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Leaving Las Vegas Paperback – November 22, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (November 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134455
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The wrenching but compelling story of unconditional love between two lost and disenfranchised souls. Sera, a prostitute, and Ben, an alcoholic, stumble together and discover in each other a respite from their unforgiving lives.

From Publishers Weekly

O'Brien's first novel, which uses a present-tense format for immediacy and heavy-handed irony to call attention to its characters' delusions and false optimism, explores a merciless world ruled by sex and booze. Sera, a surprisingly well-paid hooker from L.A., finds making a living in the squalid streets and casinos of Las Vegas fairly simple, provided that injuries from abusive tricks do not leave permanent scars; trouble starts when Al, her former pimp, tracks her down to reassert his authority. Her initial fear of Al's notorious cruelty turns to pity, however, and she frees herself of the self-destructive love she once felt for him to begin a gentler yet equally destructive relationship with Ben, a Southern Californian who has decided that Las Vegas's perpetually open bars are the perfect place to drink himself to death. Sera cares for Ben, and her compassion elicits the reader's sympathy and hope despite Sera's dead-end occupation and Ben's steadily worsening condition. Fast-paced and violent, this saga is derivative of such chroniclers of dereliction as Charles Bukowski and Larry Brown.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Anyway, this movie is one of my all time favorites.
Judy Haynes
Exploring the dark depths of alcoholism, the needy loneliness of prostitution and the unconditional love between two lost souls.
Buggy
I haven't seen the movie yet, so I wanted to read the book first.
jaymez619

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. Malcolm McLean on December 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
The movie gives a lot of attention to the love affair before dashing its viewers against rocks. Here, hugs and kisses are few and far between. O'Brien's book injects its moments of passion and accepting love as brief moments of hope laced with doubt, when the overall tone should be enough to foreshadow its bleak and painfully real conclusion. It is written with the raw journalism of somebody who has seen what's on the bottom of the pool and has resurfaced to call for help. I offer this book five stars instead of, say 4, because it sticks to its guns throughout. It never flinches as it paints portraits of characters so desperately needy that somewhere inside you know they will never make it, with or without each other. This is true of more people than we care to admit. I don't know if I have the stamina or the desire for another reading. But I won't ever forget it.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Vodka and Cranberry on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
There can be fewer books in the English language so poignantly tinged with tragedy as 'Leaving Las Vegas'. The author, John O'Brien, commited suicide shortly after the film rights to the book were sold. He was 34. With this background, the book itself takes on an almost unparalled sadness. The description of the the decline of a successful man into a sick and pathetic figure is brilliant, and the the character of Sera is equally convincing. Although this is a tragic tale, however, one must see the hope that lies behind it: in the end, Ben has found true love, and although it is too late to save him from the lure of the bottle, he dies as happy as his situation will ever allow him. The backdrop of Las Vegas is perfectly used, and the city of perpetual excess is the ideal venue to show what that excess can do. A book to put you off drink if ever there was one, and not one to read when depressed, but ultimately a beautiful, touching and liberating exploration of desperation and hope.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Buggy on September 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Charming at times yet brutal in its honesty LEAVING LAS VEGAS is ultimately a graphic and depressing love story. There is no hope for redemption here and John O'Brien makes no apologies for it. Having committed suicide soon after the movie rights to this book were sold, many consider LLV to be his suicide note to the world. However this is also a beautiful and compulsively readable masterpiece. Exploring the dark depths of alcoholism, the needy loneliness of prostitution and the unconditional love between two lost souls.

LLV is told in 4 sections. Alternating between Sera, a content yet increasingly jaded hooker and Ben an alcoholic on one final bender. We also get to meet Al (unlike the movie) Sera's violent and broken former pimp who's hoping to reclaim what was his. I will admit to having a bit of trouble following the story in the beginning as I got used to O'Brien's style of writing. He tended to jump between the past and present in a pretentious manner that was very hard to keep track of. In these beginning chapters we watch Sera go about her daily routine and witness some of the harshest and most shocking moments in the book.

Section 2 traces Ben as he ties up the loose ends of his former life in California and prepares to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. Ben never makes excuses for being an alcoholic, the issue is completely irrelevant to him he just shows us what it takes to get through the day as one. With his alcoholism progressing Ben has become a time keeper; when do the bars open? When do they close? Which stores sell liquor? How much will he need to see him through the night? And how the hell did he get home? It's all quite exhausting and he knows he doesn`t have much time left.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Leaving Las Vegas" is a dark tale that is not meant for the timid reader. It is real, it is gritty, it is graphic, it is depressing, and it is beautiful all at the same time. This book seriously deserved more credit than it recieved in its year of release, for it is a beautifully written account of unconditional love and loss in Sin City. Compulsively readable, and shatteringly honest, this is a book that will stay with you because of its frank and gorgeous language.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I heard once that John O'Brien's father called this novel a suicide note from his son. It's hard to seperate the two character's paths of destruction from the author's own suicide. A stunning first book, though. O'Brien had a wonderful command of the language. His talent makes his own fate that much harder to take. This book lingers with you long after the last page.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Adam Bernstein on March 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Leaving Las Vegas is a unique novel destined to (and already has) become a classic of American literature. It succeeds by forcing you to care on the deepest level about Nick and Sera, 2 of society's casualties. The narrative starts off with Sera, a Las Vegas hooker and O'brien's original writing style takes the 1st part of the book to get used to. We get inside 1st Sera's mind and later Nick's, a man who has given up on life and arrives in Vegas to literally drink himself to death.
Camus has said that a good book doesn't give every detail of a life, but rather implies the whole by focusing on a significant part. This novel implies alot that it never goes into. It implies 2 lives with intricate and tragic pasts, that converge in a city at the last possible moment. Nick's line that he forgot why he wants to die, he just knows that he wants to implies or inspires a whole tragic past the reader must manifest in his/her own mind. Sera's need for love with Nick as the vehicle implies the tragedy of a loveless past of prostitution. Both have taken wrong turns in life and ended up here in Vegas.
To me this novel is not about alchoholism or prostitution on any level but the surface. It's about tragedy, loss, despair, love, injustice. The author's suicide can only imply a few things. 1, he got so much into the characters he created he sank into those characters' despair himself and/or 2, this was too autobiographical to deal with it becoming so big (major film and all that), and/or 3, alchoholism....but most alchoholics don't die at 34, especially when as successful as O'brien.
The final part of the book, though, seems abbreviated too much. We get many short vignettes toward the end (half of the film only uses about the final 10 pages). Therefore, my only criticism is that the book is too short.
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