Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. [Book Thoughts]

Requiem for a Dream is a brave book written by a brave man in a brave style. They shouldn’t give teenagers lectures on drugs: they should give them this book.
-Imran

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Requeim for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr

Sheeit. Hubert Selby was one of them ‘modernist’ muthas and he wrote a whole lot of stuff like Last Exit to Brooklyn an The Room and they was about the underworld of New York baby, an those books was controversial. Gimme five.

Requiem for a Dream: 4 characters with big dreams. There/s Harry Goldfarb and Tyrone C. Love (and he loves nobody but Tyrone C.). Harry and Ty aint no dopefiends. They jus like to have a taste now and then to cool off. But jus watch: they/re going to cop together some bread (money) and buy a pound of pure (heroin) and then they/ll cut it and bag it (dilute it with milk sugar) and they/re going to get some junkies to off it (sell it) for them and then they/ll be rich. And then there/s Marion, Harry/s fox (girlfriend). Marion is sophisticated, more refined, she just likes to get off (do drugs) now and then. But when Harry makes it, they/re going to open a coffee shop together where all the artists and the poets can congregate.

And then there/s Harry/s mother: Sara Goldfarb. Sara knows that Harry is a good kid. He just catches up to mischief now and then. But just you watch, one of these days Harry is going to be a success and marry a nice Jewish girl and make her a grandmother. And Sara is going to be on television! The man on the phone said she/s going to be on a show and she/ll get to wear her red dress that she wore at Harry’s bar mitzvah and her gold shoes, and she just needs to lose some weight so that the dress will fit and so what/s the big deal if she likes to eat chocolates and cream cheese, she/ll just get some diet pills and then the fridge won/t be laughing at her and she/ll get the last laugh.

Until the diet pills start having side effects. And the heroine supply on the streets starts drying up. Krist man!!!!!!!

So Requiem for a Dream is a story of addiction and excessive excess: heroine, sleeping pills, cigarettes, weed, coffee; the characters are doing everything by the truck load. But deeper than that, Requiem for a Dream is a story of human nature and about how the way we bullshit ourselves can kill our dreams.

And as for the style? Run-on sentences, misspelled words, heaps of slang and dodgy punctuation; but it all works and incredibly so. The style gives us insight into the minds of characters that would be difficult to understand otherwise. But once Selby has bridged the gap we can really start to understand these junkies and the way they think; even feel pathos and pity for them.

Requiem has some obvious elements of a morality play but to call it an ‘anti-drugs book’ would be to miss book’s tremendous psychological depth. It’s not a lecture, it’s an understanding; a harsh one.

Requiem for a Dream is a brave book written by a brave man in a brave style. They shouldn’t give teenagers lectures on drugs: they should give them this book.

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