6. Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)
Author: Hubert Selby, Jr.
Areas Featured: Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Navy Yard, Brooklyn; Upper West Side
Perhaps it's because Hubert Selby, Jr. dropped out of school to divide his time between grimy Brooklyn and the Merchant Marines that allowed him to create such a powerful body of work dominated by the gutters of everyday life.
Last Exit to Brooklyn finds Selby writing at the peak of his powers. As a reward, the book was treated to an obscenity trial in the UK, and was banned in Italy. Selby pulls no punches, and but for a single character in the book, this collection of junkies, prostitutes, and thugs all receive some thoroughly unrelenting punishment.
Selby eschews an abundance of real street corners and landmarks for an aggregate Brooklyn, accomplished formally by his fast-paced phonetic rhetoric reminiscent of the Beats.
Despite all the horror of the book, there are glimpses of intelligence and hope that testify to its importance and beauty. —GT