First published back in December of 1971, American author Hubert Selby Jr’s novel ‘The Room’ followed up from his hugely successful and equally controversial debut novel ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’ (1966). 

DLS Synopsis:
He has been locked away in a remand cell whilst he waits to go before the courts for what he believes is a wholly unjustified arrest.  And there, alone and seething with anger, he fantasies of revenge and delusions around his arrest.  These elaborate thoughts carve out an eclectic vision of his inner torment and hatred for those who have incarcerated him. 

His fantasies relive the arrest, elaborating on the events as to how he feels it shoudl have gone.  His daydreaming jumps to the imagining of a brutal rape which he believes the two officers forced upon a young mother named Mrs Haagstromm, mere hours before his arrest.   His thoughts then twist to further sickening and depraved fantasies of torture that he could perform on the two officers who arrested him.  Other fantasies blend in with childhood memories.  Vivid fantasies which culminate into his final imagining of how his eventual court hearing will go; with him defending himself.  And of course, in his daydreaming, like within all of his fantasies, he always wins, and is hailed as a heroic figure in a crusade for justice.

Trapped within the bare confines of his cell, with only his thoughts for revenge and these fantasies of a misguided justice for company, the man wallows in his self-pity and a simmering anger at the system that put him where he is.  Time passes slowly, the pimple on his cheek gradually swelling throughout the day and night.  But soon enough, his trial will be taking place...and maybe then his fantasies will finally come true...

DLS Review:
For his follow-on novel to his controversial debut ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’ (1966), Hubert Selby Jr once again doesn’t hold back with his depictions of violence, torture and sexual degradation.  The rape of Mrs Haagstromm in particular is so utterly horrific and overtly graphic, that no matter how hardened to such scenes of graphic literature you may be, it is still hard not to find yourself feeling shocked by the gut-wrenching violation portrayed over what seems like an eternity of pages. 

However, Selby Jr doesn’t end there, but instead throws down a large proportion of the book to the horrendously depraved fantasies of the narrator’s tortuous revenge on the two police officers.  The depictions of the torture are as graphic and elaborately detailed as they are revolting and utterly appalling.

The author dedicates a number of these particular chapters into the thorough humiliation of the two officers by delving deeper and deeper into an abyss of sexual depravity that our narrator longingly (and somewhat lustfully) fantasises about.  In a similar vein to that of the entirety of Samuel R Delay's notoriously disturbing novel 'Hogg' (1995) - the imaginative detail and sheer lengths in which these acts are portrayed become almost exhausting for the reader.

The novel is written in a very one-sided ‘spoken’ prose, whereby the narrator’s fantasies are transferred to text in such a way that it does not follow much of the usual grammatical formulas (i.e. speech marks, apostrophes etc).  Instead, the writing is very direct and obviously delivered from inner-thoughts within the first-person-perspective. 

Although the novel does not follow any usual structure or directional format, it does however maintain a gripping and intriguing plot.  Indeed, unearthing the truth from the various delusional fantasies that the narrator wallows within becomes somewhat of a subconscious quest for the reader.

The court scenes, whereby our deluded narrator represents himself in a rather comically over-the-top fashion, are purposefully surreal with their colourfully jocular approach.  Much of the dialogue is laced with offhanded tongue-in-cheek humour, which unbalances the reader’s emotions when the novel takes another sudden dive into the depraved abyss of the narrator’s corrupt fantasies.

Selby Jr uses brief elements of bold symbolism within the novel, most notably with the in-growing hair that creates such an ugly and painful infection upon the narrator’s cheek.  These ‘reality’ scenes are often brief but thoroughly downbeat in their glum and claustrophobic representation. 

The ending is cold and callous in the open-ended way it finishes.  The novel’s build up becomes slightly disjointed and pulled-apart over the final few pages, leaving an unnerving atmosphere to the concluding chapter.

All in all, this utterly harrowing vision from the mind of a truly disturbed individual is as shocking as it is powerful.  The novel taps into the hatred and anger we have all felt from time to time in our lives.   The author toys with the way in which we all have fantasised about revenge and finally obtaining justice for crimes we have unjustifiably suffered from; but takes these fantasies to much further extremities, to truly release the full extent of the inner-anger being portrayed.  In doing so, Selby Jr has created a truly harrowing novel that cuts deep into the readers psyche, exposing the unavoidable dark undertones that linger deep within us all.

The novel runs for a total of 288 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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