Wednesday, May 02, 2012

We're Gonna Party Like It's 1984

Samuel R. Delany; 1984: Selected Letters (Voyant Publishing; 2000; ISBN 0-9665998-1-0; cover by Sang Y. Lee and Greg Frux).

Made up of: Introduction by Kenneth R. James; letters from 1983 to 1985 and written to: Robert S. Bravard; Camilla Decarnin; Iva Hacker Delany; Ron Drummond; Victor Gonzales; Marilyn Holt and J.T. Stewart; Gerald Jonas; Tom LeClair; Mrs. Joseph P. Marshall; John P. Mueller; Michael W. Peplow; Joanna Russ; Tom Zummer; Michael W. Peplow; David N. Samuelson; Greg Tate; Bill Thompson; and containing the pieces Breaking the Realist Teacup; A John's Story; Locus Review; In The Once Upon A Time City.

My recent purchases (the wallet has cringed) of books by Samuel R. Delany continues with this collection of letters and essays, covering the period late in 1983, all of 1984, and into the start of 1985. Here we see Delany at the height of his writing (working on the Neveryon cycle), holding forth on music, art, poetry, criticism and crashing against personal matters and the deep pit of financial despair.

There's a lot here, ranging from discussions of books (the wallet cringes as I consider purchase), troubles with publishers, sexual encounters and more. No subject stands by itself in an individual letter, Delany jumps from thought to thought and keeps you entertained throughout. There are occasional style oddities. For example, most names are named in full. If it appears that Delany wants to hide the identity of a person, due to the sensitivity of the comments, he'll hide the name by doing something along the lines of naming a person as A----- B-----. However, this breaks down on occasion, for example when he names Lou Aronica, then at Bantam Spectra, and the problems with Neveryon, the industry, being paid, etc.

A interesting, fun and deep read of a strange and strained period. Recommended.

And occasionally surprising. Given the hoo-hah over Orson Scott Card, and given who Samuel R. Delany "is" (and if you aren't aware of the first and how it relates to the second, do some research!), this was a surprise.

Found your comments on A Woman of Destiny interesting. Orson Scott Card (called Scott by his friends) is an awfully interesting (and good!) man. I overlapped with him by a day or two at the last Clarion I taught. I saw A Woman of Destiny—a whole lot of copies of it—in a large dump at the front of Shakespeare & Co. some months back, and felt happy for him and for the distribution; read a page, and thought, well, maybe, someday, if I have time..."

Counts as fifty-eight (58) entries in the 2012 Year In Shorts.

The post-reading summing up: Delany meets with Umberto Eco, learns that Thomas Pynchon is a "big fan", discourses on language, science fiction, relationships and more. The non-letter installments varied a bit, particularly of interest was the In The Once Upon A Time City piece, which outlined how difficult it was to correct old typographical errors in Dhalgren while preventing new ones from creeping in. The highlight (emotional, informational) was the thirty-eighth letter (to a friend, Camilla DeCarnin) which included a rundown on those friends who stated they could no longer read his books after one certain point or the other because he, get this, changed as a writer.

Highly recommended if you have read other works by Delany; not a good place to start if you never have read Delany.

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