Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: "The Willow Tree" by Hubert Selby Jr.

The Willow Tree is the first Hubert Selby Jr. novel I have read since high school, and with the reading of this novel came a few realizations of the kind of person I was back then; filled with intense passion and curiosity, but very little knowledge. Even now, his novels, or at least the memories of them, still intrigue me with its graphic violence and relentlessly moral storytelling. But now that I have grown up, I find a lot of the elements that made me like a book like this when I was younger really fail to satisfy me, much like the books of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, but the book does still maintain its core heart that made his books the emotional roller coasters that they were. It is very hard to walk away from one of Selby’s books without feeling someone just bared all of their wounded heart to you. This book starts rather quickly, with the chaotic event that starts the book down its dark path happening within the first ten pages. Bobby, a young black kid, and his Mexican girlfriend Maria, are attacked by a gang, with Bobby being badly beaten, and Maria is badly burned when lye is thrown in her face. While Maria is taken to the hospital, Bobby runs away from his damaged home life and falls under the tutelage of Moishe, a Holocaust survivor whose caught between fostering Bobby’s need for vengeance with his own memories of his time in concentration camps, and trying to save his soul and avoid his mistakes. The real problem I found with this book, and the past books of Selby, was that his ideas seemed to overdrawn to fit the length of a novel. The books I fondly remember, like Last Exit to Brooklyn and Song of the Silent Snow, worked because the ideas were in short form, and gave off the desired emotional impact in the proper way. I’m not sure if I should recommend this book wholeheartedly, but I do feel Selby is still deserving of his cult status.
Rating: 4/5

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