Interview with Hubert Selby Jr.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Oct 26 08:25:28 MDT 2000

"Requiem for a Dream" author Hubert Selby Jr. A modern-day Dante discusses
drugs, the American nightmare and literature's last exit.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Stephen Lemons

Oct. 26, 2000 | LOS ANGELES -- Hubert Selby Jr. is a freak, an anachronism,
a throwback to an era when literature mattered and American writers wrote
about something other than Marilyn Monroe's hairdo or the last time they
had sex with their daddies. Cut from the same cloth as such recently
deceased legends as Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski and William S. Burroughs,
the 72-year-old Brooklyn-born author of harrowing novels such as "Last Exit
to Brooklyn" and "Requiem for a Dream" (now a film by hotshot director
Darren Aronofsky) seems hopelessly out of place in today's fiction market.
A Kafka lost in La-la Land.

"It's funny," says Aronofsky, his generation's answer to Martin Scorsese,
when asked about the man whose nightmare he's just translated to the big
screen with the help of stars Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly
and Ellen Burstyn. "When we went to Cannes to premiere the film, no one
wanted to talk to Ellen or to me. They all wanted to talk to Hubert Selby
Jr. He was the celebrity over there. Europe, unlike America, recognizes his
contribution to literature."

Indeed, I haven't met a European yet who is unfamiliar with Selby's work.
Whenever Selby is on the Continent he gets an incredible amount of
exposure, whether it's an appearance on French TV or an interview for a
German documentary. But in the States, Selby is routinely ignored. Even
those in the literary community who should pay homage to this grand old man
of letters, this uniquely American Dostoevski, snub the guy. Pick up any
guide to contemporary fiction, and the one name sure to be missing is
Selby's. By comparison, boring old farts like Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer
(or boring younger farts like T.C. Boyle) get enough ink spilled about them
to almost blot out the fact that they're so consistently soporific.

"Perhaps it's that a prophet is without honor in his own country. I mean,
even Jesus couldn't do any miracles in his own hometown," Selby says with a
laugh during a recent lunchtime interview not far from his digs here. "It's
a strange paradox because I consider myself a very American writer. To be
fair, there are a lot of people in this country who really like my writing.
And a lot of writers respect me. But the so-called establishment? They hate
me. I guess I should be flattered, because having the respect of your peers
is far more important than being accepted by academics."

Complete interview at:

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list