Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Have pity on the bears…


A bunch of sad losers hang around getting drunk, drugged and beating each other up, with added sexual depravity.

Well, I stuck it out for 17%. It is disgusting, violent, depraved, designed to shock – all as advertised. But what no-one told me is that it’s also immensely dull. I’ve always found being sober in the company of drunks or the drug-addled tedious, both in reality and fiction. There are lots of good people in the world and plenty of interesting bad people, so why would I want to spend time with moronic, foul-mouthed losers? Who cares if they all kill each other? Not me. Sorry and all that – I know political correctness demands that I look mournfully guilt-ridden and wring my hands over how awful society is for forcing people to turn out this way, etc., etc., but I don’t buy it. I couldn’t care less what consenting adults might get up to in private, but I do demand a certain level of public decency. In life, and in fiction. No wonder the youth of today can’t get out a sentence without spouting vile hate, sexualised abuse and foul-mouthed invective if this is really what schools think should be on curricula.

Caldonia was just so high – I mean she had been drinking like crazy for hours and she struts around Broadway and 45th st. crowing like a rooster, COCKadoodledo COCKadoodledo – Im not shittinya, he was caught fuckin a stiff. He was in the El witme. He worked inna hospital, you know, in the morgue, and this nice lookin young head croaks so he throws a hump inner – Rosie refilled all the cups and ran back to the kitchen when Harry lunged for her snatch, and sat in the corner with her head on her knees…

(NB The stylistic horror of the spelling and punctuation is presumably meant to be “Art”.)

Book 51 of 90

Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to
dance to, when all the
time we long to move the stars to pity.
~Gustave Flaubert.

My bears are tired out from dancing to the beat of this kind of dross. I shall go off and read something less vile and less dull now, and then I’ll come back and apologise to the youth of today, some of whom, amazingly, have managed to turn out well despite the morass of unfiltered sewage that passes for art and literature in these debased end-times for Western “civilisation”. That end can’t come soon enough for me. I blame rock’n’roll. Where did I put my medicinal chocolate?

Recommended as a great gift idea for someone you really hate.

51 thoughts on “Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.

  1. I warned you FF! There are things there I can’t unread. If you stopped at 17% I’m glad because you missed something really, really horrible. I’m reading ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ at the moment which would be a good antidote for you – an annoying landowning neighbour, husband falling asleep over the Times, and worries about indoor bulb planting are as bad as it’s got so far 😀

    • Yes, I was remembering your warning and thinking that if I was hating the early stages so much did I really want to put myself through worse – so thank you! Haha – the Provincial Lady always souns such a lovely book – I really must read it sometime. I rather like “nice” books… 😂

  2. Well, I think I’ll give this one a miss! I agree that being around drunk/high people while sober is tedious in real life – I don’t drink, so I sometimes have to put up with it at parties etc, but why would a read a book about it? And I am also frustrated by the sentiment that something can become Important Literature just by being really unpleasant. I hope your next read is a little less grim!

    • Yes, I’m sure this one’s reputation rests purely on it’s shock value, though to be honest it didn’t shock me – it just bored and disgusted me. But I get the impression it gets even worse in the later stages. I found these characters so unappealing I couldn’t care less about them – I’d be more sympathetic (a little) in real life, but why would we want to spend our precious leisure time with people like these! Ha – I’m still grumpy about it… 😉

    • Argh, what a horrible thought! And now you’ve made me think of all the books languishing on my wishlist which I could have bought instead of this one! 😉 I’m sure this one has only acquired its reputation for its shock value, but it didn’t really shock me – it just bored and disgusted me…

  3. So, you’d prefer to read a book with interesting characters, an engaging plot, and not full of profanity, FictionFan? And without lots of crude references to sex and drugs? How odd! What’s the matter with you? 😉 In all seriousness, I probably wouldn’t have gotten half as far as you did with this one. I give you credit for lasting as long as you did. Nope, nope, nope, not for me.

    • Hahaha – I know, I’m so picky! Oh dear, this was dreadful, though, and I say that as someone who really quite enjoyed American Psycho! This one must have acquired its reputation solely for its shock value, but it didn’t actually shock me – it just bored and disgusted me… ugh!

