#CBR6 Review #36: Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.

First, a confession: I had a total meltdown over my dissertation last week. When I mean meltdown, I mean stopping my episode of Gilmore Girls so I could sob hysterically. I was away from my husband for a dissertation workshop, so he had to sort through my bawling phone call. I believe the phrases, “I’m never going to get done,” “my writing sucks,” and “I’m so tired” were all used. Now, let me clarify: I’m doing well for where I’m at. I’ve got two chapters done, and a third that’s about to be done. I’m going on the job market this fall, and my director has started to discuss a potential-maybe defense date. THAT’S GOOD. But there’s a lot of work left, and there’s always stuff to improve on. I melted down.

Of course, it didn’t help that I was reading Requiem for a Dream through all of this.


I’ve seen the movie a few times, y’all. Watching people melt into the power of their addictions and be crushed into helplessness is no picnic.

The novel itself is quite difficult to read because Hubert Selby, Jr. does not use traditional punctuation or dialogue structure. The book itself is very postmodern, and an interesting commentary on drug culture during the 1970s. In short: four people find themselves addicts through various means. Sara Goldfarb is a lonely Jewish widow who gets an offer to be on a game show, and decides to lose some weight via diet pills. Her son Harry and his friend, Tyrone C. Love, try to score a pound of uncut heroin so they can make enough money to live comfortably. Harry’s girlfriend Marion is an aspiring artist who backs their deals as a means of supporting herself, but soon all three find themselves sucked into the vortex of addiction and the pain of withdrawal.

The novel is grim, cheerless, and sad. It’s an important read, but it’s hard to take, especially when you the reader can see the collapse beginning to take place long before it actually does. It’s an interesting commentary on the demise of the American Dream, but you need a palate cleanser afterwards.


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