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Requiem for a Dream, Hubert Selby, Jr.

Marion Boyars Publishers, 1979

You can be whatever you want to be. It’s the American dream in the land of limitless possibilities. Many of literature’s greatest works provide their own interpretations of the mirage. The Great Gatsby, Sister Carrie, The Grapes of Wrath, Revolutionary Road, etc. Hubert Selby, Jr. offers up his own seedy slant in Requiem for a Dream.

In Selby’s world, we root for deadbeat junkies (one who steals from his own mother and another who gives up her body in exchange for her next obligatory fix), and a down-and-out, lonely old woman who clings to a brittle, pathetic fantasy that she’s going to appear on TV. Part of the reason we sympathize with these losers is because Selby doesn’t pity them so why should we? They are human beings. You don’t need to stick a needle in your arm to relate to the enduring lure of a better life.

In the whole neighborhood whos been on the television. Whos even been asked? You know who Harry? You know who the only one whos been even asked. Sara Goldfarb. Thats who. The only one in the whole neighborhood whos been even asked.

The noose tightens. Heartbreak hangs around like a wicked cold, still contagious, ready to pounce, ready to annihilate. Carrots are dangled in front of noses that are better equipped for snorting or sniffling.

From as far as back as I can remember, I dreamt of being a writer. Discovering the worlds of great authors like Hubert Selby, Jr. only fuels the fire to want to be a creator of worlds. I’d write articles for The New Yorker or The Atlantic. I’d write from my house in Malibu (or Rogers Park), or my vacation home in Key West. (I’d even settle for being able to afford a decent condo to be the safe keeper of my computer and its database of imaginary worlds.) I’d float around one of my infinity pools when I needed a break or had momentary writer’s block.

They’d talk about my novels long after I was dead. The characters. Their motives.

I’d travel to the Blue Canadian Rockies on a whim or stroll around Central Park when the urge hit. I’d never pay rent again. I wouldn’t know the first thing about HDL or LDL. Wouldn’t have watched anyone disintegrate from AIDS or cancer. Wouldn’t worry about copays or no-pays. Wouldn’t work in a cube. Would never have been micromanaged by Nurse Ratched.

Would never have gotten the call.

America, home of the free. Land of dreams.