Second book of 2018: Hubert Selby Jr – Last Exit To Brooklyn

I finished Last Exit To Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby Jr., a few weeks ago by now. I am well into Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I actually enjoyed reading the book quite a bit and there were a few situations where I thought the book was hard to put down. Here’s a picture:

There is not a single main protagonist and all characters described in detail are practically anti-heroes. The book deals with a number of stories, each focusing on a single individual or a group of people and all these protagonists, the reader learns, are somehow connected with one another. One story sometimes begins were another ends or the same characters appear in different stories, yet each story is in itself conclusive.

The characters are simple people, ordinary workers, bar patrons, wives and transvestites. Many display a low moral code, cheat, lie or otherwise take advantage of others and one another. There is a fair amount of quite graphic descriptions of drug use, sex and violence. In some cases, it’s borderline pornographic and sometimes even that threshold gets crossed.

I guess I enjoyed reading this book more than the last is that I find the characters more believable. I see their problems and the way they struggle through life more convincing than the musings of the university professors. And while the protagonists don’t deal or overcome their problems – there’s no catharsis – the book makes you feel their emotions and take part in their lives.

What is also quite remarkable about the book is the style it is written in. Huber Selby didn’t think much about punctuation, spelling, let alone capitalisation. There’s nothing to indicate when somebody starts speaking, no quotation marks and words that should be spelt separately are joined and misspelt. The author also uses a lot of profanity and slang, slang which probably was more common for the time it was written in. Some words, or rather their meanings, is occasionally hard to guess. But I think this makes the book more enjoyable to read to me. I feel like I learn something more and I am part of the time it takes place.

Last Exit To Brooklyn is, all in all, very enjoyable to read, IMHO.

So I’m already in the last quarter of Tender Is The Night and I hope to finish it before I’m going away to Israel. It is a good read, I enjoy it more than Eating People Is Wrong, although the content is much harder to understand and to read through than Last Exit To Brooklyn.
I’ll follow up with my comments on it shortly…

First book of 2018: Malcolm Bradbury – Eating People is Wrong

So, making a New Year’s resolution with my colleague this year, we said we would read at least 12 this year. A month in, she’s ahead. Damn!

I am glad, however, I finished Malcolm Bradbury’s Eating People is Wrong. I didn’t enjoy it very much. I did enjoy the title though and I believe Amazon’s suggestions are to blame for me buying it.

This is how it looks:

eating people is wrong, by malcolm bradbury
Eating People is Wrong – or is it?

The book’s a moderately challenging read, because of the sentence structure and the fact that Malcolm carries on a bit. The main character, Stuart Treece, Professor of English literature by trade, struggles coming to terms with what, I guess, he describes as the human condition. He also becomes aware of his “middle-agedness” and at some point yearns for love. Actually, he falls in love with one of his students working on her Phd – notably – after having an affair with her first.

The characters are believable, yet alien to me. The book describes a Central England location in the 50s and a society I’m glad to not have witnessed. These were times of a rigid class-systems, racism, casual racism and stricter gender expectations by society. Don’t get me wrong, in no way is Bradbury endorsing any of such. The main protagonist is emancipated. I merely point out that I wouldn’t have liked it there very much – what with my liberal upbringing and that.

The previous book I read was Stoner by John Williams. I enjoyed it more, it made me melancholic. I do not know if this book produced much in form of emotions. Much like when I read Crime and Punishment and all I felt was irritation with Raskolnikoff. So much so, I couldn’t even feel very sorry for Sofya.

The next book I will read is Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. Described as “hellish and obscene” and banned in Britain in 1967, it promises to be a joyride compared to this.