      • Yes, gotta admit – whenever people talk about how no book should ever be banned, I think about books like this and wonder… I don’t see that it serves any purpose except to make the world uglier and more depraved… Gosh, I’m still grumpy about it! 😉

    • Ha, yes – I’ve retreated into the safer world of vintage crime till I stop being so grumpy! I kept hoping maybe I’d see some glimmer of why some people call this one great, but I can only assume it’s because they’re mad… 😉

  4. This sounds grim, I hope you found that chocolate! I notice there’s also a film. I won’t hold my breath for one of your perceptive book/film comparisons 😂🤦‍♀️😂

    • Aaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhhhh!!! No, you’re quite right – there will NOT be a book/film comparison coming along! I need even more chocolate just to get over that thought… 😂

  5. Using your first date analogy for new reads, this is one you obviously walked out on! 😂 It sounds awful and I’m not sure I could have made it through two pages of that writing. Wait a minute… you’re blaming rock’n’roll? 😱😉

    • I not only walked out on him – I had him arrested for assault! 😉 😂 The writing was dreadful and yet I’ve seen lots of people raving about how great it is – odd! Haha – I had just realised my ranting was beginning to sound as if I was a shocked prudish matron from the 1950s, so I though I realty ought to blame rock’n’roll… probably Elvis’s hips, in fact! 😉

  6. This sounds disgusting. I am not a literature snob by any manner of means, but is something like this seriously being tought in schools and classed as classic literature? You lasted longer with it than I would have though, so I reckon you deserve that medicinal chocolate.

    • Yes, it is! Hopefully not many – probably just the kind that call themselves “progressive” without realising the irony! I am undoubtedly getting more prudish as I age, but it’s only a few years since I enjoyed American Psycho so I’m not stuck in cosy world yet! But this was truly dreadful… ugh!

  7. This sounds DREADFUL — how in the world did you force yourself to trek through 17% of it?? You couldn’t have been so bad that you needed this kind of punishment, FF! (But how I love your one-star reviews, hee hee!!)

    • Really horrible! I kept hoping I might see some sign of why a lot of people say it’s great, but I can only assume they’re mad! 😉 Hahaha – I often suspect I must have been really bad in a past life, because I’ve been so good in this one… 😇😉

  8. That extract was horrible! I wonder if this author read much Bret Easton Ellis or vice versa? I also think life is too short to spend in the company of (or reading about) drunks, thugs and depraved weirdos, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame rock’n’roll…

    • And I could have picked almost any paragraph off any page and it would have been just as disgusting – ugh! Funny you should mention Bret Easton Ellis because I kept remembering while reading this that I actually enjoyed American Psycho – at least it had some humour and the writing was so much better. This had no redeeming features. Hahaha – I had just realised my ranting was beginning to sound as if I was a shocked prudish matron from the 1950s, so I though I realty ought to blame rock’n’roll… or maybe Alice Cooper! 😉

  9. Oh no! That extract was more than enough for me. I agree being sober in the company of drunks is tedious, but to be honest the language and writing style was enough to put me off.

    • And I could have picked almost any paragraph and you’d have found it just as disgusting! Yes, it was the language that did for me, plus the non-stop drug-taking and sexual depravity. Ugh! Sometimes even chocolate isn’t enough… 😡

  10. That sample is appalling! Is that really all stuck together like that? There’s so much unpleasant voice and even more horrifying action in such a small sample! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this book.

    • Yes, it’s quoted exactly as it appears in the book. Isn’t it dreadful? The content would be bad enough without the stylistic horrors, but the combination makes it one of the worst reading experiences of my life! Believe it or not, someone recommended it to me back when I was looking for recs for my Great American Novel Quest! Needless to say, it isn’t one…

  11. Bahahaha

    You don’t have to apologize for hating this book, I don’t think I’d like it either. Why bother reading something so full of profanity? I’m curious where you heard about this book-it’s on the school curriculum? That’s a bit shocking/sad…

  12. I enjoyed reading your review (I secretly love negative reviews) – it is a shame that this book is so awful because I was looking forward quite a bit reading “The Room” by the same author. Hubert Selby never had any qualifications nor was he concerned with grammar in his life, and that alone made me want to give him some slack. But then, I probably had quite enough of him after I’ve seen the film “Requiem for a Dream” based on this author’s book. That film alone provided me with enough wretchedness, depression and sorrow to last for the rest of my lifetime.

    • Haha – yes, I always enjoy negative reviews too! 😀 I wasn’t really aware that he’d done much other than this one, and I must admit that, after this, I’d never be tempted to read any more of his stuff. But lots of people rate him very highly, so as always my reaction is clearly purely subjective. I do prefer a more balanced view of life – yes, of course there’s misery and poverty and addiction and rape and so on in the world, but there’s also hope and kindness and love and all that hippy, happy stuff too! Isn’t there…?

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