Review: Delany’s Straits of Messina

Straits of Messina

Samuel Delany

A now out of print and dearly priced collection of Samuel Delany* writing about his own works, including detailed essays on Dhalgren, the controversial (and at the time of publication of this book, unpublished) Hogg, Nova, the Tales of Nevryon series, and more.

If you’re a fan of Delany, (and I most definitely am) this is well worth tracking down. While Delany is a wildly prolific author, he doesn’t tend to write much in the way of self-criticism. Straight up memoir, sure, but sustained self-assessments of his work are rare and this book, while it is almost entirely made up of pieces of self-assessment, barely scratches the surface of Delany’s major works. Yes, we get some insight into Delany’s process. He also discusses the works that influence him — Delany’s deep interest in continental philosophy is well know, I however wasn’t aware of how serious he follows poetry. All of which is informative.

But at times, especially when he is writing about my favorite, Dhalgren, I get the sense that Delany is either being coy about what he was up to, or he himself may not understand the magic he was working.

Still, some of the insights here are illuminating, and some of the vignettes (including that time Auden came over for dinner at the tiny lower east side apartment Delany shared with his then wife, Marilyn Hacker) are wonderful.

Well worth the effort of tracking down if you’re a fan, less so if Delany isn’t your thing.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

*Often under the nom de plume K. Leslie Steiner

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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One Response to Review: Delany’s Straits of Messina

  1. Pingback: 2016: My Year In Books | Milo and the Calf

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