Hubert Jr Selby Biography
(1928–2004), Black Mountain Review, Kulchur, Last Exit to Brooklyn, The Room, The Demon
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography
American novelist and short-story writer, born in Brooklyn, New York. Selby left school to join the Merchant Marines in the Second World War but he contracted TB and was hospitalized for three years, during which time he developed a dependency on morphine which was to teach him much about the horrors of addiction. His work began to appear in the 1950s in magazines like Black Mountain Review and Kulchur but it was not until the publication of Last Exit to Brooklyn in 1964 that he achieved wider recognition. Prosecuted for obscenity in Britain, Selby's novel is in fact a profoundly moral book, exploring the broken lives of the urban poor with a taut Christian compassion. This unwavering but anguished moral base runs through all his writings, complementing and widening the accuracy with which he observes the lives of his subjects. His books are meticulously constructed, following with geometrical precision the inevitable descent of his characters into the nightmare underworld of the American dream. The Room (1971) revolves around the fantasies of a prisoner who dreams of exacting retribution for his mistreatment at the hands of the system; The Demon (1976) concentrates on a sexual malaise which drives its subject inexorably into the hell of demonic possession; Requiem for a Dream (1978) traces the lives of two drug addicts and their pitiful collapse into a world of extreme degradation. His short stories are collected in Song of the Silent Snow (1986). Selby settled in Los Angeles, where he helped to supervise a film version of Last Exit to Brooklyn.