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Last Exit to Brooklyn (Evergreen Book) Paperback – January 13, 1994
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As dramatic and immediate as the click of a switchblade knife.”Los Angeles Times
The raw strength and concentrated power of Last Exit to Brooklyn make it one of the really great works of fiction about the underground labyrinth of our cities.”Harry T. Moore
Last Exit to Brooklynshould explode like a rusty hellish bombshell over America and still be eagerly read in a hundred years.”Allen Ginsberg
Drops like a sledgehammer. Emotionally beaten, one leaves it a different personslightly changed, educated by pain, as Goethe said.”The Nation
Selby has an unerring instinct for honing our collapse into novels as glittering and as cutting as pure, block, jagged glass.”Saturday Review
Scorching, unrelenting, pulsing.”Newsweek
The marriage of brutal street life and gorgeous bebop prose.” Richard Price, from his My Five Most Essential Books,” published in Newsweek (April 13, 2009)
From the Inside Flap
The first novel to articulate the rage and pain of life in "the other America," Last Exit to Brooklyn is a classic of postwar American writing. Selby's searing portrait of the powerless, the homeless, the dispossessed, is as fiercely and frighteningly apposite today as it was when it was first published more than thirty-five years ago.
"An extraordinary achievement,...a vision of hell so stern it cannot be chuckled or raged aside."--The New York Times Book Review
"As dramatic and immediate as the click of a switchblade knife."--Los Angeles Times
"The raw strength and concentrated power of Last Exit to Brooklyn make it one of the really great works of fiction about the underground labyrinth of our cities."--Harry T. Moore
"Last Exit to Brooklyn should explode like a rusty hellish bombshell over America and still be eagerly read in a hundred years."--Allen Ginsberg
"Drops like a sledgehammer. Emotionally beaten, one leaves it a different person-slightly changed, educated by pain, as Goethe said."--The Nation
"Selby has an unerring instinct for honing our collapse into novels as glittering and as cutting as pure, black, jagged glass."--Saturday Review
"Scorching, unrelenting, pulsing."--Newsweek
Hubert Selby, Jr. was born in Brooklyn in 1928. Last Exit to Brooklyn, his first novel, was originally published in 1964. He has since written five other novels, The Room, The Demon, Requiem for a Dream, and The Willow Tree, and a collection of short stories, Song of the Silent Snow. Mr. Selby lives in Los Angeles.
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"Exit" divides into three inter-related parts. Part 1 deals with a group of neighborhood toughs, all unemployed, bored and both by habit and temperment, looking for trouble. They hang out at a local dive, a diner called, "the Greeks" (no punctuation, per the author). They avail themselves of the first opportunity for violence and seriously beat a soldier who, in their perception, slighted a local "floozy". After administering a serious beating and in true sociopathic fashion, Vinnie and friends cavalierly return to the diner and their coffee. During the course of the evening and later on, they consume prodigious quantities of gin, benzedrine (legal at the time) and weed. They berate gays but happily and unabashedly party with transvestites. In Part 2, "Strike" focus shifts to a local machine shop and the union shop steward, Harry, who has some problems of his own. He's a lazy, belligerent and foul-mouthed bum whose "work ethic" leaves something to be desired from the perspective of the union (where his fealty outweighs his shortcomings), from the machinists themselves (where his grating and affected "hail fellow, well met" approach and incessant bragging further compromise his strong-arm techniques) to the company executives who provoke a strike in an effort to rid themselves of an offensive parasite. As the strike progresses, the thugs from Part 1 leach food and alcohol from the shop steward, introduce him to the demi-monde of gay sex and eventually beat him to a bloody pulp after he attempts to seduce a neighborhood boy. Part 3 ("Landsend") is a series of vignettes featuring residents of "the Project". This section is the strongest of the three, as it perfectly captures the mood, language, mores and attitudes of a cross-section of lower-class America, both then and now. It is reminiscent in it's fealty to language and atmosphere of Roth's, "Call it Sleep", an acknowledged masterpiece set in turn-of-the (20th)-century Jewish tenement culture. Marlon Brando in the film, "On the Waterfront" also comes to mind.
It's likely that Hubert Selby, Jr.'s perspectives were well informed by his own lifestyle which blended heroin, alcohol and a singularly avant guarde/bohemian lifestyle, especially for the time. His novels were all successful ("Exit" was filmed). Due to the startlingly explicit depictions of both homosexual and heterosexual sex, parts of which were (and remain) disquieting (e.g., the gang rape concluding Part 1), "Exit" was banned as "obscene". By current standards, it remains graphic and probably (given emerging Victorian sensibilities wrapped in sharp, cool clothes and covered with currently fashionable jargon) would warrant a "trigger warning" at certain American colleges and universities. One wonders if Selby could land a university job in the present era (he served as USC writing faculty).
"Exit" is a strong, compelling, unaffected, authentic and vibrant piece of literature. It's clear depictions of 1950s Brooklyn, coupled with the frenetic writing style (idiosyncratic punctuation, reproduced in this edition, reflecting Selby's rush to convey his typewritten thoughts to paper as rapidly as possible). It's more honest than Kerouac, less contrived than Burroughs and as insightful as Bowles. What more can you ask?
While I did ultimately get through the book, this is important literature. In my opinion: The best literature makes you "feel". While nearly 40 years old, reading every "stream-of-conscience" line is an incredible achievement on behalf on the late Hubert Selby. It's somehow cathartic, and makes you appreciate what you have... while hopefully developing a new appreciation for those very real characters with whom we relate somehow.
Most recent customer reviews
The book is good but the writing can get weird and cumbersome in some places.Read more