Selby, Hubert, Jr. 1928-2004

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SELBY, Hubert, Jr. 1928-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born July 23, 1928, in New York, NY; died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, April 26, 2004, in Highland Park, CA. Educator and author. Selby, whose books were sometimes compared to those by such authors as Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs, was known for dark, controversial novels such as Last Exit to Brooklyn. Growing up in Brooklyn, he quit school when he was fifteen to work on the waterfront, and in 1944 he joined the Merchant Marine. When he contracted tuberculosis at eighteen, he spent the next several years in hospitals, having a lung and several ribs removed in the process. Illness plagued him throughout the rest of his life, including one asthma attack that almost killed him; drug and alcohol addictions also plagued him all his life. But these health problems only made Selby more determined to defy his doctors' grim prognoses and do something with his life. So he set out to write his first novel, and after six years of labor completed Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), which was later adapted as a 1988 film. The story was so full of violence, illicit sex, and foul language, that censors often tried to ban it. His subsequent publishing struggles meant that many of Selby's later writings were often released by small presses; nevertheless, critics consistently praised his work as valuable literary contributions. Among these are The Room (1971), Requiem for a Dream (1979), and The Willow Tree (1998), as well as the short story collection Song of the Silent Snow (1986). To pay the bills, Selby taught writing at the University of Southern California for about twenty years as an adjunct professor, and he was known as a dedicated teacher, even in his final months when illness forced him to bring an oxygen tank to class. Also the author of screenplays, including Day and Night (1986), Remember the Sabbath Day (1974), Love You Buddy Week (1978), and Fear the X (2000), he adapted Requiem for a Dream as a 1998 screenplay. Selby's last book, published in 2002, was Waiting Period.



Contemporary Novelists, seventh edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2004, Section 3, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2004, p. B12.

New York Times, April 27, 2004, p. C21.

Times (London, England), April 28, 2004, p. 26.

Washington Post, April 28, 2004, p. B6.