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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling yet uneasy read
I am very glad that I've read this book, but now I have, I will never read it again.

It is a hard-boiled account about marginalised people - a prostitute, a transvestite, a convict, and a sexually troubled trade union leader amongst others. The style of writing is utterly refreshing and compelling, the characterisation astonishing, and beating from deep within...
Published on 29 Mar 2005 by B. Remy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Showing it's age but still has the capacity to shock
I read this on a recent trip to New York City (pretentious I know, but it worked last time with "Catcher on the Rye" as well). One can see why it was so shocking on publication and indeed why it provoked a ban in the UK - it's a book very explicit in it's depiction of drug use, violence and illicit sex amongst the bottom end of post-war Brooklyn's denizens (namely it's...
Published on 25 Oct 2010 by Mr. Joel C. A. Cooney

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4.0 out of 5 stars Ground-Breaking, But Unremittingly Bleak, 24 Feb 2014
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Hubert Selby Jr.'s controversial 1964 tale of the New York underclass is an 'in your face', stream of consciousness, account of uncompromising debauchery which is still shocking today - not, per se, because of the goings-on (drug, sex and alcohol abuse taken to the nth degree) portrayed here, but rather because of the absence of (pretty much) any form of redemption granted to his cast of characters. Therefore, whilst Selby's portrayal is frequently powerful and emotive, its incessant assault on this reader's senses eventually has something of a (probably intentional) numbing effect, thereby rendering its vivid sense of realism less engaging.

Of course, stylistically, Selby's 'novel' (itself part-based on a number of earlier Selby short stories) is particularly unusual (and challenging), adopting a 'street vernacular' (reflecting Selby's own upbringing) and eschewing 'traditional' punctuation (speech unattributed, running 'paragraphs' into one another, adopting text capitalisation for whole segments). Combining Selby's writing style with his vividly drawn cast of pimps, prostitutes, addicts, thugs, abusive parents, exploited youth and corrupt officials (cops, trades union, etc) provides (for me, at least) a near-unique, though certainly not entirely satisfying, reading experience. I found the book's most interesting (i.e. engaging and fully developed) characters to be the transvestite hooker Georgette and the corrupt union official Harry.

Comparator novels? Most obviously Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and (for extremity, though without the dark humour) American Psycho and (for writing style) anything by David Peace.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Punches, kicks, shakes, dresses and drugs you into another world, 31 Jan 2014
This is the 1964 American classic portraying the seedy lives of people of the title location. It was famously banned in the UK on its release in 1966 but re-instated after a couple of years, much like most such bannings enjoying the free publicity (the penguin edition has an introductory explanation). It was made into a film which I haven’t seen to compare the book against.

The book is really more a series of unconnected short stories with a title and quote from the bible. Including gang fights with the soldiers; a transvestite tries to get laid by a local thug; alcoholic parenting; prostitute steals money from customers/sailors; closet gay and wife beater union leader gets attracted by the local gays; a final set of snap shots of life in an apartment block.

The style is brutal, very violent, capitalised shouting, all the naughty words, phonic Brooklyn pronunciation typed text with long sentence stream of writing in places. There is a gang rape, homosexual sex, speed taking, sex and domestic violence in front of the kids. It comes across as a biopic portrayal of the times and era rather than a linear novel – you can certainly imagine this is a realistic window on the place/era and surprisingly refreshing and not dated.

A quote:

(baby crawling alone on a balcony) “the women stopped laughing now that there were so many people around, but still looked anxiously, waiting for the small body to slowly slip over the edge of the ledge and fall down, down … then plop on the ground”

I think I would have liked an arc to the novel but nonetheless, because I didn’t know of the hype or otherwise, I read the book at face value and enjoyed its genuine ‘otherworld’ feel. It’s a sort of William Faulkner meets Lou Reed. 4 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read, 2 Feb 2013
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I loved this book the characters are so full of colour especially Georgie who I adored. Their stories are tragic and sad and full of struggle. This is a beautifully written observation of life as true today as when it was written highly recommended
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4.0 out of 5 stars Drooklyn, 26 Aug 2012
R. Cunningham - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Exit to Brooklyn (Paperback)
I read this book when it was banned loaned it out and never got it back so I had to buy it again it did not cost very much so I will read it again to try and analyse it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably Selby's best novel - and one of the most disturbing of 20th century fictions, 13 Aug 2011
This review is from: Last Exit to Brooklyn (Paperback)
Selby has rightly been described as a `clinician of violence ... whose novels have the immediacy of art' (Josephine Hendin, Vulnerable People: A View of American Fiction Since 1945 (A Galaxy book)).

