Monday, August 22, 2011

Review of Requiem for a Dream

Author: Hubert Selby Jr.
First published in 1978
Thickness: 279 pages
Personal rating: 3 stars

In short

In this searing novel, two young hoods, Harry and Tyrone, and a girlfriend fantasize about scoring a pound of uncut heroin and getting rich. But their habit gets the better of them, consumes them and destroys their dreams. 

My two cents

Requiem for a dream is a painful novel, it is written in a very raw style and deals with themes such as addiction, devotion and desperation. 
The four lead characters all live through a descending spiral events in their lives. What begins as beautiful dreams and something to live for, ultimately becomes something they become dependent upon and what ruins every aspect of a bright future. 

Harry, the main character, is a heroin user, though not completely addicted in the beginning of the novel. Though through the influence of his best friend, Tyrone C. Love, they save to have enough money to buy a good deal of superb heroin which they in order distribute onto the streets of NY. Their summer becomes a feast of using drugs and making money, all the time having a false dream to carry them further. 
When in the end the fantastic drugs ran out and the fairy tale ends, they try to make ends meet to have enough for themselves and to sell so they have money for the next day or week's supply. 
Harry's girlfriend Marion also plays a part in the dealing and using of the heroin and is actually the katalyst for Harry's excessive usage. They drift off together, not having a real connection other than the drugs. 

Then on the other end, you have Harry's mother, Sara. A character you feel sorry for, because she's lonely in her ways, with her husband dead and her son addicted, although she doesn't admit that to herself. Whenever he comes in to steal her tv, she just prays he will be alright one day and meet a girl and give her a grandchild. 
Obsessed with television, Sara's world turns upside down when she is being phoned and told that she has been selected to star on a television show. Finally she has a reason to wake up in the morning and she focuses on the last true happy moment in her life, Harry's bar mitzvah, to prepare herself for the day. 
That means she needs to lose weight, and with being so lonesome food has become her constant companion. At first she tries a simple diet, but when that fails she turns to a doctor who gives her pills. 
The pills do have their effect, but also take their toll. When Harry pops in, he notices that his mother is on uppers and tells her to lay off of them which she doesn't. 
The television gig seems to be forgotten by the television company and she starts to obsess about it, phoning in every day, and eventually going over there. Arriving there in a confused state of mind, she is being hospitalized and wrongly threated, taking away the last shread of dignity she clutched in her fingers. 

What was clear for me, is that Harry, Marion and Tyrone are addicted, and yet they only admit it to themselves in the very end, they have become 'dope fiends', completely addicted. All through the novel they somehow retain their believe that they can quite the heroin anytime they want to. When seeing other addicts, they think themselves better than that, that they would rather die than turn out that way. 
With Sara the case is more complex. She has no idea she has been put on a diet of highly addictive pills and doesn't know how to cope with the effects. In the end she merely tries to make sense of being what she is now, not realising what has been done to her. Hers was the hardest testimony to read, the uther helplessness. 

Requiem for a dream is a good novel, it's written in quite an unusual way, with as less punctuation as possible. The movie adaption is also quite good, which I saw before I read the novel. 
I recommend it, but I must warn you it's not a book you'll breeze through and it will haunt you for a while afterwards.