Review: Delany’s About Writing

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

Samuel Delany

I am a huge fan of the writer Samuel Delany. A writer at the heart of what I think the best of “new wave” science fiction, Delany has gone on to write memoirs, literary fiction, pornography, comics books and much else in between. Though not all of his works are good, in the aggregate all of it is important. Delany  is, overall, one of the most interesting and important writers alive today.

This book collects Delany’s writings on the craft of writing. It isn’t particularly good. Books of this sort are notoriously difficult and often bad. Unfortunately, this is one of the not very good ones. Delany is an at times inspired writer (there are passages in Dhalgren, his masterwork, which are straight up gorgeous) but he also has a bit of logorrhea and can be hopelessly long winded and circular. Sometimes, this works to his advantage, at other times, it doesn’t. When discussing his early years in the East Village in the Motion of Light in Water, his penchant for the detail brings light to the world; but his circuitous, at times free form, style doesn’t play well as an instructional manual on writing. If you’re going to read Delany, and you should, this isn’t the book to read. For brilliant Delany, read Dhalgren. For a good book on the craft of writing, surprisingly (since I’ve never read one of his books), I’d recommend Stephen King’s On Writing.

Not recommended.

(ok, ok, recommended for the Delany completist, i.e. me).


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