He is a literary master in his ability to demonstrate through his characters a moral ugliness, misogyny and existential despair, and whose power as a novelist is unmatched and unprecedented in fiction. Sartre's famous novel Nausea, for example, is a happy walk in the park compared to Selby's vision. He's de Sade, but morally grounded.

Controversy has always surrounded Selby's writing. From the start, with Last Exit (being his first novel), his original UK publisher Calder and Boyers, faced government prosecution in 1967, under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act. It was a major trial, especially as it was originally found guilty of being `obscene', and because, more importantly, the Appeal in 1968 overturned that decision and paved way for a much more open-minded interpretation of literature as to merit.

In some interviews, and in one introduction to the novel that he wrote, Selby himself said that he when he was writing this novel (six years in the making), he `was only aware of the rage and anger within' (quoted from the QPB edition in 1994). He also acknowledged that, while he has no favourite among his novels, he singles out The Room, and then this novel, notably, because through it he `truly did learn how to write' (quote from same QPB edition).

Set in New York in the late 1950s, the story grabs you from the start, conveying an incredibly raw, visceral, yet always disturbingly poetic quality throughout. It is superb for its genuine grittiness, horribly grim reality and ugliness of modern inner city life - of thought, attitude, action and feeling - both projected outwards, as well as internalised, all of which is captured through numerous voices of the dispossessed, alienated, disenfranchised. Selby is in the tradition of naturalist/realist fiction, but he goes a significant step further, in that, often through his first-person character narratives/viewpoints, he achieves an hallucinatory quality whose intensity strengthens the realities he conveys.

One critic, James R. Giles, in his excellent study of Selby's works, Understanding Hubert Selby, Jr. (Understanding Contemporary American Literature), wrote `It is true that, while all the characters in the novel are victimized by a brutal environment, they are guilty of moral failures that make their victimization complete and irrevocable', and this is done by Selby's exploring without fear or judgement powerful themes that resonant as much today as they did on first publication in 1964 in the US: drug addiction, misogyny, violence of rape and beatings, prostitution, the relentless drudgery and alienation of most jobs as well as unemployment, without value or meaning and life in general that is suffused with hate and a distressingly dark, twisted humour (when not expressed through seething resentment or explosive anger).

One suspects Dante would have regarded Last Exit as a worthy match to his own vision of the Inferno - especially through characters who represent the sick underbelly of the city: self-deluding, beaten-up prostitutes, incredibly violent youths and gangs, a desperately lonely, elderly woman who has no life other than pathetic memories of her dead husband and son, among others. As for disturbing, truly dark humour, one such example will give you a powerful sense of it: at one point, two women sitting chatting on a bench in a miserable New York housing project, joke about and look forward with sick, twisted glee to the prospect of a baby - crawling on an upper-storey tenement window-ledge - falling to its death: they're disappointed that it is saved in the nick of time).

In particular, the lives of a handful of individuals are portrayed with great psychological depth, narrated most often from the first-person viewpoint, in a stream-of-consciousness fashion that is raw, coherent and compelling.

In their own voices, Selby conveys their desperation, self-loathing, hatred and confusion about themselves and their environments. These include the defiant yet self-deluding Georgette, a hip drag queen who is pathetically in love with Vinnie and convinced she can change him for the better and that he will truly love her.

Vinnie himself is a psychopathic and sociopathic gang leader interested only in sadistic and often instant gratification.

Tralala is a violently angry, predatory prostitute who ultimately is destroyed in the most horrifying way imaginable.

Harry - interestingly, that name is ubiquitous among male characters in Selby's fiction, acting as a synonym for the type of man who is misogynistic, dispossessed, angry, self-loathing, and self-deluding - is a trade union leader. He's loathsome, selfish, arrogant and boring, despised or at best tolerated by his co-workers - and, worse, whose misogyny is so genuinely convincing and disturbing, which we hear, being `inside his head', listening trapped to his banal voice, desperation, loathing and perspective, such that it makes Bateman's misogyny in American Psycho appear not only over the top, but utterly unreal (and never mind Ellis' darkly satirical intentions).

