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Waiting Period

Waiting Period

by Hubert Selby, Jr., Hubert Selby

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In this highly polished and slightly twisted moral tale, a man pulls back from the brink of suicide when his application to buy a gun with which to shoot himself is delayed. Instead of throwing his life away, he decides to spend all his time and effort disposing of those who he feels deserve to die. Targeting a bureaucrat in the Veterans’ Administration, he


In this highly polished and slightly twisted moral tale, a man pulls back from the brink of suicide when his application to buy a gun with which to shoot himself is delayed. Instead of throwing his life away, he decides to spend all his time and effort disposing of those who he feels deserve to die. Targeting a bureaucrat in the Veterans’ Administration, he devises an ingenious method of murdering people without trace. With a renewed zest for living he embarks on a joyful killing spree.

Hubert Selby Jr. was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928. After a career in the merchant marine cut short by illness, he achieved international recognition for his acclaimed cult classic, Last Exit to Brooklyn. Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation of Selby’s Requiem for a Dream, starring Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn was one of independent cinema’s biggest hits in 2001.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Selby's latest offers a chilling look into the mind of a killer, as the author of Last Exit to Brooklyn uses stream-of-consciousness first-person narration to slowly transform his anonymous male narrator from a paranoid, disaffected war veteran into a deranged murderer. The catalytic event that initiates the transformation is the narrator's attempt to purchase a gun to commit suicide, but when a brief waiting period ensues, he decides instead to get even with his various tormentors. The first target is the bureaucrat at the Veterans Administration who has been denying the narrator his benefits, an alleged injustice he remedies by slipping the man a lethal dose of E. coli bacteria. The narrator goes through a brief period of killer's remorse, during which he almost confesses to a newsstand operator, but once his jitters pass, he targets a local TV celebrity for another dose of lethal bacteria. From there he goes completely over the edge, building a homemade crossbow as he explores the feasibility of using explosives to facilitate similar attacks in various cities around the country. Selby's style is relentless, harrowing and frighteningly effective, albeit somewhat monotonous and tough to read; this might have been a better novel if Selby had introduced some secondary characters and broken up the first-person narrative into chapters built around each incident. Still, in a world in which the reach of terrorism seems to grow on a daily basis, this story is a disturbing reminder of how vulnerable we are to attacks from the discontented and deranged, regardless of their location or nationality. (July 30) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Here, Selby (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream) again documents obsession, this time that of a disgruntled veteran who stops short of suicide after being faced with a five-day waiting period on his handgun order. In this time, he decides that rather than sacrificing himself he will validate his existence by killing those he deems despicable. Armed with Internet-given E. Coli recipes and pipe bomb instructions, he sets out to eliminate, among others, his boss at the Veterans Administration and Big Jim Kinsley, a Southern racist wrongfully acquitted in the murder of two black doctors. Like Requiem, Waiting Period shows Selby's deftness at employing innovative punctuation and creative spelling in service to his particular narrative voice. Except for random interjections from God, this novel is narrated entirely in stream-of-consciousness first person. Since the novel's voice belongs to a somewhat whiny and paranoid murderer, it does get exhausting after a while, and some lines seem too crafted to spout spontaneously from the brain of a homicidal maniac, albeit a sensitive one. In addition, as only one perspective is presented in this novel, it lacks the lively intermingling of different voices and the seamless transitions between them that Selby exhibits so well in his other work. However, the narrative can be appreciated for its schizophrenic word association games and the narrator's ideas on checking out of the status quo. Fans of vernacular wordsmiths like Irvine Welsh and of Selby's earlier work will want to take a look. Julia LoFaso, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A near-unreadable rant from Selby (best known for Last Exit to Brooklyn, 1964) about an anonymous loser who fails to commit suicide and goes on a killing spree to make up for it. Selby's failing this time out isn't his trademark grossness (The Willow Tree, 1998, etc.) as simply self-indulgence. The narrator is an obviously demented character who sounds like Henry Miller on amphetamines ("Country of idiots. It's not a moral degeneration. A case of becoming amoral. Immorality is tangible. It is a tangible perception of life and the actions needed to beat life at its own game. It is not fuzzy feelgoody. Fundamentalists have a very definite agenda they pursue and it is tangible. Concrete. The boob tube softens the suckers up for them") and seems to have no one to talk to. He decides to kill himself, but the gunsmith he tries to buy a revolver from is unable to waive the waiting period and he goes home empty-handed. Too bad, too, because instead of getting himself permanently and quickly out of the way, he begins to think things through and concludes that the world would not be better off without him-it's the other guys who need to be eased off the scene. So he begins to murder enemies of humanity, beginning by poisoning Mr. Barnard, the bureaucrat at the Veteran's Administration who denied his claim for benefits. Then Jim Kinsey bites the dust-the man who killed two black doctors in the 1960s and was set free by an all-white jury. Still very much in evidence, he's the guest of honor at an annual barbecue ("Freedom Day") celebrating his release. There are some goombahs in Little Italy who get bumped off also, but the reader is unlikely to last long enough to care very much about them or therest of this silly mess. Tedious, pretentious, awful.

