse into novels as glittering and as cutting as pure, black, jagged glass.
added by GYKM | editSaturday Review
 
Drops like a sledgehammer. Emotionally beaten, one leaves it a different person—slightly changed, educated by pain, as Goethe said.
added by GYKM | editThe Nation
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Selby, Hubert, Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wesselius, RudiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 3:19
Dedication
This book is dedicated,

with love, to Gil.
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
C'était frais. Cela rafraîchissait. Oui, il faisait plus frais et sa tête avait merveilleusement chaud et elle aurait encore Vinnie et la prochaine fois, un jour, il l'embrasserait. Et ils sortiraient ensemble. Au cinéma. Et ils se tiendraient la main ou bien ils iraient se promener et il lui allumerait sa cigarette... oui, il ferait un abri de ses mains autour de l'allumette, la cigarette pendant au coin des lèvres, et je mettrai mes mains autour des siennes et il soufflera l'allumette et la jettera au loin... mais nous n'aurons pas besoin d'aller danser. Je sais qu'il n'aime pas danser. Je porterai une jolie robe imprimée. Quelque chose de simple. Quelque chose de net et d'élégant. Vinnie? C'était Harry... Non. Non, je n'aurai pas besoin de m'habiller en femme. Nous défierons tout le monde, nous nous aimerons... Aimerons. Et on nous aimera. Et on m'aimera. Et l'oiseau viendra, et il chantera l'amour et nous volerons... Oh, cette salope... Je suis femme de façon bien plus convaincante que Lee quand je suis habillée. Elle ressemble à Chaplin. Et je danserai comme Melissa. Si seulement j'étais un petit peu plus petite. Et bien, nous lui avons montré à Miss Lee, pas vrai Vincent — (Georgette dansait tout autour de la pièce en fredonnant des chansons, vêtue d'un slip de soie et d'un soutien-gorge rembourré, et un type était assis nu, au bord du lit, de la sueur roulait sur son corps luisant, il touchait la soie quand Georgette passait près de lui, il jouait avec ses parties génitales, se léchait les lèvres, de la salive lui tombant de la bouche, puis elle ôta son slip et il le saisit, enfouit son visage dedans et tomba sur le lit en gémissant en se vautrant...) — Non. Non. C'est maintenant. Demain. Vinnie oui, oui. Vincennti. Vincennti d'Amore. Che gelida mania... oui, oui. J'ai froid, oh mon bien-aimé. Si me chiamano Mimi... Si, une bougie. La douce lumière des bougies... et je vais lire pour toi. Et nous boirons du vin. Non, il ne fait pas froid. Pas vraiment. C'est seulement la brise du lac. C'est si beau. Paisible. Regarde, rienque quelques petites rides à la surface. Et des saules. Oui. Si. Des saules majestueux qui se penchent pour se regarder dans l'eau, qui se courbent pour nous dire oui. Oui, oui, oui... Oh, Vincennti tiens moi. Plus fort. Vincennti d'Amore. O soave fanciulla. -- (Georgie est un de mes amis, il est prêt à me baiser à n'importe quel moment pour 25 cents ou) — Le Lac. Le Lac. Et la lune... oui... Regarde. Regarde. Vois-tu là-bas? Un cygne. Oh comme il est beau. Comme il est calme. La lune le suit. Regarde comme elle l'éclaire. Oh, quelle grâce. Oh oui oui oui Vinnie... Vincennti... Regarde. Regarde, il vient vers nous. Nous. Pour nous. Oh comme il est blanc. Oui. Il est blanc. Plus blanc que les neiges sur les montagnes. Et il n'y a plus d'ombres maintenant. Mais il brille, il étincelle. Le roi des oiseaux. Oui. Oh oui, oui, des violoncelles. Des centaines de violoncelles et nous glisserons dans le clair de lune, nous nous pencherons sur LE CYGNE et nous embrasserons sa tête et nous ferons signe aux saules et saluerons la nuit et ils nous rendront grâce... Ils nous rendront grâce et Le Lac nous rendra grâce et nous sourira et la lune nous rendra grâce et les montagnes nous rendront grâce et la brise nous rendra grâce et le soleil se lèvera doucement et ses rayons s'étendront et même les saules lèveront un peu la tête et la neige sera plus blanche et les ombres se lèveront des montagnes et il fera chaud... oui, il fera chaud... les ombres resteront, mais le clair de lune sera chaud (Danse, Ballerine Danse) Vinnie??? Le clair de lune sera chaud. Il fera plus chaud. Serre-moi Vincennti. Aime-moi. Aime-moi seulement. Mais les champs de fleurs sont si beaux au soleil. Dans le flot de lumière vive. Chaude et brillante. Et les hautes herbes fuient et se séparent et les couleurs éclatent et de petites gouttes de rosée brillent et tout est rouge et violet pourpre et vert et blanc... oui blanc, et or et bleu et rose, d'un doux rose et regarde les lucioles... comme des fleurs de la nuit... Oh oui, oui, des fleurs de la nuit. De petites lumières douces. De jolies petites lumières. Oh, j'ai si froid. La commèdia è finita. NON ! NON ! Vincennti. Oui, oui ma chérie. Si me chiamano Mimi. Pauvre petit Georgie. L'oiseau. Écoute Vinnie. Oiseau. Oh oui mon chéri, oui, oui. Je t'aime. T'aime. Oh Vinnie Vincennti. Ta bouche, tes lèvres sont si chaudes. D'Amore. Oh regarde comme les étoiles pâlissent le ciel. Oui, comme des bijoux. Oh Vinnie j'ai si froid. Viens, allons marcher. Sone andati. Oui mon amour, je l'entends. Oui. Il chante l'amour. L'amour Vinnie... il chante l'amour... non NON !Oh mon Dieu non!!! Vinnie m'aime. Il m'aime. Ce. N'était pas.De la merde.p. 77/78
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802131379, Paperback)

Last Exit to Brooklyn remains undiminished in its awesome power and magnitude as the novel that first showed us the fierce, primal rage seething in America’s cities. Selby brings out the dope addicts, hoodlums, prostitutes, workers, and thieves brawling in the back alleys of Brooklyn. This explosive best-seller has come to be regarded as a classic of modern American writing.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:19 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The decadence and violence of the urban streets is graphically portrayed in this novel set in a post-WWII Brooklyn slum.

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