Selby is a truly remarkable writer, and, while he wrote six novels in his lifetime, I believe the most powerful and compelling (while not the darkest), remains Last Exit. I cannot recommend it highly enough - it is a genuine work of art, but its power is dark and troubling, so I would likewise highly recommend you stay clear of this novel if you find yourself in a depressed frame of mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Must read!, 4 July 2011
This review is from: Last Exit to Brooklyn (Paperback)
I read Last Exit on the back of a list-mania review and was pleasantly surprised. Definitely a slow burner - if you are anything like me you might struggle with the first 50 pages - but perseverance pays off. While the authors writing style is difficult to conquer at first, within the first few chapters it adds massively to the characterisation and development and becomes part of what makes this work so special.

A harrowing but moving insight into the lives of those on the edge in post war Brooklyn, not one for when you're feeling down but a must read for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Old and collectible books, 11 Aug 2010
Alison Pole "Media maggot" (Wraysbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last exit to Brooklyn (Hardcover)
This is difficult. Each item is going to be different. It depends on desire for the book per se but it;s out of print. Others are interested in the edition, the cover or dust jacket.
I just bought a hard cover Last Exit To Brooklyn, with dust jacket. Old but in very good condition. I like the book a lot but the style of the design of the period is important too.I am just happy!
I have also bought The Master and Margarita and Oryx and Crake. These are not sitting on the warehouse shelf at Amazon. They are bought from recommended sellers through Amazon, usually. I have sometimes had to wait but when a good condition good edition turns up it's like vinyl or even collectible cds and dvds now,
They are very personal. Sometimes Amazon does have one. If not they are the best marketplace for someone who has.
From a geek, oh and I do collect music too. I have 3 copies of The Slim Shady LP special edition....One is not allowed to be played!

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak outlook at humanity through Brooklyn life., 9 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Unfortunately "last exit" is let down only by the lack of any two sided view of humanity. It succeeds completely in its aim to shock its reader to a moral stand - out of moral apathy. However, the characters are too often one sided. For example Vinnie shows nothing but his violent nature and his soul desire being doing things for kicks.
I, particulaly, enjoyed the history of the book - reading how the book was banned and then the ban was lifted. The literally history became even more relevent when reaching the end of the book. I realised that any thought that this book could "corrupt and deprave" the '90s reader is quite comical once it is compared to trainspotting or American Pyschos.
For people who are souly looking for great characterisation - this could truly be an ideal book - more acurately Strike could be a real chapter - It gives an insight into a multi facated character in Harry. Unfortunately, this is the only character that this happens for.
If you are looking for a great story - Dont bother with this book - It is as much a questioning into YOUR (the readers) morals as it is a novel and in some ways it is a work of ethical philosophy merely set in the hard projects of Brooklyn.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best of selby's works, 20 July 2000
By A Customer
this book is strange to look at before reading it, it isn't very appealing: for on thing selby uses neither punctuation nor paragraphs as much as most writers do leaving pages and pages of constant wording, also it's title, the blurb and its reputation will possibly lead you to expect a trashy book. don't let this put you off however, selby presents the pivitol characters with an unfeeling attitude which can be felt in the way he writes, this makes the reader feel pity and even sympathy for them without being manipulated into doing so. whilst characters such as a child molesting strike manager and transexual prostitute may appear fantastical and the products of a sensationalist's mind selby brings them down to earth, makes them seem real and communicates their emotions directly to the reader without becoming connected or disgusted himself. the author, whilst pouring his heart, soul and the years of his life into producing outstanding novels such as the recent 'the willow tree' can't seem to help but fail to match the brilliance he achieved with this book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite sure what to make of this one., 25 April 2001
Hmmmmm.... this was a very strange book. An absorbing read, and a pretty disturbing take on the hard life of several people in Brooklyn. Very well written, with an almost real sublime poetry in the language, changing the ebb and flow of the tempo for each one of the characters. The only problem I had was that nobody was really likable in the book. You found yourself reading about an almost alien world of degeneracy. I suppose that is what its all about, the human condition, but at the end of the day it was really just a bit too much. And this from a man who enjoyed Junky.
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Last Exit to Brooklyn
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby (Paperback - 28 Aug 2007)
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