FEATURED EBOOK

Hubert Selby Jr., acclaimed author of the classic novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, tells the powerful story of an extraordinary bond between an African-American teen seeking vengeance in the wake of tragedy and an old man who guides him toward redemption

Growing up in New York City’s soul-killing South Bronx ghetto, Bobby, a young black teenager, has only known violence, poverty, and despair. But there is one true light in his life: his girlfriend, Maria. On their way to school one morning, they are set upon by a vicious street gang. Bobby, beaten bloody and senseless, survives, rescued by an old German man who is himself a survivor of the Nazi death camps. The man calls himself Moishe, though he claims not to be Jewish, and he takes the damaged boy under his wing, determined to help heal his physical and psychological wounds. An unlikely friendship is born, strengthened by a shared sense of loss and life’s tragic injustices. But Moishe’s message of learning to forgive the unforgivable falls on deaf ears, because there is a hole in Bobby’s heart that only revenge can fill.

Hubert Selby Jr.’s extraordinary novel is a devastating work of raw power and stylistic brilliance that captures the pain and hardship of twentieth-century urban life. Unflinching and unrelenting, in the vein of his acclaimed masterwork, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Selby’s The Willow Tree is a dark tale tempered by hope: a story of love, death, rage, violence, and salvation. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Hubert Selby Jr. including rare photos from the author’s estate.

ABOUT Hubert Selby Jr.

  • BIOGRAPHY

    Hubert Selby Jr. (1928–2004) was the celebrated author of seven novels, including Requiem for a Dream and the classic bestseller Last Exit to Brooklyn, both of which were made into successful motion pictures. His singular portrayals of addiction and urban despair have influenced generations of authors, artists, and musicians.

    As a child, Selby’s father, Hubert Selby Sr., worked as a coal miner in Kentucky, but he left the mines at twelve years of age when his father died and his stepmother kicked him out of their home. Eventually he became an engineer, working for the Merchant Marine. In 1925, Selby Sr. met and courted Selby’s mother, Adalin, in Brooklyn, where she had been born and raised.

    Selby Jr. grew up in hardscrabble south Brooklyn and dropped out of school at age fourteen. At age fifteen, he changed his birth certificate in order to join the Merchant Marine himself. He served through World War II, but in 1945, when he was seventeen, a shipboard doctor diagnosed Selby with tuberculosis, and he was sent home to Brooklyn.

    During a three-year period of frequent hospitalization, Selby underwent four surgeries and became addicted to morphine, but an experimental drug saved his life. While in the TB ward, however, Selby often contemplated his mortality. He knew that when he died he didn’t want to regret what he had done with his life. He also wrote a letter to the family of a victim of the disease. Later, he would say that these two things had led directly to his becoming a writer.

    Selby married his first wife, Inez, when he was twenty-five, and they had two children. While working as a typist at an insurance agency, he met someone who told him heroin was in the same family as morphine, and he began to use the drug. During this time, he also began to write and was encouraged by his friends, including the author Gil Sorrentino. Selby claimed that it was Sorrentino who taught him to write, but Sorrentino denied this.

    In his writing, Selby experimented with grammar, punctuation, spelling, language, and spacing so that his readers would “experience” the story. The brutal urban landscapes he portrayed, combined with the potent immediacy of his prose, captivated early readers. His frank descriptions of drugs, prostitution, and the rough Brooklyn streets he’d known since childhood also attracted the attention of censors, and his stories were submitted as evidence in obscenity trials focused on publishers and editors.

    Through the support of writers such as Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones, known now as Amiri Baraka, Selby found a publisher for his first novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), a series of stories fused into a single narrative. It was published to rave reviews, and Ginsberg said he hoped the book would “explode like a rusty, hellish bombshell over America, and still be eagerly read in a hundred years.” Indeed, it seemed Selby had changed the face of modern literature.

    After the success of his first novel, Selby moved to Los Angeles in an attempt to beat his addictions and start over. He kicked his heroin addiction while in jail on a possession charge, and when he was released he went directly to a bar in West Hollywood. There he met his third wife, Suzanne Schwartzman, with whom he would have two children. The couple joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1969, and Selby began to write again, this time clean and sober. In the seventies, his reputation expanded with the release of his second and third novels, The Room (1971) and The Demon (1976). Requiem for a Dream (1978) established Selby as a poet laureate of the dark side of the American Dream.

    An established writer by the eighties, Selby began teaching younger writers at the University of Southern California. He saw Last Exit to Brooklyn made into a film in 1989, followed by Requiem for a Dream in 2000. He succumbed to lung disease in 2004, a consequence of his battle with tuberculosis in the 1940s. Selby is survived by his wife, four children, and twelve grandchildren.

  • published by