Monday 24 August 2015


's review 
Aug 24, 15  ·  edit

Read in August, 2015

Very impressed by the writings of Selby Jr. He takes no prisoners in his account of Brooklyn back in the day. Some of these stories really turned my stomach, the abusive nature of the characters, and the ordinary trapped lives, expressing freedom often by attacking the world that has locked them into situations that are at very least irritable if not untenable. The ones who aren't out pulling tricks, scheming, boosting, searching for shortcuts, desperate for the adrenaline rush of fresh 'kicks', are not the subject of the narrative. Apparently this book was originally not a book at all, but rather a collection of short stories mashed together and focused on happenings in and around 'the Greeks', a local establishment where all delinquents gather to swap spit and stories, and find themselves a fresh mark, whether that be a working stiff, an officer, a seaman, a doggie, a union man, or one of their own. There's no mercy on these streets, and there's no mercy at home either, where lies all the embedded -isms and hungry mouths ready to eat away at you. Sadly, nobody here finds much of consolation. Perhaps the ones who have accustomed themselves to a life of dreadful wearisome highlighted by rashes of benzedrine and alcohol fueled violence, cold harsh winters, labor strikes and picket lines, humid hot summers, coffee and cigarettes and 'tea', marriages of convenience, and momentary mobflashes on unsuspecting lushes or johns with money in their pockets. These stories really made me sick at times. What I love and what kept me reading (when I could stand to keep the nightmare in front of my face) was Selby's honesty and fearlessness. He lets us witness the world without any tint or flavor or filter. If the sun is in your eyes, the sun is in your eyes. The reader gets no shelter. I just stopped reading every time it became too painful, and picked it up when I felt the urge. By fearlessness I mean the writing style. I love the way he writes! Minimal on the quotes (sometimes a bit confusing but mostly not), slash marks in lieu of apostrophes, fresh with colloquialisms, and indeed rhythmic if not lyrical throughout. My favorite story and favorite character, hands down, is Tralala! From a young girl fresh at the Greeks and on the streets, we watch her evolution. And if you notice, the writing is at first herky jerky, short sentences. And then it begins to literally bloom into long unending passages, and the story is forefront, the action, exactly what is transpiring from one moment to the next with an almost seamlessly integrated bullshit meter built into the wannabe street savvy but (more accurately) street jaded young woman, as she moves from the Greeks to Times Square and back, caught in every bar and seedy motel or hophouse in between. I found myself reading this story aloud to friends and laughing all the way through. I guess it was a defense mechanism against the brutality. This is an America you cannot miss. Thank you Selby Jr. - KatYa

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