Synopses & Reviews
Leaving Las Vegas, the first novel by John O'Brien, is a disturbing and emotionally wrenching story of a woman who embraces life and a man who rejects it, a powerful tale of hard luck and hard drinking and a relationship of tenderness and destruction. An avowed alcoholic, Ben drinks away his family, friends, and, finally, his job. With deliberate resolve, he burns the remnants of his life and heads for Las Vegas to end it all in the last great binge of his hopeless life. On the Strip, he picks up Sera, a prostitute, in what might have become another excess in his self-destructive jag. Instead, their chance meeting becomes a respite on the road to oblivion as they form a bond that is as mysterious as it is immutable. Leaving Las Vegas tells a powerful story of unconditional love between two disenfranchised souls who connect for a fleeting moment.
"There is not a false note in the novel....O'Brien has a strong tradition behind him here, that of American naturalism, and he fits into it well. From Stephen Crane to Hubert Selby, Jr. certain American novelists have submerged boldly to the bottom of society and explored the fauna there....[O'Brien] achieves real power in his writing. You seldom encounter it anymore, but when you do you know you've been properly whacked by a real talent." New York Daily News
"A brutal and unflinching portrait of the low life in the city of high rollers, Leaving Las Vegas is both shocking and curiously exhilarating. John O'Brien was a stunningly talented writer who created poetry from the most squalid materials. This is a beautiful and horrifying novel." Jay McInerney, author of Brightness Falls
John O'Brien's books have established him as a writer who communicated the voice of the loner with blistering realness and unmistakable force. In Leaving Las Vegas, he wove a love story of incredible passion among two lost souls. In The Assault on Tony's, he unfolded a psychological drama among five drunks who spend their last days barricaded in a bar. Stripper Lessons is perhaps O'Brien's most interior and intense book, a powerful story of a man's obsessive search to belong.
In Stripper Lessons, O'Brien details the dark and simple life of Carroll, a middle-aged, unmarried, friendless man whose only joy is watching beautiful women dance. Terribly shy and unable to socially: with the people around him, Carroll's fascination with the women at his favorite club is totally innocent; his desire for them is the desire to be connected. There, he finds solace in the routine, the rules, and the predictability of the action; inside, a dollar or two will win him affection. But when his desire for a particular dancer takes him one step too far, his entire life threatens to crumble.
As he did in Leaving Las Vegas O'Brien has given life to the outcast and captured the hope and truthfulness that even the most simple lives are built on.