Read The Room by Hubert Selby Jr. Free Online
Book Title: The Room|
The author of the book: Hubert Selby Jr.
Edition: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd
Date of issue: April 1st 2001
ISBN 13: 9780714530383
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 370 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.2
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Devastating, and strictly for the most daring reader.
Uncompromising, stark, bleak, unremittingly repetitive, gruesome, sickening and despairing -- The Room is perhaps not as great as Selby's more narratively interesting masterwork, Last Exit to Brooklyn, but it is no less accomplished a novel. The story, if one can call it that, is a mixture of incomplete biographical memories and revenge fantasies as imagined by a prisoner in a cell who is apparently awaiting trial for a petty violent crime (or maybe he has already been convicted), but we're never sure because the prisoner is one of the most unreliable narrators ever committed to the printed page.
His life, in the little snippets we get, is unremarkable, marked by poverty and hints of a path leading to a life of crime. Back and forth he bats around obsessions in his mind -- the grayness of his cell (which reminds him of a toy model battleship he built as a kid), the cracks in the walls, the crappy prison food, the nausea in his gut, a zit on his face that drives him even more insane because it refuses to come to a head. But his most elaborate fantasies revolve around the officers who arrested him. As the book proceeds his obsessive desire for revenge against them (even though we never really know their side of the story) takes on the proportions of a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing crusade to abolish abuse in the entire justice system. He imagines his case being taken on by the best lawyers and newspapers and going all the way to Senate hearings -- all unfolded in minute detail. Of course, this all puffs himself up into a hero in his self delusion. Adding layer upon layer in his fantasies, he demonizes the cops as vicious rapists, and then imagines the most disgusting forms of revenge against them -- treating them like dogs in training and submitting them to the most explicitly brutal cruelties one can imagine.
There are parts of this book (including the rape of a female motorist) that will make you queasy, I promise you. Along the way, Selby exhibits total mastery of stream-of-consciousness thought patterns. The ways Selby describes masturbation, or the ritual of popping a zit, or the inability of coughing up a knot of phlegm in the back of the throat or removing an ingrown hair are as astonishingly real and true as they are grotesque. Needless to say, this is not the feel-good book of the century, although there is one passage describing a memory of a hand job session between the man and his girlfriend in a movie theater that is an incredible turn on. It's one of the few explicitly sexual passages (and there are many) in the book that is not sick and violent.
Written in 1971, it is one of the most angry, misanthropic examinations of one-man's totally hopeless view of the universe as you will encounter. "There's always something fucking you up," is sort of the guy's mantra. Rap has nothing on this book as a cop-hater's manifesto either. Having said that, it's view is anti-authoritarian, but in its place it offers no solutions, just the complete angry resignation of a man confined to a 6 x 9 cell. If you can take the book's challenging repetitive elements and the utterly barbaric fantasies, then you will be rewarded with a reading experience not to be forgotten. Again, not for everyone, to say the least, and hard to take even for me, but undeniably a formidable work of literary art.
(KevinR@Ky, slightly amended and corrected, 2016)
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Read information about the authorHubert Selby, Jr. was born in Brooklyn and went to sea as a merchant marine while still in his teens. Laid low by lung disease, he was, after a decade of hospitalizations, written off as a goner and sent home to die. Deciding instead to live, but having no way to make a living, he came to a realization that would change the course of literature: "I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer." Drawing from the soul of his Brooklyn neighborhood, he began writing something called "The Queen Is Dead," which evolved, after six years, into his first novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), a book that Allen Ginsberg predicted would "explode like a rusty hellish bombshell over America and still be eagerly read in a hundred years."
Selby's second novel, The Room (1971), considered by some to be his masterpiece, received, as Selby said, "the greatest reviews I've ever read in my life," then rapidly vanished leaving barely a trace of its existence. Over the years, however, especially in Europe, The Room has come to be recognized as what Selby himself perceives it to be: the most disturbing book ever written, a book that he himself was unable to read again for twenty years after writing it.
"A man obsessed / is a man possessed / by a demon." Thus the defining epigraph of The Demon (1976), a novel that, like The Room, has been better understood and more widely embraced abroad than at home.
If The Room is Selby's own favorite among his books, Requiem for a Dream (1978) contains his favorite opening line: "Harry locked his mother in the closet." It is perhaps the truest and most horrific tale of heroin addiction ever written.
Song of the Silent Snow (1986) brought together fifteen stories whose writing spanned more than twenty years.
Selby continued to write short fiction, screenplays and teleplays at his apartment in West Hollywood. His work appeared in many journals, including Yugen, Black Mountain Review, Evergreen Review, Provincetown Review, Kulchur, New Directions Annual, Swank and Open City. For the last 20 years of his life, Selby taught creative writing as an adjunct professor in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California. Selby often wryly noted that The New York Times would not review his books when they were published, but he predicted that they'd print his obituary.
The movie Last Exit to Brooklyn, Directed by Uli Edel, was made in 1989 and his 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream was made into a film that was released in 2000. Selby himself had a small role as a prison guard.
In the 1980s, Selby made the acquaintance of rock singer Henry Rollins, who had long admired Selby's works and publicly championed them. Rollins not only helped broaden Selby's readership, but also arranged recording sessions and reading tours for Selby. Rollins issued original recordings through his own 2.13.61 publications, and distributed Selby's other works.
During the last years of his life, Selby suffered from depression and fits of rage, but was always a caring father and grandfather. The last month of his life Selby spent in and out of the hospital. He died in Highland Park, Los Angeles, California of chronic obstructive pulmonary lung disease. Selby was survived by his wife of 35 years, Suzanne; four children and 11 grandchildren.
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