photo manipulation by nacrowe
IT/LL BE BETTER TOMORROW (SQUITTEN, 2006) is a sparse, no frills documentary focused on the life and cultural legacy of HUBERT SELBY JR, literary cult hero and author of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN (GROVE PRESS, 1964) and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (PLAYBOY PRESS, 1978) among other titles that centered around the death and destruction of that most seductive of nonexistent myths: the AMERICAN DREAM. i like to think of him as a prophet who showed AMERICA its dark soul, much like other notable clarion voices before him.
the documentary, as you would expect, details the struggle of his journey, which began in his beloved BROOKLYN. leaving school after 8th grade to join the merchant marines during WWII, he ended up contracting tuberculosis which left him scarred and bedridden at at stateside sanitarium where over four years he had multiple operations that result in part of his lung being removed along with six of his back ribs. he had lifelong medical issues dating back to this period, but he was lucky, as he was the only survivor from his ward. during this period he decided to be a writer.
and maybe that pain and isolation he encountered allowed him the PSYCHIC FREEDOM to fearlessly pursue the depths of humanity on display in his work. in the documentary several people make the observation that the subject at hand is the absence and replacement of love. unfortunately the censors and religions hypocrites at the time couldnt get past the JUNKIES, PROSTITUTES and UNION LEADERS of his first novel LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN to appreciate such. makes me wonder what they get out of their bible. whatever greater fame he had at the time was gained through the notoriety of being the subject of such obscenity trials both stateside and in ENGLAND. but who cares about cretins that can't appreciate art.
along with his physical ailments, the other carryover from his time at the sanitarium was an addiction to opiates, brought on initially by prescribed morphine but bloomed in subsequent years into a full-blown heroin addiction. his eventual conquering of both heroin addiction and alcohol dependence midway through his life was the second major conquest of his life, having now beat the odds twice.
the literature that followed made his name, but he took to conventions of grammar, punctuation and basic norms of identifying speakers in a manner that made them bend to his will for his own agenda. i've mentioned this before in my previous entry (linked HERE) on SELBY but for me one of his greatest technical achievements is to have paragraphs with multiple characters speaking without quotes or tags revealing identification ( such as "he/she said"). the cadence and flow of the characters' use of language reveals their individual identities, which only further reveals SELBY's mastery as a writer. cant think of anyone else able to pull that rabbit from their hat.
his later life resulted in him collaborating with screenwriters as well as teaching writing workshops at USC. while never gaining the level of notoriety commensurate with his talent during his life beyond cult status, he was much beloved as showcased by the sheer involvement of noteworthy figures who speak on his influence in this documentary including musicians LOU REED and HENRY ROLLINS, writers JERRY STAHL, AMIRI BARAKA, LUKE DAVIES, NICK TOSCHES, GILBERT SORRENTINO and RICHARD PRICE, actors ELLEN BURSTYN, ALEXIS ARQUETTE and JARED LETO and directors ULI EDEL and DARREN ARONOFSKY.
much like HUNTER S. THOMPSON, SELBY had a deep hatred of the GEORGE W. BUSH administration and their misadventures abroad as well as their abuses to free speech and the AMERICAN constitution. both were ashamed of their country in the wake of his rise to power.
its not hard to think of what their reaction to our current predicament would be. despite SELBY stating outright that his later years were his darkest due to the new administration, we have only slipped deeper into that well of despair in the years since.
but the dude was the ultimate survivor. and i believe ultimately so are we.