Friday, May 14, 2004

The Delany Report 

Early afternoon readings can sometimes drive me crazy, especially when I have to jackass across town after work. The Samuel Delany reading at Giovanni's Room was earlyish (5:30), but still worker-friendly. The store’s reading space is a cozy upstairs area, with a fireplace & easy chairs. But there was something odd about the audience, something that I've never, ever encountered. There were NO women in attendance. None. Every single person upstairs- the audience, & even the staff were all men. I admit to being a bit distracted from time to time during the reading (Sorry, Chip) pondering just why this was the case.

Delany read at La Tazza earlier this spring, and I was familiar with the work he selected. Though I missed the very beginning, I believe he read exclusively from the recently re-released The Motion of Light on Water. It's an autobiography of sorts, recounting drag shows at The Apollo, seasons at summer camp, & entertaining Old Man Auden in the Village, bluffing Auden that he "scribbled science fiction, to survive." (Delany had only written five pages at the time.) Delany's vocally animated reading style & character-distinct tonal range made it the reading particularly interesting & engaging, a rarity for me at prose readings.

During the post-reading discussion, the author was asked to speak about the differences between writing fiction & autobiography. The answer was "There’s very little difference." Delany writes through fiction as real just like autobiography, with just one vital difference. He spends hours & hours at a time creating a fictional world at the genesis of a piece, then writes/lives through it as actual past-present-future life.

He addressed an interesting theory that the Right will undo its institutions ultimately by opposing gay marriage, since the alternatives that gay couples seek & establish will eventually entice heterosexuals to also seek options outside the framework of marriage. Delany stops short of championing gay weddings, since he doesn't recommend marriage for anyone- an arrangement of unequals with often unpleasant outcomes, citing spousal power imbalances in novels from George Sand on. Delany is an ex-husband and has a partner outside the institution. He considers the latter a much more agreeable climate for a relationship to continue to grow.

Here's a hot, only somewhat reliable tip. Samuel R. Delany's next book will not be SF or autobiography, but a How-To book on maintaining an open relationship. You heard it here first. It may or may not be true, depending on if he makes it so.

Frank Sherlock

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