My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Selby Jr. follows four characters as they descend into the madness of addiction, in new york city, a journey the author knows well, having become addicted to morphine when he was suffering from tuberculosis as a merchant marine (and years later, heroin, which he recovered from in the late sixties). Harry and Tyrone are buddies caught in the lifestyle, embracing it at first, copping and selling dope, kicking back to enjoy the high, dreaming of some impossible free-wheeling wealth and luxury on top of some zion of dope… forced to face the danger in the streets, inevitable mishaps and kicking in the joint. Marion is Harry’s girlfriend, a wannabe artist who likes a small habit which grows and grows, only to push away all her old life’s ambitions and interests. The love affair is mostly content to stay in the confines of their apartment, saddled by the sad business of easing back, high and dreaming, making plans to open an café together, nodding and sleeping, happy plans in the head… then falling on hard times looking for money and drugs to fix. May have to get creative about it. Don’t expect a picnic, here, if you read Last Exit To Brooklyn (or saw the movie), you know this is a cautionary tale and all of it’s out in the open. I just love how Selby Jr.’s run-on prose moves freely in and out of headspace and lands like a kick in the gut between personalities. And how the characters seem to get over on themselves. Sarah is Harry’s mom and lives alone and dreams into the television and wants to be the lovely picture she once cut, to fit in that old red dress, and fancies she might lose some weight and make it in television. She starts on diet pills and goes mostly downhill from there. As flawed and impossibly dreaming as these characters are, the book was a page turner because I was not simply ambulance chasing, no, I really gave a hot damn about all 4 players and hoped against hope that they might figure themselves out and find a way out of hell and back to some decency and love and happiness. You never know. Addiction isn’t always a life sentence.