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The Room Paperback – 6 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; New edition edition (6 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714530387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714530383
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,014,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Selby's best book (The TLS)

A terrifying journey into the darkest corners of the psyche (Guardian)

Selby deploys street slang, common speech, argot and scatology to create a high poetic seems to derive from the greatest American poetry--Whitman, Pound, Williams, and Olson (The Nation)

One must be grateful to Selby for his fatal vision and strong, original talent (Newsweek)

'Selby's place is in the front rank of American novelists ... to understand his work is to understand the anguish of America.' (New York Times Book Review)

It's absolutely horrific ... but just about the most powerful novel I've ever read (The Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Hubert Selby, Jr. was born in Brooklyn in 1928. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and went to sea with the merchant marines. While at sea he was diagnosed with lung disease. With no other way to make a living, he decided to try writing: 'I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.' In 1964 he completed his first book, Last Exit to Brooklyn, which has since become a cult classic. In 1966, it was the subject of an obscenity trial in the UK. His other books include The Room, The Demon, Requiem for a Dream, Song of the Silent Snow, The Willow Tree and Waiting Period. In 2000, Requiem for a Dream starred Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn and was directed by Darren Aronofsky. Hubert Selby Jr died in Highland Park, Los Angeles, California in April 2004. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 27 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a well written and powerful novel. However it is extremely disturbing in places and is neither an easy nor a pleasant read.
I found it difficult at first to have any understanding or empathy with the central character as his sickeningly sadistic revenge fantasies are exposed. However, it becomes obvious that in reality he is an ineffectual man who is allowing his obsessions to destroy him both physically and mentally.
I was glad that I forced myself to finish this novel, but will not be re-visiting it in a hurry. I would recommend readers new to this author to start with 'The Demon', which is equally effective in delivering its messages but is a more mature and less intense tale.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Singh on 1 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel is about one man locked up in a prison cell, who spends a considerable amount of time fantasising about what he would like to do to the police officers who he blames for incarcerating him. The prisoner's sadistic fantasies about the treatment he would mete out to those police officers are so extreme and unrealistic that they are relatively less disturbing than other parts of the novel, although they are important because they offer an insight into how deluded the human mind can become when it is so warped with anger and rage.

There is an episode in the novel, about a dozen pages long, which is the single most disturbing piece of writing I have ever read. It is when the prisoner fantasises about the police officers abducting, raping and torturing an innocent female motorist. Selby writes with skill and detail to lay bare the officers' abuse of power and cruelty, and the effect their actions have on their victim. Whilst the rape is simply a product of the prisoner's imagination, the air of authenticity it has leaves the reader feeling great compassion for the victim, and feeling sick at the behaviour of the officers. It is an extremely powerful piece of writing. The episode is also important within the novel, as the prisoner uses it as the basis for subsequent fantasies about cross-examining the officers in court.

The gap between the prisoner's imagined cross-examination of the officers and the manner of his actual cross-examination, which crumbles in the face of the court's procedures, highlights the central theme of this novel, which is the gap between fantasy and reality. There is a glaring disparity between the prisoner's fantasies of power and glory, and the reality of his powerless position in a prison cell at the mercy of the state. This gap between fantasy and reality makes the prisoner suffer even more, and we can empathise with him, as we are all subject to the suffering that injustice, anger and delusion can bring.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. H. Osman on 27 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
No one does psychological torment like Hubert Selby fact from my experience no one does it ANYTHING LIKE Hubert Selby Jr. I came to this book having already read "Last Exit..." and "The Demon" and since have also read "The Willow Tree". Every one of these works is a magnificent insight into the human condition. If you are going to read Selby-and if you are interested in the expression of emotion in all its primal immediacy-you really should, then don't make this your first port of call, but make sure that some way down the line you do take the plunge because this is a work of perfectly realised pain and fury like nothing else you are likely to ever come across. Not everything in Selby's work is bleak and desolate, "The Willow Tree" for instance contains such clear feelings of love within its pages that the horror and ugliness displayed is somewhat counterbalanced-from this the scale of Selby's appreciation of the human condition can be better understood.

"The Room" on the other hand is ugly as ugly can be. Presented entirely as the internal workings of one wholy unsympathetic character, this book is a claustrophobic nightmare of dirt and malice. There is no love, there is no hope and there is no beauty within these pages. What there is is a spiraling tornado of twisted, malignant fantasies that spin further and further out of control. The power of this extreme internal outpouring is even greater because it occurs within such a banal external reality. The whole story is set within one small prison cell, the room of the title. From such a simple setting Selby realises and presents a psychological perception so totally extreme and yet utterly convincing as to be almost overwhelming.

Selby employs a very simple use of language in his writing.
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The only other novel I have read by Hubert Selby and while it doesn't have the same power and grip over you that 'Last Exit..' has, it is still a very original book. It is an insane story, a sadistic revenge fantasy of an incarcerated man.
The full depth of human depravity is pretty much explored here, as the main character, in the confines of his prison cell, dreams of all the hideous, revolting things he can do to those who have wronged him. Despite this, H Selby still manages to let both the humanity of the protaganist and that within the whole story to come through, proving that he really was one of the best writers of his time.

There are, without doubt, many extremely sick passages in the story, not without humour at times, but which will make almost everyone feel, to varying degrees, queasy and disturbed.

This novel isn't as important as 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' but I think is worth exploring if you are curious about Selby's work, and the very provocative role he clearly had in modern, American writing.
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