Requiem for a Dream
Hubert Selby Jr

Hubert Selby is probably one of the six best novelists writing in the English language.' Financial Times

Requiem For A Dream , now a major film by cult director Darren Aronofsky, is a modern-day fable set in New York. Lonely widow Sara Goldfarb nurtures fantasies about appearing on prime-time television, while her son Harry, with girlfriend Marion and buddy Tyrone C Love, plans his break into big-time drug dealing. Their eyes fixed on an impossible future they move blindly onwards, contorting their lives into coils of self-deception as they struggle to keep their dreams alive.

'Selby's Requiem For A Dream clearly marks him as a major American author, of a stature with William S Burroughs and Joseph Heller.' Los Angeles Times

'An American masterpiece – one of the great American novels' The Nation

Requiem For A Dream stars Jared Leto ( American Psycho, Fight Club ) as Harry Goldfarb and award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn ( The Exorcist, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore ) as Sara. Directed by Darren Aronofsky from a screen play by Aronofsky and Hubert Selby Jr. Distributed by Momentum Pictures. To read Ellen Burstyn on Requiem For A Dream, click here.

'Selby's place is in the front rank of American novelists ... to understand his work is to understand the anguish of America.' The New York Times Book Review

Also by Hubert Selby Jr available from Marion Boyars: Last Exit to Brooklyn, The Room, The Demon, Song of the Silent Snow and The Willow Tree.

Price: £7.99 (Available in the UK only)
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0-7145-3010-7

The night spirits told my wife I was dying

Hubert Selby Jnr explains how a near-death experience became the inspiration for his junkie parable Requiem for a Dream:

Perhaps six months before starting Requiem I was very sick with pneumonia. I didnt sleep for about five days or nights, but I think I periodically went into a short coma. One night my wife was awakened by two Spirits who had pushed the bedroom door open… They indicated to her, in her mind, that I was dying, and told her if she didnt wake me up I would die, and she should get me to a hospital immediately. I was hard to wake up and was having severe problems breathing, I refused to go to a hospital… Eventually I agreed to go to the hospital and I looked so bad the people in Triage took one look at me and got me to an examination room and a doctor…This is some of the background I brought to the book. I also brought a few memories of days gone by. While living on the lower east side I remember walking along Avenue C and seeing guys standing on the street corner…in the middle of winter…with nothing on but a thin windbreaker, their eyes pinned, sweating… One of the huge problems I was facing was writing while living in LA. I had written two books while living out here, but this was the first one that would take me back to the streets of New York City… I was accustomed to being in the midst of a great artistic community in New York… Los Angeles doesnt have any semblance of a community, outside of the ghettos, no less a community of artists…I learned that the lack of outer stimuli and inspiration forced me to look within myself for those things and…I discovered I do have it within me.So The Room, and The Demon that followed helped me to discover that I had what I needed, and, I believe, I always will in every area of life. However, I still didn't know about the music of the speech in New York… I write, in part, by ear. I hear as well as feel and see, what I am writing. I have always been enamoured with the music of the speech in New York. …

I had been living out here for about a dozen years when it came time to write Requiem and was afraid I had been away from that music too long to be able to get it on paper. But once I started the book the people came alive and I found I was able to "hear" them.Writing Requiem was quite an experience. I only took me six weeks, including the re-writing. I have never written at such a pace. Its almost as if I was racing against death. That's not how I felt, rather it was just the opposite… I was feeling very much alive… These days were idyllic. I had made some money writing a film for TV and we bought a nice home pretty much in the midst of the Borscht belt of LA and I loved to watch the families walking to temple on Friday night, and Saturday. So all I had to do was write… As you can see, there were times of simple and exquisite joy, but there were also times of madness. Periodically I was a raving lunatic. There were a thousand demons in my mind and body and I could not exorcise them. This problem was compounded by the awareness that my family was being subjected to living with a man who periodically had to lock himself in his office and try to knock the house down with his head…All this is to say that there was so much joy in my life at the time, and the trouble I was experiencing did not have its source outside of me. It was truly an inside job…I wanted a strong relationship between Sara and Harry to emphasise the nature of the problem. Most addicts are people with families, hopes, dreams, the same as anyone else. Most addicts are not living on the streets, stealing for a fix. Most are middle class people with love in their lives who go to their doctor and pharmacist for drugs… I wanted to create people who were addicted, but were also just plain 'people'. Sara, Harry, Tyrone, Marion, do not stand out in a crowd, they are simply one of many who do the best they can to get through a day, trying to find a little happiness without hurting anyone. I believe this basic concept is a reflection of my life then and now. The difference today is that I no longer have to destroy myself on a daily basis, but can do what I can to add something of value to Life and the World.The six weeks spent writing Requiem were fine. When I am writing I am totally focused on the people I am creating and all of my energy goes into that creating. The demons just dont seem to have a chance as long as I am working… However, they are just biding their time and playing possum, waiting for me to take a vacation.The truth is sooner or later I have to face my demons so I can discover how they can be rendered powerless over my life. This, I believe, is true for all of us whether we are avoiding them by writing or pursuing the American Dream. The problem is we are told, and taught, that there is no reason for us to feel bad, to be depressed. If these things occur in our lives we should take a pill and feel good again. Better living through chemistry is the motto of America. To put it as simply as possible, the American Dream, in all its manifestations, cuts my awareness off from the Divine Nature of my life, and all Life. I must find a way through the madness of my demons, and the American Dream to uncover that Divinity within me, and I certainly can not do that while pursuing the Dream or using the chemicals it prescribes.I have survived a lot in my life: success, failure, and boredom, more than once. I am 72 years old and am experiencing a commercial success once again. I have no idea what the ultimate outcome of all this will be, but I will survive it…as a matter of fact I will prevail.

Ellen Burstyn in an interview in the Guardian G2 November 10, 2000 talking about Requiem for a Dream

How important was the book of Requiem for a Dream when you were making the film?

It deepened my appreciation of the script. Hubert Selby Jr's way of writing the page is a solid block. It is not divided up into paragraphs and there is no 'he-said-she-said', he just flows from one person speaking to the next without identifying them. But the voices are so clear that you know exactly who is speaking.Also, when you read the book, you realise how Darren's [Aronofsky, the director] cinematic style is the perfect realisation of the book. I got more of an understanding of Sara from the book, but most of what's in the book is in the film, too.