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Customer Review

on November 17, 2003
I don't know whether it was deliberate or not, but Hubert Selby, Jr.'s LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN is a window into the hidden side of America's supposed banner years during the Eisenhower administration. Movies and television of this period depicted squeaky clean families in their squeaky clean houses (with the notable exception of I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners whose families lived in apartments). In this Father Knows Best world, no one worried about poverty, minorities, or women's rights, and the only evil was on the other side of the hemisphere in the USSR.
And then there's the world of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. This is the underclass of citizens that the nation preferred to ignore: pimps, hookers, thieves, junkies, drag queens, wife-beaters, and the thousands upon thousands of working class stiffs at the mercy of their union officials or their bosses, neither of which seem to have their best interests in mind. But this is no 'pity the poor' sort of the book, no HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES (although I do wonder what kind of effect this book had upon its release). These characters, and they are fascinating, are not sentimentalized. Selby portrays most of them as brutal, unsympathetic, and as cruel to their own kind as anyone else. Even the drag queens, whom you would think would be a little understanding of each other, turn vicious at their best friends over the slightest insult. While very uneven in terms of pacing and tone, this is still a ferocious book which deserves reading.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.
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