Selby Junior’s Sunset Park

Where we’re living now is not that rough, but you can sort of tell that it used to be. It’s the place Herbert Selby Jr. described in Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), a novel that was described as ‘brutal’,   prosecuted for obscenity in the UK and outright banned in Italy. In spite of gentrification (today I saw an ‘avocaderia’) there are a few hints of that earlier age in the rusty junkyards, sex stores, used-car lots  and a ‘World-Class Gentleman’s Club’ called ‘PP’. So, as a way to summon up that age full of grime, violence and wretchedness, here are some images from Sunset Park with quotes from the novel.

 

“Everybody had money during the war. The waterfront was filled with drunken seamen. And of course the base was filled with doggies. And they were always good for a few bucks at least. Sometimes more. And Tralala always got her share. No tricks. All very simple.”

 

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“The day had been long and hot. It had been many hours since anyone had looked up at the clear blue sky. It was still summertime and there were many more hot days to come.”

 

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“Anyway, he had this 76 and Tommys long and kinda skinny and he sorta looked like the bike was growin outtaim; like he had a bike between his legs instead of a pecka. And when he kicked it over he just sat there like he was restin or something and gave a little push on the peddle and BaROOOM.”

 

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“Sat down and lit a cigarette and stared out the window. Smoked. Nothing on the street. No one. Car parked across the street. empty.” 

 

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“When he stopped moving he lay still for a moment hearing their heavy breathing then kissed her, caressed her arms then rolled slowly and gently onto the bed, stretched out and soon slept. Harry was happy.”

 

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“Ada opened the window. The air was still and warm. She smiled and looked at the trees; the old ones, tall, big and strong; the young ones small, springy, hopeful; sunshine lighting the new leaves and buds. Even the budding leaves on the hedges and the young thin grass and dandelion sprouts were alive with sunshine.”

 

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“Still like the Pontiac. If I was buyin a car. Put fender skirts on it, grill lights, a set a Caddy hubcap and a bigass aerial in the rear…shit, thats the sharpest job on the road. Your ass. Nothin can touch the 47 Continental convertible. Theyre the end. We saw one uptown the other day. What-a-fuckin-load. Man!!!”

 

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“Anyway, the beach was nice even just sitting on a bench getting the sun. She watched a small child ride by on his tricycle then watched a group of children running after each other and yelling.”

 

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