Hubert Selby was one of those tiresome flash-in-the-pan enthusiasms that infected the 1960s, when anti-social lowlife/outsider/under-achiever marginal types became the rage---for the fifteen minutes it took for it to wear out its welcome.
My mother was the exec for library services at Grove Press in the late 1960s so this book, and others like it ("Naked Lunch", "Cain's Book", etc.) were around the house. I read "Last Exit To Brooklyn" and found it terminally boring---its "appeal" was readily apparent: small-time pathological nonentities consumed with negativity destroying themselves, described in morbidly clinical detail. Yuck.
Selby's claim to fame as the King Of The 1960s Hipster Dung-heap was that he poured it on like a manic-obsessive autodidact junkie, which is what he was, and what the hipsters gobbled up---he furnished a proctologist's view of life. They're all here: the junkies, drunks, whores, perverts, psychos, all in the language of the gutter, the bullpen, the dopehouse.
"Last Exit To Brooklyn" is an ugly book about ugly losers doing ugly things. No insight, no challenge-revelation-transformation, nothing that characterizes *real* literature that stands the test of time. Authors of the previous dispensation used lowlifes as *counterpoint*---think Faulkner, Chekhov, Hemingway, Anderson et al. Marginal lowlife-outsiders are inherently uninteresting because they've got nothing to declare but their pathologies.
Boring BORING B-O-R-R-R-I-N-G.
Selby stood in apostolic succession to Malcolm Cowley, another one-book drunk, who wrote "Under The Volcano"-- -a tedious panorama of chronic inebriation. Boring at the sub-atomic level.
This is what passed for "cool" back then, and now, at the dawn of the new century, lowlife-outsider types are back in fashion, so it's inevitable that the sludge of the 1960s-70s would be resurrected, like zombies in a cheap horror flick. It's a wish-fulfillment fantasy for posturing chasers of "cool" who never missed a meal and always slept in their own beds.
"Last Exit" and "Naked Lunch" had/has its biggest appeal for suburban undergraduates, (and perpetual adolescents who never outgrow their teenage fixations) consumed with self-loathing who have a twisted emotional need to immerse themselves in the cesspool of semi-pornographic urban filth like "Last Exit", "Taxi Driver", John Waters movies, Robert Mapplethorpe photos, etc.
People who actually come from neighborhoods like the one in "Last Exit" don't read books like "Last Exit". Why would they? It's not only loathsome and disgusting, it's dishonest writing at the most basic level---it furnishes a wish-fulfillment fantasy for spoiled college types, and perpetual adolescents in "the arts" (*hawk-ptoo*).
The inside of this Selby's head is fully revealed in the next book he wrote, called "The Room". If you liked "Last Exit" you'll really get the hots for "The Room". It's the apotheosis of all that Selby was. But with that book, he was basically "written out"---he had nothing more to say, nothing anyone would pay to hear---his fans of the 1960s had grown up, and moved on.
Now Selby is back, for another fifteen minutes. This numbing "documentary" about a Johnny-one-note "author" whose brief success was due solely to fashion, *not* merit (he's a terrible writer, like most self-taught scribblers) trots out all the inevitable '60s relics---Amiri Baraka, John Calder, Lou Reed, Gilbert Sorrentino, Ellen Burstyn as well as present-day porn-addicts Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jared Leto, Henry Rollins, Marlon Wayans, John Turturro, the usual suspects. Half of the aforementioned are communists, junkies, atheists and perverts themselves, and several have significant police records,which figures. This sorry cast all subscribe to the '60s mantra that to be "art" it's got to be SICK AND DIRTY.
Uh, r-r-right. Moving right along...
It's emblematic of these coprophagics that they stridently call junk like "Last Exit" "art", as if that's the get-out-of-jail-free pass for their morbid obsessions.
This is the slimy bottom of the stinkiest dumpster you ever saw, and there will always be a market for it. If that sounds good to you, by all means, dive right in.
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