Although I’ve heard many artists, especially musicians it seems, extol Hubert Selby’s Last Exit To Brooklyn, now that I’ve finally read it, I have to say, it is not my cup of tea.
The work may hit what it aims for, but what it aims for is the toilet. If classical art strives for beauty, this book’s about as anti-classical as it gets. If it qualifies as art, it’s the kind of art represented by Bunuel’s movie wherein he shows what appears to be an eyeball being sliced with a razor. Or perhaps it would be more like some stunt in which the face of Jesus is represented, mosaic-fashion, by a collection of pasted beer bottle caps.
Though I know millions love this book, for me, reading it was the literary equivalent of stepping in doggie poo. The main characters of the book are addicts, brawlers, idlers, drunkards– basically all the people I cross the street to avoid, and not at all the sort of people with whom I want to curl up in front of a fire for several hours.
Last Exit To Brooklyn, I feel, has not aged well with the passing years; it’s about as dated as a popular call girl. It’s typographical oddities appear little better than juvenile pranks from this remove: paragraphs typed in all caps, run-on sentences that run on and on and on, made-up punctuations that are no improvement over the typical ones, non-standard spellings just for the rebel yell of it, and the whole passe, breathless Kerouacian style.
For those, like Kerouac, who are drawn to the crazy ones, maybe this is right up your alley. But for me, it’s an alley not worth the smell of exploring.