(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Last Exit to Brooklyn consists of five parts and a coda. There is a central episode about a labor strike that involves the novel’s characters either directly or as peripheral onlookers. The elapsed time of the novel is several months, though no definite time markers appear in the story. There is a single omniscient narrator who describes each scene with an unflinching eye while recounting the horrors of the brutal environment of Brooklyn’s Red Hook area, which includes a military base, a manufacturing plant, and a public housing project as the focal points upon which the novel turns. Central to the action and serving as a rallying point is a diner where a group of young men make obscene comments about other patrons, including Georgette, a transvestite. Georgette loves the gang leader, Vinnie, who appears to ignore Georgette, yet the impression the author gives is that Vinnie, despite his outwardly heterosexual appearance, has had a past sexual relationship with Georgette. The scene moves to the street, where Georgette is stabbed by one of Vinnie’s gang immediately after the gang has brutally beaten three soldiers, almost killing one. When the police arrive, the gang lies about the attack. Vinnie and Alex take Georgette home, where he is confronted by his violent brother, Arthur, who hates Georgette’s sexual ambiguity. Georgette escapes from his home, brother, and overly protective mother to the home of a fellow transvestite named Goldie. Several effeminate transvestites have gathered at Goldie’s apartment to take drugs, drink, and plot how to lure Vinnie and his gang in for a sexual encounter. Their success in this endeavor ends the first and second sections, “Another Day Another Dollar” and “The Queen Is Dead.” Section 3, “And Baby Makes Three,” recounts rapidly the marriage of Tommy and Suzy and the introduction of...

(The entire section is 756 words.)