Hubert Selby, Jr., 1964
the tenth book in the visitor recommendation series;
suggested by Tijmen Haaze
So, this is a book in which the author apparently, in Kerouacky style, gulped down a few quarts of coffee, sat down at a typewriter, and let fly with a stream of consciousness. Instead of detailing trips back and forth across North America, it focuses on the underworld of hoodlums, drag queens, and underage hookers in Red Hook, which was one of Brooklyn's toughest neighborhoods at the time. (Now it has an Ikea.) The book consists of six stories that read like something out of A Mind Forever Voyaging circa 2081. A bunch of toughs beat a soldier to a half-blind pulp; a 17-year-old prostitute is gang-raped, tortured, and left for dead; a factory worker tries to rape a ten-year-old boy; etc. Meanwhile, Selby makes form mirror content by bludgeoning the reader with this chaotic prose. Here is a sample, chosen basically at random:
|Why couldnt he be out. Why did he have to be home. If only he were dead. You sonofabitch die. DIE ( Whats the matter with mommys little girl. Did ooo stub oo little toesywoesy Georgieworgit? Dont touch me you fairy. Dont touch me. Look whos calling someone a fairy. Aint that a laugh. Ha! You freak. Freak FREAK FREAK FREAK! Why you rotten punk—Georgette leaned more heavily upon Mother and swung the injured leg from side to side, groaning.|
Note that there is no distinction between one character's dialogue and another's, nor among speech, thought, and narration. Note also the irregular spelling and punctuation (even more evident elsewhere). I can appreciate works that attempt to shine a light on a previously ignored demographic segment, but Selby's approach suggests that he was going less for light than for heat — i.e., that he was going for shock. And I imagine that all this was pretty shocking fifty years ago. But we have 4chan now.