Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr (1979)
“And so the city became even more savage with the passing of each day, with the taking of each step, the breathing of each breath. From time to time a body would fall from a window and before the blood had a chance to seep through the clothing hands were going through his pockets to see what might be found to help them through another moment of being suspended in Hell”
Harry, his girlfriend Marion and their friend Tyrone are heroin addicts. Harry and Tyrone get money from delivering newspapers and pawning Harry’s mother’s television set. Marion is spending the money her parents give her for her shrink on a variation of drugs. Tyrone and Harry also try to sell drugs, but they always end up using more than they sell.
Harry’s mother, Sara, receives a phone call with a promise to be on tv. She decides to start dieting, but it’s hard when the food is so tempting and comforting. She sees a doctor who gives her diet pills, she is to take four a day, each with a different colour.
As the days turn to weeks and weeks to months, the situation for all four is getting worse. Harry, Tyrone and Marion is suffering because of the drug drought and high prizes and Sara is suffering from paranoia and other side effects from the drugs, and is eventually given Valium.
It is definitely not a happy read, the four are doomed from the start and Hubert Selby Jr does a splendid job describing the downfall. The only issue I had with the book is that a great deal of it is written in Bronx slang which made it harder to read and the teacher in me wanted to find a red pen and mark all the spelling and grammar errors!
Having seen the film more than once, I actually prefer it to the book. It could be because the film has a few happy moments while the book is very bleak. I also like that the book is so timeless, it didn’t feel like it is over 30 years ago since it was written.