Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slave to the Needle -- Requiem for a Dream

Since I was a big fan of the film version of the ultra-depressing Requiem for a Dream, one could only imagine my delight when I found a paperback copy of Playboy Press' printing of the book.  I felt like a junkie scoring a bundle ... but I refrained from reading it.  Why?  Time.  Mood.  A number of other factors.  That said, I'm reading it now (almost done with it actually), and I have to say that as satisfying as it is (even more than the movie), it is also a bit frustrating.

As much as I support artistic decisions, I like the traditional structure of a novel.  Paragraphs.  Quotation marks.  Apostrophes.  Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel pretty much leaves those things at the wayside.  Paragraphs  are rare (some paragraphs go on for pages).  I don't think I've come across a single quotation mark (and I only have a few pages to go).  And apostrophes?  More often than not, Selby/ll do something like that.  It is all a bit maddening, but I imagine that fits in with the story.  The editor in me hates it.  The English teacher inside me died after ten pages, and the reader in me is thankful to go along for the ride, but would really like a visual break now and then.

There are people who have seen me reading this and have said, "I will never watch that movie again."  I ask if they've read the book and they really have no desire to do so.  I can't imagine why they ever watched the movie in the first place, but I leave them be.  If you don't know the depths of depression and depravity, you also can't know the heights of joy.  Their loss.

Selby tapped into magic with this book.  It's a dark, overwhelming magic, but it is magic nonetheless.  The film realized much of it, but as usual, the source material is miles above what made it to screen.  And if you were brave enough to sit through the film, the novel will actually be a little easier to tolerate ... at which point you'll get more from the story.  It's not entertaining, but it's not meant to be.  It's a descent, and that's something people need to do a little more.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for my copy of the book.  If you click on the link, I may earn a commission.