Product Details

Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Hubert Selby Jr.


Copyright © 2002 Hubert Selby Jr.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0714530719

Chapter One

... but obviously the best way is with sleeping pills and a plastic bag over your head ... sitting in a tub filled with water, I think. Sounds easy enough. Sort of peaceful. Go to sleep and thats it. Yeah, I guess ... if you dont get sick and throw up all the damn pills ... Yeah, lying in a bathtub covered in my own puke, so woozy I cant get out-wait, how would I be covered with puke, I have a plastic bag over my head ... o krist, I/d be suffocated by my own vomit, ugh, thats disgusting and I might be too weak to rip a hole in the bag or get it off and I just sit there aware of whats happening, spinning, falling ... falling into what? Who knows. Whatever you fall into ... some abyss I guess ... down, down ... down into hell ... or at least purgatory, at least thats what the catholics say. Even the ones that dont have purgatory have a hell. Well ... what the hell ...

But suppose I suddenly change my mind and call 911? What happens then? I/d end up in a funny farm with millions of people asking me questions, driving me nuts wanting to know why I did it, as if living in this world is so wonderful you must be crazy to want to leave it. They knock themselves out trying to live longer and longer, just another year, thats all ... Yeah, live to be 70 or 80 or 90 or krist knows how long. Forwhat? And who the hell are they to say Im nuts because Ive had enough of this lousy world? The hell withem. Bugging me with their questions: why did you do this? why did you do that? why dont you like this? why dont you like that? why dont you exercise more? join a gym? yeah, thats it, get in shape, drink Evian water, learn to dance, go to clubs, meet some chicks, join a church and meet some chicks, mingle more, socialize, expand your circle of friends, have a drink or two, dont be so stiff, start smoking marijuana, chill, meet some chicks

and suppose the lazy bastards dont get me to the hospital in time? Yeah, they fuck around and I dont get my stomach pumped in time and I become paralyzed, strapped down in a bed with diapers on, staring up at the ceiling, thinking ... thats all, just thinking, thinking ... unable to move, totally dependent on people to take care of me and you know what kind of job they do, let you lie in your dirty diapers for days, smelling like death, totally humiliated, back ripped open with bed sores and you cant say anything, not even moan or cry ... just think, think, 24 hours a day, thinking ... jesus, a five minute ride to the hospital and it takes them more than half an hour, fucking assholes. Ive heard of that happening. More than once ... Many, many times. Like that woman in Jersey. It was years before they pulled the plug. Young too. I wonder if she was trying to check out or just overdosed? I dont know. Anyway, its chancy. Who knows what happens when you get all those pills in you? You might call anyone. Its not safe.

But the old Roman way is so messy. I guess it really works, but my god ... Sitting in a tub of hot water and slashing your wrists and ankles ... I dont know. I guess you need a really sharp razor blade, or one of those razor knifes. How would you hold on to it after the first slice? Everything all bloody and slippery. You could drop the knife and by then the waters all bloody and you cant see the damn knife and you have to feel around for it and probably cut your hand all up and maybe pass out before you have a chance to finish the job and someone finds you and gets you to the hospital and they sew you up and here come all those people again wanting to know whats wrong then all the questions and the next thing you know youre in the funny farm ... shift End up in the same place. Just cant win. Even if you dont drop the knife how can you rip one arm open from wrist to elbow, then use that arm to open up the other arm? Youd have to be fast as hell. Have to be sure to do the ankles first. Yeah. Thats important. Ankles first. Jesus, that must really hurt. Like the time I tripped over that piece of barbed wire and slashed my ankle. God, that was painful. Topped off with tetanus shots ... And you have to do both of them. Damn, I dont know which way you cut them, up ... or across. I/d have to close my eyes. Krist, if you do it right youd be able to see right down to the bone, all those muscles and tendons and everything god what a repulsive ... ugh. How in the hell did they do it? Or Hari Kari? Thats really crazy. In ... all the way in, and up and over ... No, impossible. You have to be born into that. Its just not for occidentals. More than cultural, obviously religious. Its beyond me ... or maybe just fall on your sword ... yeah, thats a good one ... First you need a damn sword, then you have to practice for years to find out how to do it, who comes up with those crazy ideas? Knights in shining armor. Idiots. Why not, the world is filled with idiots. One benefit of modern warfare, you dont have to fall on your sword if you make a mistake. Dont have to carry one of those damn things either ... unless youre English. They probably still have them. Think West Point Cadets do too ... who knows, maybe they all do, makes them feel like big brave men to go clanking around with their swords ... yeah, wonder if the women have to wear one too? Might make them feel too manly, krist, whats going on? Seems like the madness of the world is poisoning my mind. Why not just jump out a window???? How in the hell does it get so complicated? Why cant you just kill yourself? Who needs all these rituals? Something simple, like a bullet in the brain. Quick. Neat. Goodbye. Thats all there is there aint no more. Tellem Porky:Th Th Th Thats all Folks ...

Actually thats a good idea. A gun. Never liked them, dont know anything about them. People always shooting each other. Ignorant goofs. First class knuckleheads. Shoot their own kids in the dark. Sick American macho madness. Maybe they should go back to swords. Might save a lot of innocent lives. But even guns dont work sometimes. They say you have to put the barrel in your mouth-must taste disgusting. Been people just grazed their temple, or shot themselves in the chest and missed their heart. Gotta put the barrel in your mouth ... and point it up I suppose. The kind with a long, skinny barrel. Pistol I guess. Cant be too small or I may just crack my teeth. Something big. 38? Magnum? Theyre bigger and have barrels ... I think. How do you get one? Yeah, sure, in a gun store, but how do you actually buy one? Hey mister, let me have a gun with a barrel thatll reach the back of my mouth, something in spearmint or cinnamon flavor. Shit. Probably have to fill out a dozen forms now and wait. Five days I think. Krist, there they go again. Cant do anything without them looking over your shoulder. What the hell business is it of theirs what you do with your life? You work your butt off, give them half your money-give? they take it and if you try to do anything about it they throw you in jail for that too. How in the hell can it be illegal to take your own life? What horseshit. What pure, unadulterated horseshit. A felony! Can you believe it, a felony to kill yourself ... or at least to attempt it and fail. And if you do fail they lock you up. Can you believe that? They lock you up. Wonder what they do if you succeed? Take your corpse to court before they bury you?

Is it true that you killed yourself dead?

' . . . '

The accused is ordered to answer the courts question.

' . . . '

If you continue to refuse to answer you will be declared in contempt of this court.

' . . . '

Very well then, you will be remanded to the county jail and held in custody until you indicate to the court that you are ready to answer the court/s questions. Can you believe that? A felony to take your own life. The only thing you have that is truly your own and they tell you what you can and can not do with it. You have to live whether you like it or not. The church tyrants say you do not have the right to take your own life because you did not create you so only god can take what he has given. Suicide is an unforgivable sin. They not only want to control you while youre living, they want to haunt you in your grave! Aint that some ridiculous horseshit. These 'holy men of god' kill millions and millions of people in the name of god, but you cant take your own life, your own pathetic life. God gave me life. Shit! Maybe god can make a tree, but it doesnt have any thing to do with me. And anyway, where do they get off making that religious bullshit a law. Well, it makes sense, the government wants all the consumers it can get. I can understand why people want to blow up the government. All those sleazy little slime-balls. Krist, they irritate the hell out of me. Shootings too good for those leeches. You need to strangle the blood suckers. Can you believe it, charging a dead man with a felony! I wonder how much a gun costs? Even if you wanted to shoot those bastards you have to be a consumer. They got you coming and going. Put it on your charge card and those ghouls will take the fillings out of your teeth to get their money. I wonder how much gold I have in my mouth? Maybe I should find an old Nazi, theyd be able to tell at a glance how much my mouth is worth. Dont imagine there are any hiding out here. Guess not too many left by now. Krist, those vermin did all right. The most hideous bunch of bureaucrats the world has ever seen, and they live for ever ... healthy, happy, and money up the kazoo. How in the hell does that work? How can they do the things they do and never miss a minutes sleep, never feel guilty? Guess its no different than murdering 'nigras' in the south, or the Pat Robertson gang wanting to 'eliminate' the gay and 'feminist' communities. Krist, what a holocaust we would have if those 'men of god' ever got in power. The Inquisition would look like the proverbial childrens picnic. Wonder how many brownie points I/d get for each one of those I sent to the man in the white night gown before I check out? If I were giving them out I/d get a whole bus load of them. I thought I was kidding, but thats not such a bad idea. I could really go happily into that good night if I could check a few of those festering pus pockets out first. Ah ... whats the point of even thinking about it, I cant do it. Better just stick with blowing my head off. Thats the only thing that makes sense. Just no way out of this godawful mess. Cant get through this blackness. Its got fangs and claws and constantly chews my flesh and rips the eyes out of my sockets jesus krist Im just chewed and chewed and chewed but never killed ... never. Only perpetual dying.


Thats the thing about torture, first theres the threat of death, then theres the promise of death, but you are never blessed with the simple gift of death. Oh, whats the use of all this madness of mind and body? I cant move. Cant get out of this apartment. How long? Days? Weeks? But I do get out sometimes. Sooner or later I will get up and open that door and leave this building and get a gun. Sooner or later the demons will sleep, if only for a moment. They always do. I/ll be ready. Oh yes, this time I shall be ready, as well as willing and able. I know just where the shop is. And the hours. I/ll get there. Sooner or later. Its inevitable.

Hi, what can I do for you?

Well ... I was thinking of buying a gun.

Yeah, well thats something we have plenty of. Funny how thats true of gun shops, eh? So, what did you have in mind, AK-47, pellet pistol, elephant gun, bazooka, bubble gum that is, what can I do you for?

Well, Im not sure, you know. I mean-

You thinking in terms of a rifle, a handgun, a-

Oh yeah. A handgun. Nothing big, you know. A handgun.

Well, come over here. Got a whole display case of handguns. Target pistols, semiautomatics, revolvers, 22s, 38s, 357s, 45s.

Damn, sure are a lot of them, arent there?

Yeah, something for every need. I assume youre not a hit man, right?

Huh? What-

Relax. Only kidding. I mean you really dont know from guns, right?


Well, depends on what you want it for. Protection, right? Something to have around the house in case the moving men from B&E show up at 3 in the morning, right?

Huh, I dont-

Intruders. Burglars. 2nd storey men. Sneak thieves.

Oh ... yes, yes. Protection. Cant be too careful these days, uh can you?

Thats right buddy. I got one of each of these at home.


Joshing man. Just putting you on. A little joke.

Oh. Yeah.

So, what do you think youd like? Personally, I think you should go for this 357 here. Good weight. Good accuracy. Plenty of stopping power. Hit a guy anywhere and hes not moving. Bet your ass on that. Here give it a heft.

Oh, I dont-

Hey, its not loaded. Comeon, Im crazy not stupid. Relax. Here. Just see how it feels in your hand. Yeah, thats it.

Oh, its heavy. I had no idea handguns were so heavy.

Yeah, they look light in the movies, dont they? The way they run around firing at everything that moves.

Yeah ...

Youll get used to the weight. I assume youre going to take it to a range and get used to firing it-

Oh yes-

Which reminds me, youll need a cleaning kit. Important you keep your weapon cleaned and oiled. Dont want it blowing up in your face.

Oh my god, no. Absolutely not. Oh no, no.

Dont worry about anything you buy here. All guaranteed. No weapon you purchase from me will ever misfire due to a defect in the weapon. Guaranteed. Go ahead, check it out. Imagine having someone shove that in your face. Youd shit a brick, right?

The more I look at it the bigger it gets.

Go ahead, hold it out in front of you and pull the trigger a few times.

It doesnt work, I cant pull it back.

You got the safety on.


Yeah. Haha, you really are a novice. Look, see this, its the safety, so it cant accidentally be discharged. Have to push it over like this.

Oh, I see. But does a set of instructions come with it, I mean how will I know what to do??

I/ll be sure to give you some diagrams and a pamphlet. With the cleaning kit. But make sure you go to the range like I said.

Oh yes. Definitely. Dont want any mishaps.

Right. So, I assume youll want a box of ammo with that.

I guess so, if you think I should.

No good without it, right?

Not much.

Okay, let me fill in this form so we can get you approved. Put this information into the computer and we/ll get the ok before I finish wrapping this up. Great system now, no more waiting period. Check you out just like that. Unless youre an excon or escaped murderer or something.


Excerpted from WAITING PERIOD by Hubert Selby Jr. Copyright © 2002 by Hubert Selby Jr.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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